The Toronto Maple Leafs overcame a sloppy first 40 minutes with a four-goal explosion in the third period to drop the Philadelphia Flyers 6-3 on Friday night.

The Maple Leafs have now thrice shown an ability to bounce back after bad losses this season (a 7-3 loss to Tampa Bay followed by a 3-2 win over Florida, a 5-1 loss to the Islanders followed by a 3-2 win over Edmonton, and a 7-0 loss to the Kings followed by this 6-3 win over the Flyers). It’s an encouraging sign going forward that such a young team has been able to respond to adversity rather than allow bad losses to multiply.

That’s not to say the Leafs played all that well throughout this game. Much of the first 40 minutes featured track meet hockey with little neutral zone structure, plenty of undisciplined breakouts, and the Leafs collapsing on their slot during Flyers shooting galleries. The Leafs were outshot 27-14 after 40 minutes, and the 3-2 scoreline could’ve been worse.

The Leafs got off to a slow start to the game despite the positive energy of the pre-game Hall of Fame ceremony. After Nazem Kadri scored on a nice individual effort against the run of play to put the Leafs up 1-0, the Maple Leafs conceded two goals in 27 seconds. A Flyers powerplay created by a bad offensive zone penalty taken by James van Riemsdyk led to a quick strike by Philadelphia; after a Flyers draw win, Shane Gostisbehere sucked in Zach Hyman, dished to Claude Giroux with ample space on the half wall, and Wayne Simmonds was all alone for a tip in the front while the Leafs’ defence ‘fronted’ in the slot.

Just 27 seconds later, an airmail pass from Radko Gudas for Travis Konecny to chase got the better of Connor Carrick and Konecny finished in alone to make it 2-1.

Following a key toe save from Frederik Andersen on Dale Weise late in the first period – a 3-1 goal there may have been a backbreaker — the Leafs responded late in the period on a five-on-three powerplay. Morgan Rielly – on the ice to start a powerplay! — pump faked the high penalty killer, sidestepped the shot block and released a quick wrister back across Steve Mason for his first goal of the season.

The Leafs conceded a shorthanded goal early in the second period on a lazy drop pass by JVR inside the offensive blueline leading to a Wayne Simmonds breakaway. After avoiding further damage despite a poor second period, it started turn around for the Leafs toward the end of the middle 20. Babcock blended his lines in search of a spark: Connor Brown moved onto a line with Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman while William Nylander (as well as Mitch Marner for a shift or two) shifted onto a line with Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov. Both lines instantly looked better with a couple of long-overdue offensive zone shifts to end the second period.

Down 3-2 entering the third, the Leafs then put together an excellent final frame that saw them score in all three game strengths, including three firsts of the year: Martin Marincin rebounded from a tough opening 40 minutes to score his first of the season, Zach Hyman banged in a rebound after Matthews hit the crossbar, and Leo Komarov scored on a shorthanded breakaway. Mitch Marner then put the game away with a powerplay goal with four minutes remaining. The Leafs generated 23 shot attempts at even strength in 20 minutes and were duly rewarded.


– Fans tend to criticize bad goaltending in their team’s losses while rarely acknowledging bad opposition goaltending when it plays a role in a win. It certainly did in this game. Steve Mason was awful for the Flyers; deep in his net on the two goals from further out, and the puck went right through him on a couple of the others.

– Nazem Kadri finished the game with a goal, an assist, a plus-two and over 60% possession against the Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds line.

– Turns out, playing on the powerplay is a great way to get your best offensive players going. On to start the two-man advantage as part of the rotation (Gardiner and Carrick started the last 5 on 3, according to Babcock), Rielly scored his first of the season amid a career-high four-point night. The early goal went to his legs, followed by a really slick drop pass for Martin Marincin’s goal, and an additional point on Marner’s late powerplay tally. He may not have the ideal cannon for a slapshot, but he’s got natural offensive instincts as a powerplay quarterback as well as a good wrist shot. The powerplay showed a lot of intent with Rielly in control. For a guy who is getting limited powerplay time overall, 10 points in 14 games is a hang of a start.

– Look who has pulled even with Auston Matthews and William Nylander for the team lead in point (and 2nd in NHL rookie scoring): Mitch Marner and his 12 points. Just three of his points have come on the powerplay compared to Nylander’s seven, Laine’s seven, and Matthews’ four. Marner was a sparkplug again in this game and gave a lift to the three different lines he played on. It’s not surprising he’s caught up to the team scoring lead — among the Leafs’ skill group, Marner’s performance level has been the most consistent through 14 games. The production is now catching up.

– Auston Matthews goal drought has now hit eight and there is no good reason why. He had a couple of point-blank looks (inexplicably fired four feet wide on one of them from the top of the crease) and hit two more posts, including a cross-bar that Hyman banged in on the rebound. He’s been taking four shots a game throughout his slump and that’s without the half-a-dozen posts included in the total.

– Four Leafs scored their first goals of the season, including the two ‘puck retrievers’ who had been taking some heat for their lack of production in Zach Hyman and Leo Komarov. Hyman’s stood up as the game winner, and you could see the weight of the world lifted off of his shoulders in his goal celebration. Only fitting that Hyman created the goal in the first place by generating a turnover on the forecheck.

Even Strength Shot Attempts

via Natural Stat Trick

Shot Location Chart


Game In Six

Mike Babcock Post Game

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