The Philadelphia Flyers and the Toronto Maple Leafs square off in a Thursday night showdown, with both teams trying to climb into a playoff spot. Both teams are trying to claim the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. As play begins Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre, both teams will find themselves just outside of the last playoff spot.
The last 17 games of the season are crucial for the Flyers playoff hopes. A win tonight in regulation will tie them with the Maple Leafs at 72 points. Furthermore, depending on the results from other games it may bring them within one point of a postseason berth. All and all this is one of the biggest games of the season thus far.
Steve Mason sounded off to the media on Wednesday after practice stating,“To be able to draw back on confidence, knowing that we’ve been here before and been successful with it, it’s huge. The way the season is going to go for the rest of the year, there’s going to be ebbs and flows, ups and downs so it’s just a matter of staying even-keeled after a big win you gotta realize there’s going to be another game either the next or the following day so its just a matter of making sure you come to the rink every day with the same mindset and that’s to be the best team out there.”
Steve Mason’s words must have been the answer to the Flyers prayers. They absolutely dominated the Maple Leafs through the first ten minutes of the game, but wound up losing 4-2. Michal Neuvirth making his first start in 4 games, was solid between the pipes. He made 30 saves in the loss, but he proved that he is more than capable of handling the load when Mason needs a day off.
The Flyers came out of the gate flying. They found themselves outshooting the Maple Leafs 4-1 through the first four minutes of the opening stanza. Frederik Anderson made some key saves keeping the game scoreless.
Mitchell Marner took the first penalty of the night just 4:30 into the period. On the ensuing power play, Shayne Gostisbehere cranked a slap shot. Wayne Simmonds was able to get the shaft of his stick on the puck for a redirection goal, giving the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. It was Simmond’s 28th goal of the year.
Radko Gudas took the Flyers first penalty of the night late in the first period. William Nylander took a wrist shot with traffic in front of Neuvirth. The puck found its way past Neuvirth tying the game at 1. It was Nylander’s 18th goal of the year.
The first period came to a close with the game tied at 1. Despite losing the faceoff margin 52%-48%, the Flyers dominated the majority of the period. The Maple Leafs did outshoot the Flyers 8-7.
Towards the middle of the second period, the Flyers found themselves on their heels. The Maple Leafs were out shooting the Flyers 7-4. Sean Couturier turned the puck over in the Flyers zone to Tyler Bozak. Bozak took a wrist shot past Neuvirth’s left leg for a 2-1 Maple Leafs lead. It was Bozak’s 16th goal of the year.
The Maple Leafs found themselves dominating the majority of the play in the second period. The period ended with the Maple Leafs leading 2-1, while firing 14 shots on net. The Flyers did win the faceoff margin 52%-48%, and fired 11 shots on net.
The Flyers were struggling to maintain possession midway in the third period. However, Nikita Zaitsev was called for an interference penalty at 10:01 in the third period, and it appeared to give the Flyers life. On the ensuing power play, the Flyers managed three shots on net. Anderson made all three saves keeping the score 2-1 Maple Leafs.
With the Flyers regaining their legs in the third period, their hopes seemed to waver when Brayden Schenn was called for a tripping penalty with 6:25 left in the game. Just 12 seconds into the power play, Mitch Marner took a wrist shot from the point. With heavy traffic in the front of the net, the puck found its way past Neuvirth for a 3-1 Maple Leafs lead.
The Flyers seemed to be dead in the water, until Shayne Gostisbehere scored with 2:28 remaining in the third period. He took a slap shot from the point, and the puck found its way past Anderson for a 3-2 Maple Leafs lead. Nazim Kadri added an empty netter with 1:00 remaining in the game, sealing a 4-2 Maple Leafs victory.
Despite the loss, the Flyers put forth a solid effort. They had the will out shooting the Maple Leafs 38-33 for the game, and they received solid goaltending from Neuvirth. These are some positives to take away from the game, as they prepare for Saturday’s contest against the Boston Bruins. Follow me on Twitter @JameyBaskow for all Flyers updates.
Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports