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Leafs 4, Flyers 3: For the children

A late push by the Flyers wasn’t enough to stop the dominant Toronto Maple Leafs.

Philadelphia Flyers v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

Good afternoon, Philadelphia Flyers fans! Watching a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on a bleak Thursday afternoon wasn’t the worst way for us, the spectators, to spend the day, but boy was it bleak for the Flyers. It was Next Gen Day at Scotiabank Arena, so at least the kids had fun! If you’re curious about why this game was played at 2 PM on a Thursday, you can read about Toronto’s annual Next Gen Game here. It’s a cool initiative to grow youth interest in hockey!

Anyway, you’ve all got holidays to prepare for and work to wrap up (it is a weekday, after all), so let’s get right into this.

First Period

The Flyers started the first with some real jump, and just 3:35 into the period went on the powerplay after William Nylander hooked Tony DeAngelo. The Flyers lost control of the puck off the faceoff, sending Mitch Marner down the ice for a golden shorthanded attempt; Carter Hart, as usual this season, came up big with a stop on the initial shot and the rebound, but Marner isn’t the kind of player you want going one-on-one with your goalie. Hart passed off the puck and sent the Flyers rushing back up ice, where TDA rifled a shot from the blue line past Ilya Samsonov for a powerplay goal—1-0 Flyers, against all odds.

Despite the Flyers controlling play for most of the period, they didn’t put up their second shot on goal until there was 6:18 remaining. What a team! To their credit, they took advantage of a sluggish Leafs team throughout the period, but with 1:26 to go Nic Deslauriers went to the box for a holding penalty. Toronto’s five-forward powerplay unit seemed to wake the Leafs up and, though they didn’t score, they’d start the second period with 34 seconds of powerplay time and their top unit rested.

By some miracle, the Flyers held the 1-0 lead at the first intermission, but it was unlikely to last as the Leafs started revving up.

Second Period

Well, the remainder of that powerplay that went exactly as one would expect—in that it didn’t at all. The Flyers successfully killed off the penalty and Nic Deslauriers, of all people, nearly scored on a breakaway chance coming out of the box. Weird game, eh?

The Leafs are one of the best second period teams in the league, and it sure showed. It was one scoring opportunity after another—8 shots in the first six minutes—but Hart kept them all out of the net. On the Leafs tenth shot of the period, a big ol’ scrum broke out around Hart, and with 13:18 to go we were treated to some 4-on-4 hockey; Travis Konecny would sit for the Flyers, and Jordie Benn would sit for the Leafs. Neither team would sore.

Soon after the 4-on-4 ended, the Leafs would get another crack at the powerplay off an interference penalty committed by...Morgan Frost? Not something you usually see, but okay. On this penalty kill, the Flyers had a shorthanded chance off a shot by none other than noted goal scorer Rasmus Ristolainen, who *checks notes* has a whopping zero points so far this season. This game just kept getting weirder by the minute.

And the weirdness didn’t stop! With six seconds left on the Leafs powerplay, Deslauriers drew a nasty trip giving the Flyers yet another powerplay, on which the Leafs nearly scored shorthanded again. The Flyers struggled to gain possession and set up despite the man advantage, as has been the story this season, and the powerplay would end without any goals scored by either team.

With 5:13 to go, the Leafs would go on the powerplay for a third time, after Joel Farabee tackled Auston Matthews (they would call it a holding penalty). Not a team you want to give this much powerplay time, and while the Flyers successfully killed the penalty, Calle Järnkrok deflected a point shot past Hart seconds after the penalty expired: 1-1 game.

In the final minute of an already eventful period, the Leafs got their fourth powerplay of the game off a Ristolainen holding penalty. Mere seconds into the man advantage, the score became 2-1 Leafs—Hart originally stopped the puck, but it bounced off the heel of his skate and into the net. It felt like an inevitable go-ahead goal: the Leafs had been buzzing all period, and there’s no way a powerplay unit with that much offensive talent was going to stay off the scoreboard the whole game.

The period would end with the Leafs leading in goals (2-1) and shots (26-7) and frankly, the Flyers were lucky Hart singlehandedly kept the score from being more lopsided. Once again, the team would be tasked with bailing out their goaltender and coming from behind to win a game.

Third Period

A Flyers team down in the third, trying to make a comeback win—feels like a story we’ve heard a lot lately. The team certainly didn’t make it easy for themselves, as 33 seconds into the period Michael Bunting scored and made the game 3-1. The Flyers would have two good scoring opportunities in a row, one of them a nice shot by Farabee, but neither would find the back of the net. But hey, those attempts helped them crack double digits in shots! Small victories.

At 7:21, the Flyers would go on their third powerplay of the game. The first unit had a brilliant look, and a Kevin Hayes blast ricocheted off two posts and out—no goal. A really nice outlet pass sent Noah Cates barreling towards the Toronto net, where he was dragged down by Mark Giordano, giving the Flyers just over a minute of 5-on-3 time. The Flyers were unable to do anything with the two-man advantage, but the second powerplay unit had a great opportunity in close on Samsonov on the ensuing 5-on-4, though still no goal. The Leafs would return to even strength play with their 3-1 lead intact.

The Leafs would extend their lead to 4-1 with 8:21 remaining off a goal by Nylander, but 22 seconds later, Frost would bury a shot behind Samsonov to cut the Leafs’ lead in half. His confidence from the past few games seems to be becoming the norm, which is great to see, and Konecny’s assist on the goal was his 300th point. Again, small victories.

Less than two minutes after Frost’s tally, the Flyers were within one thanks to a goal by Farabee, ending his 11-game goalless streak. He almost had a second goal, but missed a wide-open net, and you could see his frustration as he put his hands to his head and slammed his stick on the ice in the middle of play. Tough break—and it wouldn’t be his last moment of misfortune.

The Flyers pulled Hart with about two and a half minutes left and, to make up for Farabee’s miss on the open net, the Leafs generously failed to ice the game despite multiple chances. On an offensive zone rush, Owen Tippett got checked across the head by Timothy Liljegren, giving the Flyers one last powerplay—and a 6-on-4 advantage—with 1:10 to go. Unfortunately, Farabee’s tough game continued as he made a high hit on T.J. Brodie, and the Flyers would have to try and tie the game down a man.

Despite some great pressure, Konecny broke his stick on the final shot attempt of the game, and if that isn’t peak Flyers, I (sentient blog) don’t know what is. Unable to take the game into overtime, the Leafs won 4-3 and outshot the Flyers 34 to 18.

The Flyers, now 11-16-7, hit the road tonight to take on the Carolina Hurricanes tomorrow at a much more normal start time of 7 PM. See ya then.

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