TORONTO — Auston Matthews scored with five minutes left in the third period as the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied from a three-goal deficit to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 7-6 on Friday night.
A one-handed pass from William Nylander in front found the the Leafs centre, who buried his 33rd goal of the season to snap a 5-5 tie inside a raucous Scotiabank Arena.
Matthews added his 34th — matching his jersey number — with 2:39 to go on a rebound off the rush.
Former Leaf James van Riemsdyk scored his third of the game with on a tip with 1:14 left, but Toronto held on for the win.
“It was pretty crazy,” Matthews said. “We showed a lot of resilience, never quit.”
Jake Muzzin, with two goals and an assist, Patrick Marleau, Zach Hyman and Martin Marincin also scored for Toronto (43-23-5), which snapped a two-game losing streak and crept within two points of the Boston Bruins for second in the Atlantic Division.
“It’s nice to come back and win,” Muzzin said. “Two points is crucial for us. Maybe we’d like to do it in a different manner, but a win’s a win.
“We showed a lot of character.”
A shaky Frederik Andersen made 23 saves for the Leafs, who were wearing their throwback green and white Toronto St. Patricks jerseys. Nylander, Nazem Kadri and Ron Hainsey each added two assists.
Toronto visits the last-place Ottawa Senators on Saturday night in the second game of a back-to-back.
Shayne Gostibehere and Radko Gudas, with a goal and an assist each and Jakub Voracek provided the rest of the offence for Philadelphia (34-29-8), while Nolan Patrick and Sean Couturier each had two assists. Brian Elliott made 44 saves.
Coming off consecutive brutal home-ice performances — Monday’s 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, where they trailed 5-0 late in the second period before a late rally — the Leafs fell behind 5-2 on Friday before two goals from Muzzin set up Marincin’s equalizer early in the third.
The defenceman, who hadn’t scored since Nov. 11, 2016, fired a shot from the point that went off the glove of Flyers blue-liner Robert Hagg and in past Elliott at 2:55.
Andersen nearly bobbled the puck into his own net later in the period on a clearing attempt during a Leafs power play, but managed to recover before disaster struck.
Toronto nearly went ahead with under nine minutes to go, but Elliott stopped Andreas Johnsson on the doorstep before Matthews won it.
Tied 1-1 after the first, the Flyers went ahead at 1:15 of the second when van Riemsdyk tipped his 22nd past Andersen. The former Leafs winger, who spent six seasons in Toronto before returning to the team that drafted him this summer in free agency, made it 3-1 when Claude Giroux threw a puck in front that van Riemsdyk got a stick to before it dribbled through Andersen at 8:26.
Hyman, who returned to the lineup after a one-game absence because of the flu, scored his 17th on a slick setup by Mitch Marner just 61 seconds later to get Toronto back within one, but Gudas restored the Flyers’ two-goal lead with his third of the campaign and first in 37 games on a shot that Andersen, who was pulled against Tampa and Chicago, would probably want back.
Gostisbehere then made it 5-2 less than a minute later when he swept home his seventh after a scramble in front.
Muzzin scored his seventh from a tough angle on Elliott at 16:08 of the second to breathe life into the Leafs before the big defenceman added his second off the rush on a shot that fooled the Philadelphia goalie after the puck when through the legs of blue-liner Travis Sanheim.
The Flyers, who lost 5-2 at home to the Washington Capitals on Thursday to snap a 6-1-1 streak, dressed 11 forwards and seven defenceman with winger Ryan Hartman out with an illness.
Hyman returned to the lineup, but Toronto was still minus forward Kasperi Kapanen (concussion) and defencemen Jake Gardiner (back) and Travis Dermott (shoulder).
After back-to-back games where they were on the back foot early, the Leafs actually got off to a good start Friday, but the Flyers got on the board first as Voracek announced his return from suspension with authority.
Forced to sit out the last two games after levelling New York Islanders defenceman Johnny Boychuk, the Philadelphia winger ripped a one-timer off Patrick’s faceoff for his 19th of the season at 12:22 of the first.
Toronto tied it at with 2:15 left in the period on the power play when Nylander’s shot went off Marleau for his 15th, and first in eight games.
The Leafs appeared to go ahead with 56.8 seconds remaining on the clock when Matthews batted home his own rebound, but it was waved off after video review showed the net was slightly dislodged as Elliott stretched to keep the puck out.
The decision was met with loud boos and was eerily similar to the dying seconds of Wednesday when Chicago netminder Collin Delia nudged the same net off its moorings as Toronto desperately pushed to tie.
Andersen then stopped Giroux on a breakaway in the closing moments of the first to keep things even heading to the intermission.
NOTES: The Leafs were known as the St. Patricks from 1919 until 1927 when the team was bought by Conn Smythe, who changed the name. … The Toronto will also wear green and white on Saturday in the nation’s capital. … Philadelphia visits Pittsburgh on Sunday. … Voracek has 12 points in his last six games (three goals, nine assists)
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press