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Flyers Can’t Overcome First Period Woes, Taken Down 6-2 by Maple Leafs

(Matt Slocum/AP Photo)

The Philadelphia Flyers couldn’t overcome a listless start to the game as the Toronto Maple Leafs walked out of the Wells Fargo Center with a 6-2 victory.

The silver lining – if there is one – is that the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings lost in regulation tonight, but the Flyers lost a golden opportunity to give themselves some much needed breathing room.

Tyler Bertuzzi scored the game’s opening goal 121 seconds in, and Pontus Holmberg followed that up by the midway point of the period before Timothy Liljegren made it 3-0 in the first 15 minutes. Owen Tippett scored on the power play to give the Flyers some life in the second period before the Leafs scored two goals in eight seconds at the start of the third to ice the game.

Auston Matthews tallied his 55th of the season before William Nylander scored his 35th to give the Leafs a 5-1 lead. Then Matthew Knies added his 12th goal of the year just about four minutes later. Tyson Foerster added a shorthanded tally with 92 seconds left in the game.

Samuel Ersson was pulled after allowing 3 goals on 12 shots, Felix Sandström allowed 3 goals on 14 shots, and Ilya Samsonov allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for his 18th win of the season.

The Flyers welcomed the Maple Leafs in the first game of a daunting 7-game stretch where they play some of the league’s best clubs. After toeing the line against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night, the Flyers couldn’t afford a slow start and ill-advised penalties against a lethal offense – even if they’re missing one of their key playmakers.

With John Tortorella serving the second of his two-game suspension, Brad Shaw and Rocky Thompson rolled out the same lineup from Tuesday night with Sean Couturier still manning the “fourth line” alongside Denis Gurianov and Bobby Brink, but more notably the young line of Tyson Foerster, Morgan Frost, and Joel Farabee played very well against the Sharks but only saw anywhere between 12-14 minutes of ice-time. Samuel Ersson earned the start, looking for his 20th win of the season.

As for the Maple Leafs, they have righted the ship after a middling stretch that saw them go 6-8-2 between December and January. They entered tonight’s game having gone 11-3-1 in their last 15, beat the Flyers in overtime just a little under a month ago, and have won their previous 7 contests against the Flyers – a streak dating back to 2019. Auston Matthews sat atop the NHL with 54 goals, William Nylander paced the club with 84 points, and John Tavares rounded out the top – of healthy players – with 46 points in 62 games.

Mitch Marner was just diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain and missed his second consecutive contest, which is big news considering his 51 assists and 76 points. Ilya Samsonov earned the start having gone 9-1-0 in his last 10 games with a 2.70 GAA and a .902 SV%. He made 29 saves in the 4-3 overtime victory when these two teams faced off in mid-February.


2:01 into the game, Tyler Bertuzzi tapped one into a wide open net after he was set up by a quick one-touch pass from Auston Matthews. Samuel Ersson failed to cover the puck for the face off, Bertuzzi corralled the puck, and he found William Nylander who danced around a few Flyers players before he found Matthews.

The goal was Bertuzzi’s first in six games and it was also his first shot on goal in 3+ games.

The Maple Leafs then jumped towards a 2-0 lead at the 9:57 mark after Pontus Holmberg snapped a hard shot in the slot after the puck deflected off of Morgan Frost’s skate and right to the Swede. It was Holmberg’s fourth of the season and just his second goal in his last 22 games.

Bertuzzi then looked to have scored his second goal of the period after swinging at a point shot from Timothy Liljegren. The shot was going well wide of the net but right towards Bertuzzi who then deflected it past a befuddled Ersson at the 12:55 mark. The Flyers challenged the play for a hand-pass prior to the goal being scored and they were successful with Matthews having been the culprit.

On the ensuing shift, Morgan Rielly was found guilty of a hooking minor with 6:46 remaining in the period. As has been the case all season long – and over the last three years – the listless power play turned out another dud with the Maple Leafs having the best chance shorthanded.

The Leafs eventually did jump on a 3-o lead after Liljegren fired a rolling shot from the point with Travis Sanheim serving as the screen. The goal represented his third of the season and first in 23 games at the 15:39 mark.

As poor as Ersson played in the first period, he made a few massive stops on Nylander and John Tavares in the final minute, making sure the score didn’t get to 4-0. The period came to a close with a 3-0 lead for Toronto, while the Flyers held a 12-10 edge in shots.


Felix Sandström replaced Ersson to start the second period.

Jake McCabe was called for a tripping minor against Ryan Poehling at the 1:29 mark. 13 seconds into the man advantage, Owen Tippett ripped a shot after the puck took a carom off the back wall from Frost’s initial one-timer.

Sean Couturier was then nabbed for a delay of game penalty with 18:05 remaining in the period. Garnet Hathaway lost his skate blade with the top unit for the Maple Leafs zipping passes around, but his nightmarish shift ended thanks to Sandström making a huge glove save on Rielly’s one-timer.

With 13:37 remaining in the period, play was blown dead after Calle Jarnkrok awkwardly crashed into the boards shoulder-first after he was battling for position with Cam York. After being tended to by a trainer, Jarnkrok went straight to the locker room.

After a fantastic shift where the Flyers pinned he Leafs in their own zone – most notably Matthews who was on the ice for a 2:20 shift – they hopped back on the power play after Bobby McMann was called for a tripping minor at the 15:55 mark. Marc Staal kept the puck in at the line a few times, the forwards cycled brilliantly, and Tippett had a couple chances stopped before they finally got control of the puck.

After a costly giveaway coming out of their offensive zone, Bobby Brink was forced into taking a hooking minor with Ilya Lyubushkin looking to make run with 46 seconds left on the initial minor. The Maple Leafs didn’t register a shot on goal in the final 1:14 and the period came to a close with the Flyers down by two.


After being held without a shot through 40 minutes, on his second shot of the period, Matthews scored his 55th goal of the season in transition as the Maple Leafs caught the Flyers defense snoozing. Lyubushkin took a massive hit from Hathaway to get the play going before Bertuzzi found Matthews zipping through at the 4:45 mark.

Then just eight seconds later, Nylander gave the Leafs an insurmountable 5-1 lead as they took advantage of more sloppy defensive plays, this time from Frost, as he fired a shot from the slot glove-side for his 35th of the season.

With 13:07 remaining, Konecny was sent to the box for a roughing minor. By the end of the penalty kill, three Flyers players didn’t have sticks. It was a yard sale in front of the goaltender and shots were being thrown towards the net like a cannon, but eventually the Leafs cycled for their sixth goal of the game off the stick of Matthew Knies.

Max Domi and Hathaway were assessed 10-minute misconducts with 5:44 remaining in regulation. York was then sent to the box for a high-sticking minor with 2:49 left. The Maple Leafs sent out their top unit – generally a taboo in the hockey world – which prompted Rocky Thompson to chirp Sheldon Keefe relentlessly.

Tyson Foerster then wired a one-timer shorthanded with 1:32 left to play after a great set up by Couturier. His stick was trapped by Liljegren but he freed it out and passed it off to Sanheim, who then found Foerster for his 17th of the season – and for the Flyers’ league-leading 15th shorthanded goal of the year.


The Flyers head out to Boston on Saturday night (7:00pm ET, NBCSP) looking to avenge a 6-2 loss from January 27th.

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