With overtime looming, Matt Hunwick took his best shot at a winner for Toronto.
Hunwick’s slapper connected in the clutch _ off a defenceman’s knee _ and lifted the Maple Leafs to a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. His first goal of the season snapped Toronto’s five-game losing streak.
“I’ll take it any way I can get it,” Hunwick said. “I’m glad it was a goal that helped the team win an important game.
The Flyers had won five of six entering Tuesday and thrust themselves into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Based on results from other games, the Flyers had a chance to sit in eighth place in the East. While a modest achievement for late January, it would have been a nice step for a Flyers team that missed the playoffs last season and whose coach, Dave Hakstol, never coached in the NHL and made the jump from college.
The Flyers instead left two huge points on the ice and trudged to the locker room to boos from the crowd.
“I’d say (we were) a little bit complacent,” Read said. “We weren’t moving our feet, we were turning over a lot of pucks, and you’re not going to win any games when we have close to 20-something turnovers.”
Hunwick’s shot deflected just enough off defenceman Michael Del Zotto and past a surprised Steve Mason. Mason stopped 32 shots.
“We kind of got what we deserve for the game,” Mason said. “We probably didn’t deserve to get it in overtime. We couldn’t come up with the one draw there, and they got it on net.”
The Maple Leafs entered with the fewest wins in the NHL and had a punchless offence over their recent losing skid. They led 2-1 until Gostisbehere came through for the Flyers late in the third.
Gostisbehere picked off a pass deep in the zone right above the circles, streaked the length of the ice and buried the puck through Reimer’s legs for an amazing goal that tied it 2-all.
Gostisbehere, a rookie defenceman, has been sensational at times since the Flyers called him up from the AHL in November. He’s been a key piece in Philadelphia’s turnaround that has the Flyers thinking of the post-season instead another year sitting out the playoffs.
The Maple Leafs appeared to go up 2-1 early in the second when they scored off a Flyers’ turnover. But the goal was reviewed and overturned on an offsides penalty against the Maple Leafs.
They wasted little time taking the lead again, and this time it stuck. With 4:50 left in the period, Lupul, a former Flyer, made it 2-1 with his 10th goal of the season and first since Dec. 21.
Both teams scored a goal in the first.
Read scored his seventh of the season when he flipped a backhander past Reimer with 6 seconds left on a power play. Mason, who has been fantastic in stretches this season, lost track of a shot late in the first and Polak poked in the puck for his first goal of the season.
Toronto had a rare reason to celebrate this season.
“I think your determination should show every night,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Not every second night or every third night or when you’re feeling good. Every night. That to me is the goal for our team, that we’re prepared and that we compete every single night.”
Notes: The Maple Leafs had scored one goal three times, were shutout and only scored two goals one time over their previous five games. … Flyers C Jordan Weal was a healthy scratch for the sixth straight game since he joined the team in a Jan. 6 trade.