There exists a feeling in the Philadelphia Flyers' locker room that no deficit is too large to overcome, even in the third period of games. Tonight, they both proved that theory and gained a better understanding of the risks inherent in always chasing an opponent on the scoreboard.
After watching the Toronto Maple Leafs take full control during the middle forty minutes of the contest, the Flyers evened the score at 2-2 in the third period due to a highlight reel goal from Shayne Gostisbehere. But the team was unable to preserve the tie through the end of regulation. Following a Radko Gudas icing, the Maple Leafs earned an offensive zone draw with ten seconds remaining, giving defenseman Matt Hunwick a chance to blast a shot from the point off Michael Del Zotto and past goalie Steve Mason. Toronto's lead held up, and they came away with a 3-2 victory over the Flyers.
Philadelphia came out firing early, and jumped out to an 11-1 shots on goal advantage through the first eleven minutes of play. It was that 11th shot that finally beat Leafs goaltender James Reimer, as Evgeny Medvedev threaded a pass from the point all the way down low to Matt Read, who flipped a backhanded into the net. Read's power play goal gave the Flyers the 1-0 lead in a game that they had totally dominated to that point.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Toronto took control following Read's tally. In just ninety seconds, the Maple Leafs fired seven shots at Steve Mason, erasing the Flyers' early territorial advantage almost entirely. Unsurprisingly, Toronto was able to erase Philadelphia's lead on the scoreboard during that stretch as well. After R.J. Umberger misplayed a pass from Matt Read on a three-on-two rush, the Maple Leafs quickly transitioned up ice, and when Steve Mason was unable to corral a rebound from a Brad Boyes shot, defenseman Roman Polak was there to clean up the trash. Polak's goal tied the game at 1-1, where the score would stand through the conclusion of the period.
It was up to the Flyers to make the second period more like the opening eleven minutes of the game rather than a repeat of the latter half of the first, but in that task they failed miserably. It was all Leafs yet again, and if not for the heroics of Steve Mason, Philadelphia could have easily found themselves down four goals. Instead, Toronto could manage only one, even they did succeed to getting the puck past Mason twice. A goal from Peter Holland caused by a particularly terrible turnover from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was wiped off the board due to a Dave Hakstol challenge. Luckily for the Flyers, Toronto was deemed to have been offsides when they originally entered the offensive zone, keeping the game tied.
They would not be so lucky only minutes later, when Joffrey Lupul would take advantage of a delayed Flyers penalty to give the Maple Leafs their first lead of the contest. He gobbled up a loose rebound in the slot caused by a Dion Phaneuf shot, and beat the understandably out-of-position Mason. Not even a late power play caused by a Holland hooking penalty could revitalize Philadelphia, as they generated only three shot attempts and failed to really threaten Reimer. They entered the locker room down one on the scoreboard, but having the knowledge that the deficit should have been much worse.
Little changed as the third period began, but the Flyers had the knowledge that despite their poor overall play, all they needed was one gamebreaking individual effort to even the score. They got it in the form of Shayne Gostisbehere. With seven minutes left, the Flyers rookie defenseman picked off a Morgan Reilly pass in the defensive zone, stormed up the ice on a three-on-one, and then decided to take the shot himself, beating Reimer five-hole to tie the score at two-all and sending the Wells Fargo crowd into a frenzy. It was both one of the best plays of the season for the team, and a tantalizing glimpse of Gostisbehere's ultimate upside.
Following the goal, Philadelphia was reawakened, peppering Reimer with shots and looking like the same team that raced out to an 11-1 shots advantage in the first period. But the late Gudas icing gave Toronto a faceoff in the Flyers' end with time running down, and Matt Hunwick did not let the opportunity slip past him.
Comment of the Night:
Mike Babcock’s tie looks like a kilt….more specifically, Scottish Rugby Tartan