Time running out on Leafs after loss
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Toronto Maple Leafs' Luke Schenn stands up Philadelphia Flyers' Daniel Carcillo. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - If you’re going to talk seriously about playoffs, but don’t have 70 points by the Ides of March, it’s best to tone down the rhetoric a bit.
The Maple Leafs’ late-season push is definitely stalling after Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers kept them six points behind two clubs.
Thursday doesn’t take away from a great run by the Leafs since Feb. 1— a mark of 10-4-5 record, with 15 of those one-goal games — and a strong finish at the ACC against Philly. But it makes their job all that tougher with less than a month remaining in the schedule. The Sabres, who won against Boston in overtime last night, are here Saturday for dare we say it, a must-win, in one of the two remaining head to heads between the clubs.
The Flyers, under threat from Washington and Boston for the conference lead, didn’t spare the horses after the Leafs took a one-win out of in Philly a week earlier.
It was a long night for the Leafs’ defence, which lost Mike Komisarek at the 3:45 mark when he shoved Daniel Carcillo in a vulnerable position into the boards, causing some anxious moments. Carcillo is no angel, but with the spotlight on the league’s Toronto office in the wake of Chara-Pacioretty, this was no time to be pushing the envelope or dumping anyone that close to the boards.
Toronto allowed just one goal during the major, Andrej Meszaros beating James Reimer on a point screen, but it was the fifth straight game Toronto has fallen behind first.
The Leafs took note of Carcillo coming back to the Flyers bench not long after his injury and that set the tone for some chippy play afterwards. The Leafs lost Colby Armstrong for a few minutes after James Van Riemsdyk drove him into the boards, but the only power play the Leafs had came when ex-teammate Kris Versteeg got an extra roughing call when Mike Brown and Sean O’Donnel started fencing.
After letting rookie Sergei Bobrovsky have his shot against the Leafs last week, the Flyers came back with Brian Boucher, whose .928 save percentage against Toronto is his best against any Eastern Conference team. Once the Leafs got back to full strength after the Komisarek major, he had to shake the rust in a hurry, but Toronto still had just 12 shots at the halfway point.
The Leafs kicked into gear after Philly took a 2-0 lead, the second goal result of poor clearing by Brett Lebda and a straight giveaway by Nikolai Kulemin that Darroll Powe converted. But Toronto’s power-play ended an 0-for-26 slide when a Dion Phaneuf drive hit a Flyers’ forward’s stick and then glanced off the front of Mikhail Grabovski’s as he was en route to the net.
Boucher made a huge glove save on Armstrong and benefitted from a post when Tyler Bozak tipped another Phaneuf drive.
Prior to that, the Leafs were hemmed in again when Claude Giroux restored the two-goal lead.
Reimer has faced 29 or more shots in eight of his past nine starts and his luck with posts and crossbars continued when Daniel Briere ripped one off the iron midway through the third period, just prior to Brown faking O’Donnell and passing to Joffrey Lupul to bring the Leafs within one. That was Lupul’s fourth goal in 14 games as a Leaf.
Ex-Leaf Versteeg heard a few boos in his first game back at the ACC and took a couple of minors. There was no repeat of the Keith Aulie- Scott Hartnell bout after the Leaf rookie won his first big-league fight in Philly on March 3.