Scott Hartnell scored his 26th goal of the season and added an assist, while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 24 of 27 shots to lead the Philadelphia Flyers over the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3 Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The victory snapped a three-game Flyers' losing streak (0-2-1).
Bobrovsky was pressed into starting duty when incumbent number one Ilya Bryzgalov was scratched due to illness. Jason Bacashihua served as Bobrovsky's backup after receiving an emergency recall from the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms earlier in the day.
With Philadelphia holding a wide margin in shots on goal for most of the opening period, Hartnell finally netted the game's first goal late in the first period. The winger twice batted an Erik Gustafsson shot out of the air and past goaltender James Reimer for his team-leading 26th goal of the season, then immediately dropped his gloves and fought Leafs' defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
"We were battling I think for the first couple shifts and I kind of was going behind the net one time and I don't know if he pushed me or I caught an edge, I don't know what happened," Hartnell explained after the game. "I went off the boards and my neck was in kind of an awkward position and I thought it was somewhat of a cheap play. Then I get lucky bouncing like that in the air and it went in the net and I just went right off it. Just pretty standard, someone does something to you cheap, slashes, cheap plays like that you have to stand up for yourself, and he did."
Kind of funny after the All-Star weekend when a mic-ed up Hartnell let out a rather robust "Suck it Phaneuf" after scoring a goal and skating past the big defenseman. The two downplayed the remark as just something to be funny, and Hartnell reaffirmed as much tonight.
"No, that was all in good fun," he said. "That All-Star game was pretty, you know, it was a great weekend. I heard the Twitter world loved it after we went out of there. Little things like that are fun of the game."
As for Hartnell's linemate, Claude Giroux, he didn't know what was going on after Hartnell scored the goal.
"I wasn't too sure what happened," Giroux said. "I saw him go down. I thought it was a typical "hartnelldown." I saw the replay and he got tripped. He stayed in there and got a goal and a fight. When he gets pissed off, I think that's dangerous for the other team because he's on the puck, he's jumping. It was a good goal for him."
Holding a 16-5 margin in shots on goal over the Maple Leafs after 20 minutes, it had to be a great relief for the Flyers to come out of a period in which they outshot the opposition so badly with something to show for it. Philly threw 45 shots at New York Islanders' netminder Evgeni Nabokov through regulation and overtime without denting the twine a single time before eventually dropping a 1-0 decision in the shootout.
But Philadelphia had little time to revel in actually having a lead, as Tyler Bozak skated into the Flyers' zone along the right wing side, circled the net, and fired a shot off of defenseman Braydon Coburn's skate and between Bobrovsky's pads for his 11th goal of the season to tie the score at 1-1 at the 54 second mark of the middle frame. Bobrovsky was partially off balance after Coburn had fallen into him and really didn't have a chance to make a stop on the shot.
The Flyers regained the lead less than three minutes later when Maxime Talbot deflected a point shot by Andrej Meszaros and by Reimer for his 13th of the year and a 2-1 Philly lead.
Ex-Flyer Joffrey Lupul evened the score again at the 5:57 mark when he deposited a rebound of a Phaneuf power play point shot past Bobrovsky for his 22nd of the season.
The see-saw second continued as Philadelphia's leading scorer, Giroux, ripped a shot from the slot past Reimer's blocker side off a Hartnell pass from behind the net for his 21st of the campaign to stake the Flyers to their third lead of the night at 3-2 at 13:53. After the NHL's second leading scorer has been slumping in recent times, it was Giroux's third goal in his last five games.
This time, though, Philadelphia would build on their lead instead of coughing it up. Just 1:14 after Giroux's tally, Danny Briere sent a bullet from the right faceoff circle that hit Reimer high and rebounded to the opposite side of the net. Brayden Schenn gathered the puck and fired a shot through the Toronto goalie for his sixth of the year, giving the Flyers a two-goal lead at 4-2 with 4:53 left in the middle stanza.
"I think after last game, we got shut out, we had chances and things weren't going in for us," said Schenn, who now has four goals in his last seven games. "And tonight kind of the same thing, but they were going in. Good to see guys get rewarded and I guess we can build off it now."
Peter Laviolette has been pleased by the play of his young forward.
"I think he is finally feeling like he is here and a contributing factor," the head coach noted. "It's just a tough start when you have three injuries the way he did right from camp. You train all summer, you come to camp and you hope to come in and have an impact and then there are substantial injuries and substantial time. I do think it takes away from everything, your timing, your game conditioning and everything you need to play. I do feel like now he is getting it back and finding his way out there."
The Maple Leafs would fight back and score in the last two minutes of the period, as Bozak fired home his second of the night and 12th of the season off a furious netmouth scramble in which Bobrovsky was forced to make several stops before Bozak hit the top shelf. The marker cut the home team's lead to 4-3 at the second intermission.
The Leafs outshot the Flyers in the third, 10-9, and had a golden opportunity when Talbot went off for boarding Phaneuf with just 2:07 remaining in regulation, then pulled Reimer to have a six-on-four manpower advantage. But Toronto could not solve Bobrovsky for the equalizer, as the Flyers held on to break their three-game losing skid.
The triumph was made even more important from a Philadelphia standpoint when considering that the Leafs could have pulled to within just three points of the Orange-and-Black for the first time in almost two months with a regulation win.Toronto fell to eighth place in the Eastern Conference by virtue of the slumping Ottawa Senators defeating the Nashville Predators tonight as the clubs vie for a berth in the postseason.
Bobrovsky improved his record to 12-5-1, while Reimer made 34 saves in a losing cause and fell to 10-6-4, breaking his own personal three-game winning streak.
"The most important thing is that they won," said Bobrovsky, who was shelled for six goals in leass than half the game in a 6-4 loss to the New Jersey Devils last weekend. "It was a little bit difficult after that game, but the main point is that the team, as a whole, won."
One area the Flyers will need to vastly improve upon is their defensive zone coverage, particularly in front of their own net. The Leafs were able to grab rebound after rebound without being knocked off the puck, and two of the Toronto goals were a direct result of Philly not clearing the porch in front of their netminder.
It's a hole that has been glaring since the departure of Chris Pronger from the lineup for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs, and one that GM Paull Holmgren will likely need to address before the trade deadline if his club is to have any success whatsoever in the playoffs.
Taking a Flyer: With a goal, an assist, and a fight, Hartnell recorded the second "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" of his career. His first came January 11th, 2011 against Buffalo.....Talbot was 7-10 on faceoffs (73%). He is 28-40 (70%) in his last four games.....Gustafsson, Jaromir Jagr, and Meszaros all finished the night a +3, while Kimmo Timonen, Coburn, and Jakub Voracek all finished a -2.....Timonen led the Flyers with six shots on goal, and had another rip solidly off the goal post past a screened Reimer and stay out. The veteran defenseman also blocked a team-high four shots.