The Maple Leafs came out flying and defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 Sunday night at the Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario. Though the Flyers were the designated home team, the venue was packed with legions of Leafs Nation faithful.
Morgan Reilly made a strong impression in tonight’s game, drawing 2nd star honours while logging almost 20 minutes of ice time. Defenceman Paul Ranger also had an exceptional game, chipping in the game-winning goal along with strong physical play in his own end. In net, Christopher Gibson played fantastic in his half, stopping all the shots he faced.
From the Flyers side, Steve Mason looked shaky at best. Mason has had issues with goalie pad sizing before, and the new regulations could have had an effect on his play. Scott Hartnell played well physically, but was not able to chip in offensively. Flyers fans hope he can rebound to his ’11-’12 form, when he scored 37 goals.
Mason Raymond had an explosive first period, demonstrating many different dimensions to his game. The speedy forward had immediate chemistry with Leafs center Nazem Kadri, drawing the primary assist on the first goal of the game at 6:52. Around the halfway point of the period, Philadelphia was down by two goals and desperate to score on the powerplay. Raymond had other plays, scoring an unassisted shorthanded goal at 9:57. Troy Bodie rounded out the scoring for the Leafs with the second goal of the period just one minute after Kadri’s initial marker. Doug Clarkson (David Clarkson’s younger brother) scored the lone goal against James Reimer in the first period. Reimer looked exceptionally strong in the first period. Though he only faced 9 shots, the majority of the chances were high quality and required some exceptional goaltending.
The Maple Leafs’ lead, however, was short-lived. The Flyers struck quickly in the second, knotting two within minutes of the second period with goals by Brayden Schenn and Nick Cousins. Both teams decided to switched goaltenders at the halfway point of the game. Steve Mason was relieved by hometown goaltender Anthony Stolarz of the London Knights, while James Reimer gave way to Christopher Gibson, who was signed after a fantastic rookie camp showing this July. Buds defenceman Paul Ranger immediately exploited the young Stolarz on a simple tap-in goal after joining the rush, helping the Leafs regain a one-goal lead. Ranger is an interesting option for the Leafs are the back end, with career highs of 10 goal and 21 assists in 72 games back in ’07-’08 with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Though Ranger is projected as the 7th blueliner on this year’s roster, he could push for more ice-time with consistent point production.
The first half of the final period was characterized by strong play from both goaltenders. Gibson was particularly strong positionally, never being overly out of position, allowing for some relatively easy saves. Paul Ranger continued his strong play, particularly with a huge hit on Flyers RW Ben Holmstrom. Both teams continued to trade chances, but the g0altenders stood on their heads. Stolarz settled down after the second period goal, but Gibson matched his effort. Ranger’s goal would end up being the game-winner.