The Maple Leafs started on time but lost track of the clock trying to recover too late in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center Wednesday.
They looked sharp, focused and energetic in the morning skate similar to before the game in Calgary that may have been their best of the year. Like so many frustrating games this year the consistency of their game fades in the middle frame.
After taking control from puck drop, goals by Connor Brown and Nazim Kadri set the Leafs in motion for what looked like the start of a mail-in win. But not so fast folks.
Philadelphia, with a glimmer of playoff hope left, wouldn’t roll over and like so many opponents this season, out worked, outhit and out chanced the visitors.
The persistence paid off in the second with 3-academic goals to carry a lead into the third. The Maple Leafs played with a purpose fighting back from one-goal deficits twice sending the game to extra minutes. It should never have come to that; once again the killer instinct to put teams away was absent from their DNA.
The Flyers wouldn’t be denied, playing with a desperation sorely missing from the Leafs and Carter Hart kept any sustained threats out of the net with a solid effort in the barrel.
Once in overtime it’s a shot on goal or river hockey. The Flyers were robbed of the winner in OT when the officials lost sight of the puck that on the replay was alive and when banged in the net, should have counted.
The combination of William Nylander and Auston Matthews has elevated back to what Leafs Nation (and management) expect; both chipped in with markers and look slicker every shift together. They will need to be great for the Leafs to have any chance to advance.
Frederik Andersen continues to look out of sorts and while not letting in weak goals, is not making the game changing saves needed to steal victories.
A rest for 31 should be in the cards but with unreliable Garret Sparks as the option and a playoff spot not officially yet confirmed they have to stick with Freddie until such time. He needs to be better.
The alarming takeaway from all this is at a time when teams are honing up their intensity for the second season, the Leafs still appear in a fog particularly in their own end. This team is too talented to be brushed aside or written off for dead but if they don’t find the elite gear they are capable of soon, it will be a very long somber summer.