By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — You would figure the Toronto Maple Leafs would be skating in sand with shackles on their ankles, after opening their season with an emotionally draining victory in Montreal the previous night. And for most of the Flyers’ season opener against the Maple Leafs Wednesday night, that’s the way it looked.
The Flyers were the far fresher team, moved better, and kept Toronto in constant retreat—through most of the game. All except the third period, when suddenly the Maple Leafs emerged and it was the Flyers that were sagging. Toronto’s Dave Bolland scored the first of his two goals with 17:30 left in the last period that proved to be the winning difference in a 3-1 Toronto victory.
Bolland added another powerplay goal with :22.5 seconds left to seal the victory for the Maple Leafs, who looked awfully good to begin this season.
Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier was brilliant, steering away 31 shots and forcing the Flyers into going 1-for-7 on the powerplay. The Flyers were scoreless on even strength (shooting 0-for-19) and on their seven powerplays they shot 1-for-13.
The Flyers dominated the first period. They outshot Toronto 15-9, sustaining a lot of pressure on the Maple Leafs. But each time the Flyers swarmed the net with pressure, Bernier was there to stuff them.
Finally, with less than 10 seconds left in the opening period, free agent acquisition Vinny Lecavalier weaved his way through three defenders to find Brayden Schenn alone in front of the net, who got it by Bernier for the first goal of the game.
Toronto, which did little over the first two periods, managed to tie the score when Phil Kessel had to be at the right place at the right time to get a rebound and blow a shot right past Flyers goalie Steve Mason, tying the game at 1-1 with 2:54 left in the second.
It appeared as if the Flyers might regain the lead when Wayne Simmonds was yanked down by Paul Ranger with 3.1 seconds left in the second, giving him a penalty shot. But the shot failed miserably, when Bernier caught Simmonds’ shot on his upper right leg pad.
Though the Flyers controlled most of the play over the first two periods, Toronto outhit the Flyers 25-15 and kept the Flyers’ potent power play in check, forcing Philadelphia into going 1-for-5 on the powerplay. The Maple Leafs blocked 14 shots, to the Flyers eight, and the Flyers missed 18 shots to just four missed shots for Toronto.
Bernier was a big reason why it was tied after two periods. The major off-season acquisition from the Los Angeles Kings made 21 saves on 22 shots.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.