(Philadelphia, PA) – Pavel Kubina scored the deciding goal for the second straight night, and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday at the Wachovia Center, 3-2.
The Flyers had just killed off the first half of Toronto’s two-man advantage at the end of the second and beginning of the third for over a minute. Kubina’s blast with the Maple Leafs still on a five-on-four, though, beat a screened Martin Biron high to the glove side at 1:09 of the third period.
“We did battle back, it’s just that third goal is a killer,” said John Stevens. “You have a five-on-three and then you get back to five on four. The five-on-three was for me the critical part, but they ended up getting one in before the end of that and that was the killer.”
Philadelphia’s best chance to tie the game came when Scott Hartnell’s shot of a loose puck glanced off of the cross bar.
While the Flyers maintained their four-point lead on Buffalo for the eighth and final playoff spot with 79, they now have a couple more teams in their rear view mirror that they will have to keep their eye on. Toronto, with its consecutive victories over the Flyers, is now just five points behind with 11 to play. Washington and Florida also won, pulling to within five.
The Sabres lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night, and have 75 points.
“It was a missed opportunity for us to get ahead,” said Biron. “We could have had three points out of four, and that would have been satisfying. Right now it is disappointing a little bit.”
Twice the Maple Leafs took the lead, and twice the Flyers tied it up.
An Ian White shot deflected past Biron off of Randy Jones’ stick at 3:55, but Jeff Carter took advantage of a turnover by Anton Stralman and scored an unassisted goal at 6:43.
Carter has eight goals in his last nine games, and 11 points overall during that span.
The Maple Leafs retook the lead before the end of the first period, when Dominic Moore skated around defenseman Jaroslav Modry on the way to the net. Moore lost control of the puck but it went right to Alexei Ponikarovsky, who fired it in.
Philadelphia killed off a couple of penalties to start the second period, and tied it on a two-man advantage in the second when Kimmo Timonen’s wrist shot beat Vesa Toskala after bouncing off of Mike Knuble, who was stationed in front.
Knuble got credit for his 15th power play goal, tying him for third in the league in that category.
Biron, who made 51 saves in the game on Tuesday night, helped to keep the game tied for the time being. He gloved a shot by Alex Steen with Toronto on a three-on-one rush with 2:42 left in the second period, and made a couple of key saves with time winding down in the period.
Joffrey Lupul made his return to the lineup after missing the previous 12 games with a high ankle sprain, while Denis Tolpeko also got back into game action. Sitting out for the Flyers were Steve Downie, Sami Kapanen and Riley Cote.
“I can feel the injury but I do not think at any point it really hindered me too much,” said Lupul. “I felt pretty strong on the puck. I was winning some battles down low. I maybe came out a little tentative on the first couple of shifts, but once I started to bang around a little bit and fighting on the puck it felt good. That gave me a little more confidence.”
Toronto had to play most of the game without its captain. Mats Sundin left the game after the first period and did not return, lost to a strained muscle.
The Flyers are off until this weekend. On Saturday they will be in Boston to face the Bruins (1:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet), before they visit the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday at noon (NBC).
Jones suffered a mild hip strain during the game and will be re-evaluated on Thursday. … 13 of Carter’s 27 goals have come in the first period. … Modry recorded the 200th assist of his NHL career on Timonen’s goal. … The Flyers finished the year 2-1-1 against Toronto. … Philadelphia is 16-14-6 at home. … The Flyers are 30-22-9 against the Eastern Conference, and 7-8-4 vs. the Northeast Division. … Philadelphia is 5-7-4 in the second of back-to-back games.
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