Last night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers (10-11-2), who trailed the Montreal Canadiens by five points for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and the Toronto Maple Leafs (16-8-0), who occupied third place in the Atlantic Division, held significant early conference positioning implications.
The Maple Leafs, after suffering a 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday at the PNC Arena and a 4-2 loss on Friday at the Nationwide Arena to the Columbus Blue Jackets, returned home to battle the Flyers. The Flyers who crisply defeated the New York Rangers 4-0 at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday, and avoided losing three straight games in regulation for the first time this season fell 6-0 to the Maple Leafs.
James van Riemsdyk returned to Ontario
James van Riemsdyk, who signed a five-year contract with the Flyers on July 1, spent the past six seasons with the Maple Leafs, scoring 294 points (154 goals 140 assists) in 413 games. He returned to Toronto for first time since signing with the orange and black. So far this season van Riemsdyk, after suffering a lower body injury in the second game of the year, entered the game with four points (one goal, three assists) in six games.
"Certainly when the schedule comes out you take a peek at that and see that just because of everything, because of all the time there,” said Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk on his return to Toronto. “I really loved my time there. It's something you're definitely looking forward to and, to be honest, I'm looking forward to getting past it to help with the moving-on process."
"He was one of the best professional guys I know. He prepares better than anyone in the League,” said Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner on van Riemsdyk. “Great friend to me; I train in his gym in the summers. I'm happy for him, he's in a spot where he likes and feels comfortable."
Nightmare on Bay Street
In the first period, the Flyers won 67% of the faceoffs, blocked seven shots and outhit the Leaf by a 13-2 margin but ended the first twenty minutes down by a 4-0 count.
Andreas Johnsson skated into the circle and faked a shot before sliding a wrist shot through goalie Calvin Pickard's legs to open the scoring at 4:45.
Deja vu! Johnsson turned on the jets and once again beat Pickard, who enjoyed his first shutout as a Flyer the previous game, on a breakaway to record his second goal with 13:41 left in the first.
At 7:44, Toronto went up 3-0. Gardiner carried the puck in on the left wing and centered it before it was intercepted by Travis Konecny. But Konecny's clearing attempt was knocked down in the slot by Patrick Marleau, who gathered the loose puck and flipped a shot into the back of the net.
Johnsson completed his first period hat trick, less than 13 minutes into the game, as he flew out of the corner and backhanded a shot through Pickard’s five-hole again!
Andreas Johnsson reaction
"After it kind of felt unreal. It's hard to explain,” said Johnsson. “I had the first goal, then the second goal and, all of a sudden, the third one, I’m like, ‘what's going on?’”
Andreas became the first Leaf player to record three goals in one period since Tyler Bozak accomplished the feat on December 21, 2015, against the Colorado Avalanche.
Second period woes continue
After 40 minutes of lackluster hockey from the Flyers, the Leafs outshot Philadelphia by a 20-12 count and added two more goals to their lead as Josh Leivo and John Tavares lit the lamp in the middle frame.
Leivo slid a pass to Mitch Marner and he buried the return feed to increase the Maple Leafs' lead to 5-0 at 11:07.
Then at 17:10, Tavares found the puck in the circle after Marner lost it and ripped a shot past Anthony Stolarz, who replaced Pickard after the fourth goal of the game was scored at the 12:20 mark of the first period, to give the Maple Leafs a 6-0 lead.
Stolarz, the fifth different Flyers goalie used this season, stopped the first 15 shots he faced and ended his night in relief with backstopping 32 saves on 34 shots.
John Tavares reacts to quick start
"We came out with a lot of jump,” said Tavares. “We were hungry, we were skating well and Johnny was remarkable so great to have a start like that.
Third period boredom
From an analysis standpoint, there was truly nothing of any significance to report in the third period. No one hit anyone, no one fought and amazingly enough the Leafs didn’t score another goal. Honestly, the team showed no heart, no fight, no anything.
I felt like I was watching one of those games where the players gave up on their head coach. Equally, it was one of the most boring single periods of hockey that I’ve witnessed in a long time.
For Toronto, backup goaltender Garret Sparks, who took a 3.21 goals-against average into the game, stopped all 34 shots he saw to record his first shutout of the season and second overall in his young NHL career.
Hakstol on the game
"It was an awful start to a hockey game," said coach David Hakstol. "We got beat to pretty much every play in the first 20 minutes. "We have to own it as a group. It's not a one-man game. The opportunities we gave up tonight came on turnovers. There were about seven or eight of them and they ended up in Grade-A opportunities early in this hockey game."
Captain Claude speaks
"I don't have much to say. We're ticked off," said captain Claude Giroux, who was minus-3 in the game, as were his fellow linemates Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny. "After a great game at home, we come on the road and play like this. It's frustrating. Twenty-two points on the season, we're not where we want to be. Do I think we're going to make the playoffs? Yeah, I think we're going to make the playoffs. But we need to start playing better as a team, and it has to start soon."
Smashing series start
Tonight’s matchup was the first meeting of the season between the two teams. Last year, the Flyers swept the season series but tonight the Maple Leafs educated them on how to play hockey with heart.
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