NHL Game Summary - Toronto at Philadelphia
(Tuesday, March 28th)
Final Score: Toronto 3, Philadelphia 2
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Mats Sundin tallied a goal and an assist while Jean-Sebastien Aubin won his second consecutive start, as the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2, in a battle of Eastern Conference rivals at the Wachovia Center.
Alexei Ponikarovsky and Alex Steen also scored for the Maple Leafs, who remained seven points shy of the eighth and final spot in the playoff race. This was also the second start of the season for Aubin -- who made 28 saves -- after he backstopped a 4-3 win over the Devils on Sunday. The Maple Leafs have won four of their last six games overall.
Joni Pitkanen and R.J. Umberger scored for Philadelphia, which saw its four- game winning streak halted. Antero Niittymaki got the controversial start in net for the Flyers and allowed three goals on 26 shots in the losing effort.
As the playoffs approach, the story is the same as the Flyers have goaltending issues. Robert Esche, who was very strong during the 2004 playoff run, publicly acknowledged his unhappiness to the Philadelphia media on Monday. Esche believes that Niittymaki has locked up the job as the starter for the postseason, a claim that was disputed by head coach Ken Hitchcock.
Nevertheless, Niittymaki started in this one opposite Aubin, who was inserted into the lineup again to give Mikael Tellqvist a rest following eight straight starts due to Ed Belfour's absence for the remainder of the season. Aubin has been very solid in his brief substitute stint.
Following a scoreless second period, the teams entered the third tied at 1-1.
Only 18 seconds in, though, Toronto moved ahead. A turnover by the Flyers in the neutral zone allowed Sundin to chase down the puck and he gained control inside the low right circle before a blind backhand pass to Nik Antropov. With his eyes on the net, Antropov dipped his shoulder, fooled Niittymaki and spotted a wide-open Ponikarovsky, who easily deposited his 18th goal.
Less than two minutes later, the Leafs took a two-goal advantage. A pass from the point found the stick of Matt Stajan, who released a shot from a sharp angle to the right of the net. The save was made, but the rebound caromed out to the left slot for an open-net rebound goal by Steen at the 2:02 mark.
The Flyers pressed in the offensive zone throughout the middle stages of the third period, but Aubin held his ground with several key saves. With under five minutes to go, Umberger finally lit the lamp to draw Philly within 3-2.
A pass by Michal Handzus from the high right slot hit the tape of Umberger and a quick low one-timer from the outer rim of the left circle zipped past Aubin with 4:05 remaining in regulation.
The Flyers went on the power play with 31 seconds to play and pulled Niittymaki for the 6-on-4 advantage, but could not find the equalizer in the waning moments.
Toronto now leads the season series 2-1, with the final meeting back here on April 8.
The Flyers opened the scoring with a power-play goal at the 3:58 mark of the first period. With Jeff O'Neill in the penalty box for hooking, the Philadelphia power play -- which has been hot of late -- went to work in the offensive zone.
Peter Forsberg sent a pass from along the right half-wall to the opposite point for Sami Kapanen, who softly slid the disc to the center of the blue line for Pitkanen. With Mike Knuble providing a screen in front, Pitkanen's one-timer sailed into the back of the cage for his 12th goal of the season.
Sundin's 21st goal with 5:27 remaining in the first period tied the score.
The Flyers will host New Jersey on Saturday before beginning a three-game road trip...The Leafs will begin a three-game homestand on Saturday in Buffalo...Umberger's goal was his 15th...The Leafs were 0-for-2 on the power play, while the Flyers finished 1-for-4 with the extra skater...Attendance was 19,651.
03/28 22:47:02 ET