Thursday, February 09, 2012

Hartnell provides spark as Flyers trim Leafs

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

It's an overhyped footnote in hockey history, this "Gordie Howe" hat trick of a goal, assist and a fight.

But if Scott Hartnell hadn't managed to squeeze two of the three into one single play late in the first period, who knows if the Flyers would have been shocked to life.

Thanks in large part to Hartnell's spark, and a solid defensive showing in a scoreless third period, Philadelphia emerged with a 4-3 victory on Thursday and put the Maple Leafs' celebration plans on hold.

"Yes, it's pretty cool. It doesn't show up in the stats or anything like that. It was what counts is we got two points tonight," Hartnell said of his rare accomplishment.

Coming in, Toronto was just five points back of the Orange and Black, and was more than ready to crow about having closed the gap to three.

But Max Talbot, Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn tallied in the second period, while Sergei Bobrovsky made 24 saves and the hosts snapped a three-game losing streak.

Tyler Bozak scored twice and Joffrey Lupul once for the Leafs, who have dropped two in a row since a three-game winning streak. James Reimer looked shaky at times, taking the loss despite stopping 35 shots.

As it had been in Tuesday's shootout loss to the Islanders, the opening 20 minutes was dominated territorially by the Flyers but had little to show until the clock ticked down near the five-minute mark before intermission.

That's when a bad clear from Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf found its way back to the point, where Eric Gustafsson flung a shot towards the Toronto net. It appeared to carom off Jaromir Jagr in the left circle before bouncing in the slot, where Hartnell used his second swipe at the puck to bat it home just inside the right post at 14:38.

“I'm not sure about the last time more than one of us ended up with at least one goal," Hartnell said of his top line, which showed more initiative than in the previous three contests. "We were cycling, we had the confidence going and we had some chances,” Hartnell said. “We work well together, went back to the basics of playing hard, protecting the puck and converting our chances."

Immediately following the score, Hartnell and Phaneuf violently embraced and threw down the gloves. Hartnell received an extra minor for a questionable slash, but the home team killed off the advantage.

“He wasn’t happy, and he let me know that,” Phaneuf said. "He slashed me and to be honest with you, fights happen. They're part of the game."

That set the stage for a flood of goals in the second.

First, Bozak was able to shake off his checker in the left circle and fire a shot which somehow got through Braydon Coburn and Bobrovsky to tie the game at 54 seconds, then Talbot's mid-air deflection of an Andrej Meszaros point offering put Philly back on top at 3:32.

Lupul evened things once more at 5:57 on a power play, finding space on the left side to pot a Phaneuf rebound, but Giroux snapped his third goal in 17 games home from the right circle off a Hartnell dish at 13:53.

Schenn appeared to give the hosts some breathing room when he was alone on the left side to rifle home a Danny Briere rebound just 1:14 later, but Bozak lifted a Luke Schenn rebound over a prone Bobrovsky for a 4-3 contest inside the final two minutes.

"It's certainly good to see him cash in. I think he's finally feeling like he's here, and being a contributing factor," Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said of Schenn's emergence. "He had substantial injuries after camp and it affects everything from your legs to your timing but he's made his way back and his work is showing."

Although the Leafs rolled up a 10-9 shot edge in the third, the most interesting wrinkle as the Orange and Black guarded a one-goal edge came when Talbot was sent off for boarding with 2:07 remaining.

Reimer was called to the bench with 1:42 left and the visitors skated 6-on-4, but found little flow with the extended manpower advantage. Mikhail Grabovski's chance with 47.1 seconds left was deflected into the netting by Kimmo Timonen.

Notes: Hartnell's other Gordie Howe hat trick came on January 11, 2011 against the Buffalo Sabres...The Flyers have won seven of their last eight home games against the Leafs...Schenn recorded his first career game-winning goal...Philly's top line of Hartnell-Jagr-Giroux finished with four points and a plus-7...Talbot finished 7-for-10 on faceoffs and improved to 28-for-40 over his last four contests...Prior to the game, the Flyers recalled goaltender Jason Bacashihua from Adirondack of the AHL on an emergency basis...Toronto, which finished a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill, has not given up a power-play goal in 17 games.

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