First period: not a great start
The Flyers dominated the first five minutes of the game being strong around the perimeter in the offensive zone and moving the puck quickly up ice on the breakout. The Leafs just couldn’t establish any kind of forecheck. Then, Mitch Marner took a careless tripping penalty 200 feet from his own goal, and the Flyers scored on the power player at 13:51 – Wayne Simmons tipped a Shayne Gostisbehere point shot up over Frederik Andersen.
The Leafs continued to look somewhat lost, struggling to generate many shots, let alone much sustained zone time until Radko Gudas took a dumb tripping penalty in the neutral zone at 7:29.
Really, the power play looked awful too, until William Nylander sent an absolute laser over the shoulder of Michael Neuvirth with 34 seconds left in the man advantage.
Instead of using the goal as a springboard to turn their play around, the Leafs basically went right back to giving up a lot of chances to the Flyers.
Perhaps the Leafs’ best line of the opening frame? Their fourth. Brian Boyle & Co. gave up some chances, yes, but they also put together a couple full shifts in the offensive zone, which is more than any other line could boast.
Second period: heating up
Neither team looked sharp through the first five minutes, but the Leafs found some traction again with the Boyle line and then, somewhat surprisingly, the Kadri line as the period approached the halfway mark. Connor Brown wired a shot off the crossbar at 11:45.
Finally, as the Leafs began to really catch fire, it was a great individual effort from Tyler Bozak that cashed in. He chased Sean Couturier down in the offensive zone, stripped him of the curled back, and fired a perfect shot inside the post.
Suddenly, the Leafs were in control.
The ice began to tilt more and more towards the Flyers’ end, and the Leafs created several good scoring chances. Flyer forwards began playing much deeper in the zone, trying to suffocate Leaf passes from below the goal line.
Other Leafs heating up in the second half of the period included Frederik Andersen, who made several great stops, and the Auston Matthews line – each linemate managed a couple good looks on net.
Through 40 minutes, the Leafs held a 22-18 edge in shots.
Third period: strong finish
Leo Komarov almost scored right out of the gate of the third period on a fantastic pass by Kadri. His line would produce several more chances in the first half of the period, particularly for Connor Brown, who came oh-so-close to putting the Leafs up by two on as many occasions.
Nikita Zaitsev took an interference penalty taking out Giroux with 9:58 left in regulation, and while the Leafs killed it off, they did give up two great chances. On the first, a great one-timer feed to Giroux, Andersen made a spectacular stop. On the second, Andersen got some help from the iron behind him.
Shortly thereafter, Brayden Schenn took a penalty and it was Marner who partially redeemed himself by walking in off the point and snapping one five-hole on Neuvirth at 6:16. Morgan Rielly made a nice lateral shift with the puck at the point before sliding it to Marner for the shot. 3-1 Leafs.
Things got tense when Brown was called for tripping and the Leafs had to kill off another penalty, but the penalty kill came up big. Nikita Soshnikov even managed a shorthanded rush where he hit the post.
But the Flyers pulled the goalie with just under three minutes left, and Gostisbehere scored a goal with 2:28 remaining on a big one-timer that caught Andersen just slightly out of position. The collapse appeared imminent.
And then it just didn’t happen.
Although the Flyers pressed and came close to tying the game on two more occasions, the Leafs held on until Kadri intercepted a pass and picked up an empty-netter with 1:00 remaining to ice this one 4-2 for the Leafs.
Notes on individual players
- Unsurprisingly, Kadri’s line was matched against Giroux’s line all game. In the first period, although Giroux didn’t score, he dominated the matchup. In the second, the situation reversed itself, and Kadri’s line seem to get the upper hand.
- Marner had a tough game. There was the bad penalty, yes, but there were a lot of other things, too. He didn’t get out to his point man quick enough, he was often bodied off the puck, struggled to recover loose pucks, and generally had trouble being effective offensively.
- Matthews had a quiet night to start, but warmed up as the game progressed.
- Bozak’s line struggled through the first half, getting hemmed in repeatedly, but there’s no denying his offensive abilities, and his goal tonight was a great effort.
- Jake Gardiner also had a tough one. In addition to a number of bad passes, he got caught pinching more than once and was fortunate that the ensuing odd-man rushes didn’t result in goals against.
- Connor Brown deserved a goal in this one. It was a great game for him.
- Morgan Rielly did Morgan Rielly things in the offensive zone. He held the puck in well (as in the case of the Marner goal), and skated well with it around the perimeter in attempts to twist the Flyers’ D out of position. On the other hand, he had a really tough time in his own zone. Rielly allows attacking players to create too much space for themselves, and he still struggles along the boards.
- Andersen played a solid game and the Leafs needed it. He was named the game’s first star, and deservedly so, on a night when the rest of the team looked vulnerable, especially early on./