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Recap: Leafs 3, Flyers 2

From Pension Puppets

The Leafs snapped a five-game losing streak by topping the Flyers late in the third.

Box ScoreWar On Ice

The Leafs headed into Philadelphia in the hopes of avoiding a sixth straight loss, and called upon James Reimer to make his 21st start of the season. They scratched Josh Leivo despite his good work in front of the opposition’s net in the past two games, and played Tyler Bozak between Michael Grabner and Leo Komarov, leaving Nazem Kadri to play with P.A. Parenteau and Shawn Matthias.

The Leafs began the game with some sloppy play in their own end and the neutral zone, allowing the Flyers the first few shots of the game, forcing Reimer to come up with several good saves to keep his team in the game early. For their part, the Leafs had a couple of looks on net, but the Flyers jumped out to a 7-1 lead in shots in the opening frame.

Dion Phaneuf took a rare fighting major, going toe-to-toe with Brayden Schenn just under 11 minutes into the game, but neither player took an additional minor. The first power play of the game went just two minutes later to the Flyers, as Lupul was called for holding, and the Flyers’ 29th-ranked power play seized the opportunity.

Matt Read took a great pass from Evgeny Medvedev, and waltzed in alone on Reimer, and flipped a backhand past the Leafs’ goalie, who was forced to move laterally on the play. The shots at that point were 11-1 Philly.

Fortunately for the Leafs, retribution came swiftly, as Roman Polak followed a rush by Peter Holland and Joffrey Lupul, sweeping home a rebound as he went hard to the net. Really, it was a good play by Polak, who picked up his first goal in 63 games. Holland made a great backhand spin pass to Lupul, who tipped the puck on net, and although the puck was no longer visible to the cameras in the stadium, Polak stayed with the play and prevented Michael Neuvirth from freezing the puck.

The Bozak line came very close to taking the lead with just under 4 minutes left in the first, totally hemming in the Flyers and getting several good chances, capping a comeback in the shot totals at 11 for each team. At that point, the Leafs had 10 straight.

Shortly thereafter, Kadri was rejoined with his former linemates (why, I’m not sure) and had another good shift in the Flyers’ zone, where he managed to draw a penalty. The Flyers actually managed a good 2-on-1 chance while on the penalty kill once the Kadri power play unit was off the ice.

The shots at the end of one were 13-12 in Philadelphia’s favour.

The Flyers came close to regaining the lead just 3 minutes into the second, as Phaneuf missed on an open ice hit, giving up a 2-on-1 that the Flyers sent just wide. Reimer was caught moving laterally on the one-timer, but fortunately didn’t have to make a save.

Phaneuf was totally danced again later in the period by Shayne Gostisbehere, who cut around Phaneuf for a great chance on Reimer while in alone, but again Reimer was up to the task.

The Leafs appeared to have taken the lead with 11 minutes left in the second on a bit of great forechecking by Boyes, who fed Peter Holland for a nice goal, but the Flyers challenged the play on the basis of an offside, and it was determined that Boyes entered the zone before the puck, and the game remained tied at 1.

By the halfway point in the game, Kadri seemed to be reunited with his former linesmates Komarov and Grabner, and Bozak back with Matthias and Parenteau, though it was less than obvious why the change had been made.

With just under 9 minutes left in the second, Pierre-Eduard Bellemare totally ran into Reimer after the Leafs’ goalie made a save, and although there were a number of roughing minors handed out in the ensuing scrum, Reimer actualyl didn’t get a penalty for the several punches he got in on Bellemare. It was good to see Reimer stand up for himself, since this was the second time in the game that a Flyer had bumped into him, with Wayne Simmons getting a bump in during the first period.

On the power play that followed Parenteau appeared to have a sure goal on an empty net, but his shot was swept away at the last second out of mid-air by the defender Medvedev.

The Leafs’ forecheck picked up as time ran down on the second period, giving the Flyers’ D more and more trouble. Eventually, on a delayed penalty, Lupul stuffed home a rebound on a Phaneuf shot to put the Leafs up 2-1. Kadri picked up the second assist.

The Leafs had to kill off a penalty to Holland to finish off the period, but by the end of 40 minutes, the shots were 26-21 Leafs, and it would be fair to say that the shots were a good indication of how the game had progressed. The Leafs had more than overcome their rockey start to take control of the game.

Toronto was 9-0-3 when leading after two periods.

To start the third period, the Flyers tried to play with their lines to get things going:

The Leafs did some line juggling of their own, with Kadri again playing with Parenteau and Matthias, and then Komarov and Grabner on almost consecutive shifts. It was unclear why Bozak and Kadri kept switching wingers.

There was a scary moment for Polak, as he took a puck to the face, stayed down on the ice for an extended period, and struggled to re-join the play when referees refused to stop play:

With just 7:01 left in the third, Philadelphia defenceman Gostisbehere picked off a bad Morgan Rielly pass that sent the Flyers away 3-on-1 against Phaneuf, and Gostisbehere made no mistake taking the shot and going five-hole on Reimer.

Kadri took a penalty just a few seconds later to send the Leafs to the penalty kill, but the Leafs killed it off.

Schenn hit the post on a great chance with 2 1/2 minutes left in regulation, after starting to claw back on the shot clock:

Fortunately for the good guys, with just 12 seconds left in regulation, Bozak won an offensive zone draw back to Matt Hunwick, who hesitated, and then blasted a point shot past Neuvirth to put the Leafs ahead with just 7 seconds left.

Kadri was put out to seal the victory for Toronto against the Claude Giroux line, and did so effectively, and the Leafs went on to win this one 3-2. The final shot count was 35-33 for the Leafs, though the 5v5 raw Corsi battle was much closer, at just 45-44 in favour of Toronto. Still, the fact that they lead for longer than the Flyers did means that score effects didn’t dictate the flow of the game.

Notes on individual players:

– The fact that Kadri and Bozak kept switching linemates was a bit strange, though it may have been because Babcock didn’t want to change his special teams configurations, resulting in mixed pairings afterwards, but it happened all game long, and not always after penalties/power plays, so who knows.

– Shawn Matthias had a strong game, finishing the game with the best 5v5 Corsi numbers among forwards on the team.

– This was also a strong game for Roman Polak, who finished with the best 5v5 Corsi numbers of all Leafs’ players, not to mention the fact his strong play on the goal he scored. Let’s hope that he wasn’t too badly cut by the puck he took to the face.

– James Reimer finished the game with a .939, and added to his impressive totals this season.

– Dion Phaneuf got burned on multiple occasions, and I am starting to worry that he is losing more than a step as he ages. He also missed big on an open-ice hit, and that has been something of a rarity for him this season. Something to keep an eye on. He did, however, pick up an assist on Lupul’s goal.

– Speaking of Joffrey Lupul, he had a good game tonight, as he and Peter Holland fared well on the 5v5 Corsi stats sheet, getting several other good chances. A strong game from both players.

Martin Marincin played only 9:29. Why?

Source: Recap: Leafs 3, Flyers 2

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