TORONTO — Turning the page, turning the corner.
Whatever label you want to attach to it, the Flyers proved yet again Saturday night that disappointments don't seem to fester with this club, as they turned in a complete 60-minute effort, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-2, at Air Canada Center (see observations).
It also helped the Flyers didn't spot their opponent a 3-0 lead like they had in their previous two road games, in Nashville and against just two days ago in Ottawa, where they felt robbed of a game-tying goal in the final minute of a 5-4 loss.
"I thought we deserved a better result than what we got in Ottawa," Brian Elliott, who won for the fifth time in seven starts, said. "I thought we played a good game. We knew we had to come out 50 percent on this road trip. These are a big two points in this building right now."
"I think we played a really good hockey game, all 60 minutes," Jakub Voracek said. "It's a tough building to play in. That team is very good. I'd say they're one of the best teams in the NHL with a lot of young guys and a lot of speed. I think we eliminated them pretty well.”
The turning point Saturday came in the opening minutes of the second period when Shayne Gostisbehere was called for a necessary slashing penalty on Zach Hyman that negated a potential goal. Roughly a minute and a half later, Robert Hagg went to the box for holding, which left the Maple Leafs with a 5-on-3 power play for 32 seconds.
After killing those two minors, the Flyers gained control of the second period, outshooting Toronto, 16-8, and took a two-goal advantage into the third period.
“That’s a big part of the hockey game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “You can break it down even further than that — the faceoff. We win the faceoff, we get the clear and they never did get set up. That was a big momentum builder for us and we were able to take advantage of it.”
After losing Andrew MacDonald a week ago to a leg injury in a win over Edmonton, the Flyers sustained another big blow on their blue line when Gostisbehere was forced to leave the game with an upper-body injury after taking a borderline hit from Leafs forward Leo Komarov, who extended his arms sending Gostisbehere face-first into the boards.
“It’s a tough hit,” Hakstol said. “It’s one that’s got to be looked at. It’s a hit in the numbers and it’s a tough play for our player.”
Komarov was not penalized on the play, but it’s one that will certainly grab the attention of the league office for supplemental discipline. Not only were the Flyers forced to play with five defensemen, but Hakstol also shortened his bench, primarily rolling three lines to solidify their two-goal lead.
“When you go down to five defensemen, the forwards did a really good job of helping them out,” Elliott said. “It’s tiring out there. When they’re working hard for the D, they can focus on the little things — getting those pucks out of the blue line and mitigating a lot of chances they had.”
Now the Flyers will have to dig even deeper and find a way to get over the loss of another key member of their defense.
A player that leads all NHL defensemen in points, and that, could have a lingering effect.
Getting offensive from defense
Despite playing without the NHL’s leading scorer among defensemen, the Flyers generated the majority of their shots from their blue line, as 20 of the team’s 30 shots on net came from the Flyers' defense, led by Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov, who both had five apiece to lead the team.
“They play a defensive game pretty close to the net," Voracek, who has a goal in two straight games, said of the Leafs. “The defenders are open on the blue line. Sometimes you have to play like that. It’s really important for defenders to get the shots through.”
Some home cooking
Any game in Toronto is usually a homecoming affair for the visiting team. The Flyers have about five players from the Toronto suburbs and the surrounding area, including forward Scott Laughton (Oakville, Ontario) and goaltender Brian Elliott (Newmarket, Ontario), who both played a solid game in front of family and friends.
"I got about 20 people in the stands that you know is family or friends,” Elliott said. “It’s always fun to win for them. You grow up around here as a Leafs fan, so beating them is extra special.”
“I probably had 20 people there,” Laughton said. “It’s nice for my grandparents to come and stuff. They don’t get to see me too often — all my extended family and things like that — my best buddy growing up. It’s nice for them to come. Yeah, it’s an expensive ticket here.”