(Toronto, Ontario) – The Philadelphia Flyers broke a franchise record for most shots allowed in a game. Fortunately for them, Antero Niittymaki stopped all but two of them in a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Antero Niittymaki makes one of his 54 saves on the night. (Getty Images)
Niittymaki, who was playing for the first time since a shutout of the Florida Panthers last Sunday, recorded his fifth victory of the season while allowing just two third period goals to Mats Sundin on 56 shots faced.
“It’s never a bad thing to get a lot of shots, but I’d rather get 30 or 35,” said Niittymaki with a smirk, following the game. “It was a fun game to play, but it was a lot of easy saves, too.”
“That’s two, back-to-back great games from him,” said John Stevens. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. He’s got a little twinkle in his eye, and it’s great to see.”
The Flyers blew a two-goal lead entering the third period before Mike Richards tallied with a man advantage for the game-winner with less than three minutes to play. Mike Knuble’s attempt was stopped by goaltender Andrew Raycroft, but the rebound went to the other side of the crease for an easy score for Richards. It was the Flyers’ third rebound goal of the night.
Philadelphia has now won four of its last five games, and improved to 3-1 on its current six-game road swing.
“This was a valuable two points,” said Stevens, whose team rebounded from a 3-0 shutout loss to the Devils on Friday night. “This team showed me a lot of courage tonight the way they stayed with it.”
Derian Hatcher hits Toronto's Alexander Steen as well as teammate Joffrey Lupul. (Getty Images)
Steve Downie’s first NHL goal put the Flyers up midway through the first. After Jim Dowd won an offensive zone faceoff draw, Jim Vandermeer ripped a slap shot on goal and Downie was able to flip the rebound over Raycroft.
A shorthanded tally made it 2-0. Toronto’s Ian White lost track of the puck just inside the Flyers’ zone at the boards, R.J. Umberger spotted it, and rushed ahead on a two-on-one with Jeff Carter. Raycroft stopped Umberger’s shot but Carter was right here to deposit the puck for his 14th of the season.
“When it hit [White] at the blue line it fell down and he wasn’t really sure [where it was],” explained Umberger. “I was able to react and get up there and hit it by him, and from there it was just a two-on-one.”
Umberger victimized White again in the third period and drew the penalty which led to the game-winning goal, when he cleverly stickhandled the puck past the Toronto defenseman and forced him into a holding call at 16:05.
Not surprisingly for a Flyers-Maple Leafs game, some rough, physical play also permeated throughout the affair. It began early on, when Downie and Riley Cote got involved in a scrum with Toronto’s Darcy Tucker and Hal Gill.
Later on, Philadelphia was a victim of its own style of play when Derian Hatcher hit Alexander Steen in the open ice, but his momentum carried him into Joffrey Lupul who had to be helped off of the ice and did not return due to dizziness.
Toronto's Jason Blake is on the receiving end of this greeting from Steve Downie. (Getty Images)
Late in the first, Pavel Kubina drilled the Flyers’ Braydon Coburn into the boards from directly behind, bloodying the face of the Philadelphia defenseman. Curiously there was no boarding call on the play, and the Flyers didn’t get their first power play until Nik Antropov was called for interference at 6:17 of the third period.
Downie also got involved in the third period when he punched Toronto’s Jason Blake, leaving him with a black eye. The resulting double-minor penalty led to Sundin’s first goal.
Still, Niittymaki was still the story of the night.
“He pretty much won the game for us,” said Richards.
The Flyers are in Atlanta on Tuesday and at the New York Rangers on Thursday. They return home on Saturday afternoon to face the Boston Bruins.
Sami Kapanen left the ice in the first after getting hit with the puck on a shot by Richards and did not return due to facial lacerations. … Philadelphia finished 1-for-4 on the power play while Toronto was 1-for-6. … The win was the Flyers’ 20th of the season, a mark they didn’t reach last year until March 15. … Vandermeer’s assist on Downie’s goal was his first point since being reacquired by the club in December. … The previous franchise record for most shots against was 55 on January 3, 1977. … The Flyers entered game surrendering 32.7 shots on goal per game, last in the league. … Philadelphia is 3-3-1 in second of back-to-back games this season.
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