Niklas Hagman scored in overtime to seal a 5-4 come from behind win for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto (3-1), which had blanked Philadelphia 4-0 Thursday night in London, also got goals from Matt Stajan, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Francois Beauchemin and have now won three straight pre-season games.
“It’s been a busy week for us,” Leafs head coach Ron Wilson told reporters following the game. “We came out of the week with three wins with four entirely different line-ups in there every night, so I’m pretty happy with that.”
The home crowd of 18,609 was stirred into a frenzy less than three minutes into the first, as Riley Cote and Colton Orr squared off to the left of Flyers goalie Ray Emery.
It was a sign of things to come, as there were seventeen penalties combined in the opening period alone.
On the ensuing Maple Leafs power play, Thomas Kaberle feathered a pass through the neutral zone to Matt Stajan, who split the Flyers defence and lifted the puck over top of the outstretched Emery. Toronto’s John Mitchell picked up an assist on the play.
The lead was short-lived, though, as Philadelphia (0-3) tied the game five minutes later when Mike Richards shoveled home a loose puck past Leafs starting goaltender Vesa Toskala. Jame van Riemsdyk and Randy Jones assisted on the goal.
Alexei Ponikarovsky re-established the Leafs one goal lead after redirecting a shot from the point by blueliner Mike Komisarik to put the home side up 2-1 after the first 20 minutes. The tally was Ponikarovsky’s first of the pre-season.
Philadelphia came out strong to open the second, and with Francois Beauchemin off for tripping, Chris Pronger, the Flyers latest big name acquisition, blasted home a one-timer to tie the game at 6:52 of the second.
Matthew Carle and Mike Richards assisted on Pronger’s first goal of the pre-season.
Less than two minutes later, the always dangerous Daniel Briere notched his first of the game when he found himself in all alone on a break and made no mistake, faking backhand and then burying his first of the pre-season.
Briere potted his second goal of the period on an unassisted wrap-around that snuck just under the pad of Toskala to put the Flyers up 4-2 after 40 minutes.
The Maple Leafs outshot the visitors 11-8 in the opening frame, but were outshot 16-3 by the Flyers in the second.
Toronto’s offensive struggles continued for most of the third, but the Flyers lead was cut to just one after a great individual effort by Hagman seconds before the mid-way point of the final period.
“When I made the first move, then I figured I’m going to try to shoot it, but I saw another guy so I tried another move and then I just went to get away,” Hagman said of the highlight-reel finish. “It’s one of those things that happens every now and then.”
With Philadelphia clinging to a 4-3 lead and the Leafs pressing, Braydon Coburn took a holding penalty that came back to haunt the visitors as Leafs defenceman Beauchemin found the back of the net on the resulting power play to level the game.
Emery gave way to Brian Boucher in the second after saving 10 of the 12 shots he faced. Toskala stopped 25 of 29 shots in his 60 plus minutes of action.
Toronto was without several regulars on the night, including defencemen Jeff Finger, Ian White, and Mike Van Ryn, and forwards Jamal Meyers and Mikhhail Grabovski. Philadelphia were missing Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter, Kimmo Timonen, and Ryan Parent.
Toronto will host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sept. 22 at the Air Canada Centre.
Philadelphia’s next pre-season game goes Sept. 22 against the Detroit Red Wings at home.