It’s no secret that teams tend to struggle on the second leg of back-to-backs. Players are physically and mentally exhausted from the game played the night before, and teams often times tend to start their backup goalies in the latter half of back-to-back tilts. Not necessarily a recipe for success.
Wednesday night, the Philadelphia Flyers completed yet another back-to-back in the season’s early going. And much like in their first pair of back-to-backs, they were unable to earn a victory to wrap up the set. The Toronto Maple Leafs, in the middle of an inauspicious start to their campaign, looked much like what fans have come to expect from them in recent seasons, putting up five goals to earn the victory over the Flyers at Scotiabank Arena.
Maple Leafs captain John Tavares put together a monster performance, logging a hat trick and a primary assist to earn his club the 5-2 win.
Frankly, the Flyers were lucky not to have lost by more.
Flyers forward Joel Farabee broke the ice 13:09 into the opening stanza with an absolute laser to net his third marker of the season. The 22-year-old found a soft spot just above the left faceoff circle and one-timed a Travis Konecny feed past Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov before he could even react.
Minutes later, though, the Leafs responded with two goals of their own. Reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner Auston Matthews netted Toronto’s first goal of the night on the power play with a greasy tally from the goalmouth. Less than two minutes after Matthews’ marker, Tavares went bar-down to give his squad the lead, and they never once looked back.
Following an utterly abysmal middle period in which the Flyers were plagued by breathtaking turnovers, the Leafs went on to extend their lead early in the final frame. Zach Aston-Reese, who joined Toronto on a PTO prior to the season, netted his first goal of the campaign 2:49 into the third after burying a juicy rebound past Felix Sandstrom.
Owen Tippett managed to make things a little interesting in the game’s later stages, though. Not long after Aston-Reese’s tally, Tippett scored on the power play to cut the Leafs lead in half. Tippett’s shot was one Samsonov easily should have stopped, but a goal’s a goal for a team struggling to find the back of the net.
Unfortunately, Tavares put an end to the Flyers’ hopes of a comeback in dazzling fashion just after the midway point of the third period. Tavares entered the Philadelphia zone and showed off incredible skill as he danced around Travis Sanheim, cut to the net and beat Sandstrom for his second goal of the contest. An early candidate for one of the prettiest goals of the season, and a play Sanheim likely won’t want to see for the rest of his life. Tavares then completed the hat trick on the power play to extend his club’s lead.
JOHHHHNNNNY BOOOOOYYY!!!!! pic.twitter.com/DMUsyNw4fC— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) November 3, 2022
The Flyers were outshot 44-25 on the night, and for the third time in their last five tilts, they were held to two or fewer goals. Sandstrom played admirably for much of the tilt, stopping 39 Toronto shots on the night. But with this loss, the 25-year-old’s NHL record drops to 0-7-1. Sandstrom has yet to win a single game in the NHL in spite of some solid play, and it’s hard to imagine his confidence is at a high point at this stage.
The Flyers wrap up their three-game road trip Saturday when they take on some guy named Claude Giroux and his Ottawa Senators. They’ll then return home for a quick tilt against the St. Louis Blues before hitting the road again to face the Columbus Blue Jackets in Ohio.