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Matthews nets fifth hat-trick of season, as Maple Leafs defeat Flyers 4-3

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
2 months ago
Coming off arguably their best all-around game of the season against the St. Louis Blues without four of their regulars, the Toronto Maple Leafs welcomed John Tavares and Mitch Marner back into the lineup for their first meeting of the season against the Philadelphia Flyers last night.

First period:

If you honestly know the Toronto Maple Leafs, you probably expected a win on Tuesday night against the Blues when they were without Marner, Rielly, and Tavares, and with Marner and Tavares back in the lineup against the Flyers last night, a loss felt inevitable.
Well, Toronto didn’t get off to the same start they did against the Blues, and it was evident the Flyers looked like the better team through the first half of the period. Philadelphia wasn’t outshooting Toronto by a wide margin, but their scoring chances were pretty solid compared to the home team’s.
Luckily, Toronto was awarded the game’s first power play after Sean Walker was sent to the box for a puck-over-glass penalty, sending the top unit over the boards. Unfortunately, they couldn’t generate anything, and the second unit hopped out on the ice, looking to get their team on the board.
Things didn’t get better. Not only did they not convert on the man advantage – they allowed a short-handed goal to Travis Sanheim after a turnover in the neutral zone and a breakdown in Toronto’s end of the ice, which allowed Sanheim to skate freely toward the net, waiting to receive the puck.
The Maple Leafs slowly settled into the game but still struggled to get pucks past the Flyers’ defence and regain possession. Philadelphia did a good job winning those battles through the first 20 minutes and held Toronto to an xGF of 0.36 in the first period, according to moneypuck.com. It’s no secret that their effort against the Flyers in the first period was way worse than Tuesday night’s against the Blues.
Toronto entered the first intermission down 1-0 and outshot 10-8.

Second period:

The second period began with both teams playing four-on-four due to off-setting roughing minors to Bobby McMann and Nick Seeler, who were going at it as the horn sounded for the end of the first period. It didnt matter that the period was starting like that because the Flyers continued to outplay the Maple Leafs, and even when both teams returned to even strength, Philadelphia looked like they were going to double their lead with the number of chances they were generating on Ilya Samsonov.
Fortunately, Samsonov weathered the storm, saving everything the Flyers threw at him. Philadelphia jumped out to a quick 8-1 shot advantage, and it was surprising they didnt find a way to double their lead, even after receiving a power play roughly four minutes in after Jake McCabe was whistled for hooking.
Toronto killed it off, making them 19-for-20 on the penalty kill in their last 20 attempts, and after that, Toronto slowly started to find their legs again. Mitch Marner caught the Flyers on a line change and fired a stretch pass to Auston Matthews at the offensive blue line. He received the puck on his stick, bolted toward the net, and sniped his 43rd of the season past Ersson to get his team on the board.
After tying the game at one, it was evident that the goal went straight to Toronto’s legs. The second line hopped over the boards, put together a solid shift in the offensive zone, and created a handful of great looks on the net but couldn’t solve Ersson again.
Just three minutes later, as Toronto continued to apply pressure on Philadelphia, Matthews drew a penalty as he got taken down by Owen Tippett, sending them to their second power play of the game. Although they turned the puck over in the neutral zone on the man advantage for a second time, Travis Konecny missed the net, sending Toronto back the other way.
They set up in the offensive zone, William Nylander fed Marner at the blue line, who teed up Matthews for a one-timer, and he blasted home his 44th of the season – and second the night – to grab the lead for his team.
Now that Matthews had dragged his team back into it, they kept their foot on the gas, looking for more before the end of the second frame. With just under two minutes to go, the man of the second period, Auston Matthews, decided to cap off his excellent second period with his third of the night to secure his fifth hat-trick of the season with a vintage-looking Auston Matthews shot.
The second half of the second period was all Toronto, and the Flyers had little to no answer for them whatsoever.
Toronto entered the second intermission up 3-1 and were getting outshot 21-19.

Third period:

After completely turning the game on its side, Toronto entered the final period up 3-1 with a chance to win three consecutive games at home for the first time since November. All they needed to do was to replicate how they closed out their game on Tuesday night against the Blues.
Sadly for Toronto, it wasn’t as good as a period compared to how they finished off the second. They had their chances, but the Flyers looked like a team desperate to get back into the game.
I’m not sure if this fight sparked the Flyers, but after Simon Benoit crushed Cam York in the corner and dropped the gloves with Nic Deslauriers, the Flyers started to press the Maple Leafs.
 
Toronto went to the power play for the third time after Deslauriers was handed an extra two minutes for instigating but couldn’t extend their lead to three after countless looks trying to feed Matthews, who was looking for his fourth of the night.
Travis Konecny and Mark Giordano were also sent to the box for tripping and embellishment, and from that point onward, Philadelphia looked dangerous.
With the game still 3-1 in favour of Toronto, Noah Gregor took a needless roughing penalty in the offensive zone, sending the Flyers to the man advantage. Toronto’s penalty kill did another solid job killing it off but had trouble clearing the puck. Once they did clear the puck, the Flyers re-entered, and Matthew Knies failed to clear the zone along the wall, keeping Philadelphia in the offensive zone, and Garnet Hathaway banged home a rebound to cut Toronto’s lead in half.
Not even four minutes after Gregor took an offensive zone penalty, Tyler Bertuzzi was also whistled for one, this time for tripping. Unfortunately, the penalty kill couldn’t go 3-for-3, and Travis Konecny buried the puck, tying the game at three with a little under five minutes to go.
Both teams continued to look for the go-ahead goal, with Philadelphia likely looking to take it to overtime and Toronto looking to spoil their comeback, but both teams headed to overtime.

Overtime period:

Toronto headed to their 18th overtime last night after blowing a two-goal lead within a couple of minutes, and given their poor overtime record (5-7), a win after blowing a multi-goal lead would’ve been a lovely way to secure a winning homestand.
With no Morgan Rielly, Sheldon Keefe sent out Jake McCabe with Marner and Matthews to begin overtime. Matthews won the face-off, and Toronto immediately played the possession game. They didn’t force anything like previous overtimes and would only attack when an opportunity presented itself.
The trio that started overtime didn’t get anything going, so they headed for a line change. Nylander, Domi, and Liljegren were the next three over the boards, and within seconds of getting on the ice, Nylander and Liljegren played give-and-go, and Nylander snapped home his 27th of the season, winning the game for the Maple Leafs.
 

Who stood out:

Outside of a dreadful first period, for the most part, from the Maple Leafs, especially the top line, Auston Matthews turned it up in the second period and dragged his team back into the fight with his fifth hat-trick of the season, giving him 45 goals on the season. It’s absurd that he, like many superstars, could be having a terrible game and flip a switch to take over. But I guess that’s why they’re called superstars.
I felt like everyone else was mediocre to fine last night. It wasn’t their best game of the season by any means, especially compared to their stellar performance against the Blues, but it was a gutsy win after how they started the game yesterday.
 
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game Saturday night when they close out their three-game homestand against the Anaheim Ducks. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.

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