PHILADELPHIA – If this game against the highly regarded Toronto Maple Leafs was viewed as a measuring stick encounter, the Flyers came up more than a bit short.
After putting together a four-game winning streak – including a few against not quite the best of the West – the Flyers were brought back to reality on Sunday night.
The Leafs, tied for the NHL’s second-best record behind the juggernaut Boston Bruins, took advantage of some questionable puck management by the Flyers and went on to cruise to a 6-2 victory at the Wells Fargo Center.
That completes a 3-0 season sweep of the Flyers for a second straight year.
Coach John Tortorella clearly wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance, in particular the play of defenseman Tony DeAngelo and center Morgan Frost.
Tortorella benched DeAngelo for the final two periods and also had a “conversation’’ with Frost in the second intermission regarding a couple turnovers the pivotman committed.
“We self-destructed,’’ Tortorella said. “We just couldn’t overcome some of the things we give them for free. Too many things for free.’’
Failure to score on four power plays didn’t help the cause either. And too much space for gifted players such as Mitch Marner (three assists) to operate.
“Our structure defensively, time and space, sticks – they made a lot of plays through us,’’ Tortorella said. “We weren’t sharp. We haven’t got spanked like that in a while. And we deserved it. Our positioning, everything about our game defensively, we just weren’t on it. We’re not going to win by the way we defended tonight.’’
A rare goal by Nic Deslauriers at 8:50 of the second period pulled the Flyers to within a 3-2 deficit.
But the Maple Leafs quickly responded with goals at 10:07 and 12:22 to put the game out of reach.
Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, making his second start after sitting out three games due to a concussion, didn’t receive much help as his team struggled to keep the puck out of its defensive zone.
For the 28th time in 40 games, the Flyers allowed an opponent to score first. And while they have won 11 of those previous 27 matches, it’s not a recipe for success.
Calle Jarnkrok’s goal at 9:51 of the first period made it 1-0 Toronto and that was followed up by a goal from Zach Aston-Reese at 17:44, courtesy of a Tony DeAngelo giveaway.
Travis Konecny got one back for the Flyers at 18:00, intercepting a Toronto outlet and sending a five-hole shot under goalie Matt Murray’s pads.
Konecny’s goal streak has reached six games.
“He seems to be finding the spots,’’ said James van Riemsdyk. “The puck seems to be finding him everywhere on the ice. We know what kind of ability he has so it’s fun to watch.’’
The Leafs went back up by a 3-1 edge at 7:01 of the second period when Conor Timmins’ shot from the top of the right circle eluded Hart. Deslauriers scored just his second goal of the season off a Patrick Brown feed to make it close again but the Leafs picked up goals from Timothy Liljegrin and John Tavares to remove any doubt.
Auston Matthews scored in the third period, his 20th goal of the season.
>DeAngelo plays only seven minutes
After committing the turnover on the Aston-Reese goal, DeAngelo was pretty much sent to the doghouse.
“I made the determination,’’ was all Tortorella would offer in the way of explaining the move. “I’m not going to discuss it here.’’
DeAngelo, who officially played only 7:05, didn’t sound like he wanted to vent any frustration through the media.
“I’m not talk about if it was justified or not,’’ DeAngelo said. “Had a good first period, didn’t have a good start to the second. It is what it is. It won’t be the last time I have a bad game. So I’m not going to go crazy into it. No player agrees with getting sat. But we aren’t here to question the coach.’’
>Frost mistakes costly
Tortorella said the pair of Frost turnovers could have been mitigated if he had responded in other portions of his game.
“The thing with Frost is, like the first turnover he made, he has a chance to block a shot on the ensuing play which goes into our end zone,’’ Tortorella said. “That’s where he has to understand if he doesn’t make something happen offensively and costs us going back the other way, find a way to save the day. Those are things he has to learn.’’
Frost was coming off a four-point game against Arizona. Things can change in a hurry when you’re playing a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
“I made a few obvious mistakes out there,’’ he said. “It was a pretty close game, we had a decent amount of chances. I agree with ‘Torts’ we kind of shot ourselves in the foot.’’
How did the intermission discussion go? Kind of a pep talk to go over the mistakes?
“Deservedly so,’’ Frost said. “I tried to go out and play hard in the third. The two turnovers that I have are against very good lines and you can’t do that. I take ownership for both of those goals.’’
It’s a quick turnaround for the Flyers, who visit Buffalo on Monday night in a rescheduled game necessitated by a postponed game involving the Sabres during the recent upstate New York blizzard. . .The Flyers provided a nice tribute to Ed Snider, late owner and founder of the Flyers, who was born 90 years ago this Friday. His greatest legacy is his youth hockey foundation, which continues going strong to help underprivileged children in the Philadelphia area.