The Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs meet Thursday night, after both teams are coming off shutout victories against the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings respectively. Both teams are fighting for playoff positioning, and both teams have been getting stellar goaltending as of late from their number one netminders.
Steve Mason turned aside 34 shots to earn his first shutout of the season last night, against his arch rivals the New York Rangers. Claude Giroux stated after the game, “I think that was Mason’s best game of the season.”
Michael Neuvirth wanted to feed off Giroux’s comments about Mason, and make a statement of his own if given the opportunity. Neuvirth got the nod in net, and he seemed energized for this game against the Maple Leafs. Despite multiple injuries thus far into the season, he wanted to start this last game before the All Star break.
He seemed dialed in from the start, after making his first save at 1:44 into the game. This was a bad sign for the Maple Leafs, as Neuvirth made 27 strong saves for the game. The Flyers outwitted the Maple Leafs to a 2-1 victory giving them a much needed two points, and breathing room for the last wild card spot.
Neuvirth made a nice save on Toronto’s first shot of the game at 1:44 into the first period, and did not offer the Maple Leafs a rebound. Limiting the rebounds against this Maple Leafs team is one major key to victory.
Five minutes into the first period, both teams were very good in the neutral zone, and both clubs struggled to sustain pressure in each others zone. The Flyers were still in search of their first shot on net, as the Maple Leafs were out shooting them 2-0 at this point in the game.
At 12:48 in the first period, Ivan Provorov was called for a double minor high sticking penalty, giving the Maple Leafs four minutes worth of power play time. The Flyers penalty killers were phenomenal, as they did not surrender any shots on net. The score still remained 0-0.
With 7:45 remaining in the first period, Travis Konecny made a saucer pass to Wayne Simmonds up the middle of the ice for a breakaway. Simmonds made a nice move on Curtis McElhinney, and slid the puck past him for a 1-0 Flyers lead.
With 1:57 remaining in the first period, Radko Gudas was called for a kneeing penalty on Nazim Kadri. The Flyers penalty killers did a good job in sealing off the passing lanes for the Maple Leafs, and it limited them to only two shots on net.
The Flyers lead at the end of the first period 1-0, but the Maple Leafs out shot them 9-6. The Maple Leafs won the face off margin 59%-41%. Neuvirth had a strong first period, and was very good in controlling the rebounds.
Five minutes into the second period, Claude Giroux lead Jake Voracek on a rush into the Maple Leafs zone. Voracek one timed the puck on net, but McElhinney made a nice pad save keeping the score 1-0 Flyers.
With 8:52 remaining in the second period, Connor Carrick was called for an interference penalty. The Flyers had good puck movement managing three shots on net, but McElhinney made all three saves keeping the score 1-0 Flyers.
With 4:25 remaining in the second period, Nazim Kadri through a puck on net. Neuvirth made a nice save with three players in front of him, but William Nylander found the rebound putting it past Neuvirth tying the game up at one.
The second period came to a close with the score tied 1-1. The Flyers out shot the Maple Leafs in the second period 12-10, and the Flyers also took the lead in the face off margin 56%-44%. Neuvirth had another strong period, as he made a spectacular save on Jake Gardiner on a mini breakaway with 6:45 remaining in the second period.
Through the first five minutes of play in the third period, both teams were playing a more defensive style of hockey. Both teams were not taking many risks to keep the plays moving. The Flyers were out shooting the Maple Leafs at this point 3-1 for the period.
With five minutes left in the third period, the Flyers looked more determined than the Maple Leafs. Although, the score still remained tied 1-1, the Flyers were out shooting the Maple Leafs 14-5 for the period.
With 2:37 left in the game, Roman Lyubimov took a shot on net that was saved by McElhinney. Lyubimov stuck with the puck, and took a wrist shot from the left circle under McElhinney’s right arm for a 2-1 Flyers lead.
The Flyers went on to win the game 2-1. They wound up out shooting the Maple Leafs 34-28 for the game, and the Flyers also won the face off margin 64%-36%.
Neuvirth played a strong game, in a game the Flyers had to win to remain in the lead for the last wild card spot. Neuvirth and the Flyers can feel good about themselves, as they enter the All Star break on a three game winning streak. The Flyers are getting stellar goaltending from both Neuvirth and Mason, and it seems to be fueling them. The Flyers play the Carolina Hurricanes next Tuesday at 7pm. Follow me on Twitter @JameyBaskow for all Flyers updates, and stay tuned for Mondays article Part 2: Defenseman Edition for the NHL Expansion Draft.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports