The Flyers continued their East Coast roadtrip with a Saturday night with a tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which ended with Shayne Gostisbehere extending his point streak to 15 games in overtime en route to a 5-4 Flyers victory.
Both teams had several key contributors injured, with Sean Couturier, Michael Del Zotto, and most recently Claude Giroux all sidelined for the Flyers. The Maple Leafs had several key injuries themselves, with James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Joffery Lupul and others all scratched from tonight's game as well.
In net, regular starter Steve Mason was given the nod for the first time since Sunday's game against the Rangers, and Toronto started struggling starter Jonathan Bernier (6-15-3, 3.09, .898), who has been extra shaky in his last six appearances (0-5-1, 3.64, .880). Even with the injuries sustained by the Flyers, one would think they should dispatch a team with a shaky goalie, injuries concerns of their own and the fewest points in the NHL.
It certainly didn't start well, with Toronto capitalizing on a bad turnover in the Flyer zone. Andrew MacDonald decided it was a good idea to try to make a pass despite three Maple Leafs in the general vicinity of his target, Michael Raffl, who didn't field the pass cleanly. All Nick Spaling had to do was make a simple pass to Shawn Matthias in the low slot who beat Mason high for a 1-0 lead just 89 seconds into the game.
After some listless minutes, the Flyers scored not once but twice within a span of 39 seconds midway in the period. The first goal was a great two-man game between Sam Gagner and Brayden Schenn. It was a textbook give and go in the slot, with Schenn setting up Gagner who beat Bernier high on the glove side to tie the score.
The second goal featured a complete team effort, with Shayne Gostisbehere blocking a shot in his own zone, then finding Michael Raffl with a pass, who then found Scott Laughton, who then fed Jake Voracek in the Toronto end. After an initial pad save, Voracek was able to stuff the rebound past Bernier for a 2-1 lead. There was no assist given to Ghost on the play, even though he clearly had a hand in it, so the streak would have to wait.
A third goal from MacDonald would be disallowed as it was determined that Read made incidental contact with Bernier in the crease, even though he may have been pushed into him. On the other end of the ice, Toronto's decimated roster had problems generating chances after the first goal, and were outshot 12-5.
The second period was split roughly down the middle as Toronto didn't get a shot until there were about 12 minutes remaining in it, and the Flyers were able to get a third one by Bernier that counted as Schenn beat him on what can best be described as a soft goal. Some credit has to go to Simmonds on the play as well, as he broke up a Leafs rush in the neutral zone and got the puck to Gudas who was able to fed Schenn in the neutral zone.
Babcock had seen enough of Bernier after that and replaced him with Reimer. Reimer made some good stops to keep the wheels from falling off the wagon, and Toronto responded by carrying play for the most part after the first 8 minutes. They got a goal to show for it as well, as Spaling was able to defect a shot from Nazem Kadri from the right point past Mason. Medvedev could have done more to tie up Spaling perhaps, but, as Voracek reminded us at the first intermission, uh, *stuff* happens. Shots were 11-7 in Philly's favor in the second, and it was 3-2 heading into the third.
All too often the Flyers have retreated to a defensive shell when they're leading after two periods. That wasn't necessarily the case tonight, although you wouldn't know it from the results. Despite the Flyers not playing conservatively, the Leafs were able to tie the game at the 3:16 mark with Kadri schooling Nick Cousins in the neutral zone, then Gudas in the defensive zone, then setting up Peter Holland in the crease for a slam dunk goal. Mason didn't make his usual effort on the play, perhaps because of an injury as he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter.
Streit appeared to give the Flyers the lead only one minute later, but it was overturned after a coach's challenge. Schenn stumbled on the play and found himself behind Reimer as the puck went in the net. It was overturned as again it was ruled coincidental contact with the goaltender, and truth be told there's not a lot of questions with this one as it was pretty clear cut.
Perhaps deflated by that, the Flyers promptly gave up the go-ahead goal as Brad Boyes and Rich Clune set up Byron Froese in the paint. Nick Schultz was clowned not once but twice on the play, once in the neutral zone and then again by letting Froese blow right him before the goal was scored. Not a good look for him, at all.
Just when all seemed lost, Raffl found Matt Read between the hashes who was able to beat Reimer high glove side to tie the game once again. This occurred a mere 32 seconds after Toronto had taken the lead. The back-and-forth play early in the third continued for the next several minutes as Neuvirth stoned Greening who was left alone in front and Reimer stopping Read on a breakaway mere seconds later. The rest of the period settled down dramatically after that, with neither team doing much offensively, so for the 22nd time this season, a Flyers game went to overtime.
The overtime period would be short lived. Jake Voracek won a puck battle along the boards, but instead of turning back into the defensive zone, he charged up the ice. This seemed to catch Toronto a bit flat footed, and Cousins and Ghost broke up the ice. Jake made an absolutely gorgeous pass right to Ghost's stick, who proceeded to do what Ghost does in OT. WIN.
Other assorted points:
* Claude Giroux's absence was noticeable in this game, but Cousins, Laughton, and Gagner all pitched in and made plays. I wouldn't want to do this long term, but against a hurt Leafs team, it was good enough.
* A win tonight, combined with regulation losses behind the Pens and Devils tonight, leaves the Flyers only three points away from the playoffs.
* Let's talk more about Shayne, shall we? Ghost's point streak is now up to 15 games. The rookie record is 20 set by Stastny in 2007. Paul Kariya had a 17 gamer in 1993, and Ghost's streak is now third outright since 1988. He also made several other very good plays on the defensive end as well. I've said it once, I'll say it again: we could be looking at a Norris candidate for the next 15 years with this guy.
* During the third, referee Ian Walsh got the business end of a check and left the game. Here's hoping he's alright.
* Evgeny Medvedev left the game in the third. Hopefully he's not hurt, Hakstol said after the game he has no info on him.
* Regarding Mason, Hax said after the game he believes it was a cramp and nothing serious. Hopefully that's right because injuries suck.
- Someone's gotta get a bump in minutes with Claude out. Who is it? Laughton, Gagner, and Cousins all saw significantly more time than their season averages.
- And how does the shorthanded forward unit as a whole perform against a similarly shorthanded (and unimpressive) Toronto group? Very good. Schenn played a great game, Gagner was alright, and everyone else up front more or less did their job. The only glaring weakness was the second power play unit.
- Steve Mason's back in net for the first time this week. What's he do? Not good. Only 11 saves on 14 shots, and he pulled himself out of the game early in the third. Hopefully he (and Medvedev) are not seriously hurt.
- The Leafs are pretty obviously tanking this season. Do we get any particularly laugh-worthy moments out of them in this one? Can't say so, no.
- Point streak? HELL. YES.
Comment of the Night:
The Flyers conclude this roadtrip with a 7 p.m. game on Tuesday in Carolina.