Friday, March 28, 2014

Giroux the man again as Flyers take down fading Leafs

Philadelphia, PA -- Inhale. Exhale. Repeat as desired.

The Philadelphia Flyers' two-game losing streak is over.

Claude Giroux responded from a disappointing Wednesday contest, finishing with a goal and two assists and Steve Mason made 32 saves, as the Orange and Black prolonged Toronto's recent stretch of misery with a 4-2 home decision on Friday.

The captain's splurge after two dry outings vaulted him into third place on the NHL list with 78 points. Only Sidney Crosby (97) and Ryan Getzlaf (80) rank higher.

Vincent Lecavalier, Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell also provided offense for the Flyers, who snapped a two-game slide and have won six of their last eight overall heading into a Sunday afternoon matchup with Atlantic Division leading Boston.

After the Rangers lost in Calgary, there is once again a one-point difference between the clubs for second place in the Metropolitan Division.

“I think it bothered us the last couple of games. They were poor efforts, we were soft on pucks; I think everyone was just very, very tentative," Hartnell admitted. "Tonight we wanted to have some jump, get on their D, get some fore-checks going.  For 60 minutes, I think we did a great job of that and it showed at the end of the night.”

Dave Bolland and James van Riemsdyk tallied for the Maple Leafs, who suffered their seventh consecutive defeat. Jonathan Bernier allowed four scores on 29 shots as Toronto failed to pick up a point and gain ground in the race for a wild-card berth in the East.

In a one-goal contest, Mason began the third with two quick stops in close from Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, then Bernier countered by chasing away a Jakub Voracek chance.

"At times, there was some extra space.  They have some guys who can really fly on that team, especially their top line.  When guys are working for their space, they can create opportunities, and both ways it happened tonight," Mason said.

Giroux eventually provided insurance on a high, hard shot from the left wing at the 4:57 mark, but the Leafs came back on a delayed penalty as Bolland converted a Mason Raymond rebound at 6:18.

Phaneuf had trouble handling the puck in the high slot, and after Brayden Schenn came up with the strip, Simmonds scored to the far post with 7:21 to play and the Flyers established their winning score of 4-2.

“I’ve been saying it for the last two weeks at least. When you’re coming from behind you’ve got to open up a little bit and that obviously gives them a little bit more open space that you don’t want to give usually. It’s tough when you’re coming from behind and we’ve got to find a way to correct it," Phaneuf stated.

Seconds into a 5-on-3 advantage and only 5:35 after the opening faceoff, the hosts went up 1-0 after Lecavalier ripped a one-timer home from the right circle off a Kimmo Timonen dish.

Lecavalier was suddenly demoted to the fourth line after an unsuccessful stint on the left wing, an unnatural position. He ended up with three shots on goal and was credited with three hits in 13:32 of ice time, no doubt helped along by spending time on the club's second power-play unit.

"Well I think we played a great game as a line and being back in the middle, I felt very comfortable so I have to give credit to my teammates," offered Lecavalier. "I think Hallsy and Rino, I think we played really well together. I thought we were close a few times but I think we overall played a good game.”

Toronto had its first goal wiped out just before the midway point of the period as Joffrey Lupul made contact with Mason in the crease prior to a successful shot by Carl Gunnarsson.

Van Riemsdyk then managed to set a pair of records by scoring just four seconds into the second: fastest goal from the start of a period for the Leafs and fastest goal surrendered from the start of a period by the Flyers.

It bested the previous mark set by Mats Sundin, six seconds into OT in a 4-3 win against St. Louis on Dec. 30, 1995. Bengt Gustafsson scored five seconds into the third period of a 4-1 Capitals win against Philly on Jan. 18, 1983.

Hartnell restored his club's one-goal edge when he batted a Timonen point offering out of mid-air and past Reimer with 8:57 left.

Notes: Philadelphia improved to 19-2-1 this season when Giroux scores a goal ... Lecavalier's goal leaves him one shy of 400 for his career ... The Flyers have won eight of their last 11 home games against the Leafs since January of 2009 ... Toronto, Columbus, which lost in regulation against Pittsburgh, and both idle Washington and Detroit have 80 points and are vying for the final two postseason slots.
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