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article imageLeafs' Lupul takes flight in 4-3 Overtime win over Philadelphia Special

By Dave Pitman     Mar 9, 2014 in Sports
The Toronto Maple Leafs narrowly escaped a third period collapse Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre when the Philadelphia Flyers tied it up on separate occasions late in the game.
With the Leafs heading out on a Western Conference road trip starting Monday night, Joffrey Lupul bailed his team out in overtime as the former Flyer lifted the Leafs to a 4-3 victory.
"They're a desperate team, much more so than the last time we played them," said Lupul post game.
Lupul and the Leafs hadn't seen Philadelphia since October 2nd, just the second game of the season for the Maple Leafs. Dave Bolland scored two goals in a Leafs 3-1 win that night, but he would miss his 50th straight game tonight after suffering severed tendons in his foot. Bolland hopes to return to the Leafs lineup sometime on the road trip.
The Flyers landed in Toronto in the midst of a hot streak, winning eight out of their last ten games. During their recent stretch, Wayne Simmonds has scored 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in his last 30 games, while Claude Giroux has stepped up his game since his "Olympics snub." Giroux has 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in his last 11 games.
David Clarkson has been a stand out over his career when playing the Flyers, he leads all Toronto players in points (15) and Penalty Minutes (98). Clarkson would not play in Saturday nights game however, due to a leg injury that has him listed as "day to day."
The game showcased a plethora of players with ties to their opponents — Joffrey Lupul played 135 games (45 goals, 51 assists) for the Flyers before making his way to Anaheim and eventually Toronto. James van Riemsdyk suited up for 196 games (47 goals, 52 assists) with the Flyers before the teams made a trade that sent Defence-man Luke Schenn to Philadelphia. Schenn played 310 games with the Leafs scoring 75 points and recording 217 penalty minutes.
Jonathan Bernier got the call for the Leafs, his second career start against the Flyers. Bernier was stellar the last time these two teams met, and he would be a major factor on this night as well.
Toronto came out blazing in the first period, taking the play right at the Flyers and creating opportunities off the rush. It wasn't long before the Leafs were on the board. Just over two minutes into the game, Jake Gardiner took a pass in front where he showed tremendous patience before finally snapping a wrist shot past a screened Steve Mason to put Toronto up 1-0. Gardiner would lead all players in ice time after the first period with 8:18. Just over a minute later Joffrey lupul found Nazem Kadri streaking in on the wing and he would bury the second goal of the game putting the Leafs up 2-0, and that's how the period would end. Setting a season high 14 shots in the first period, the Leafs had put themselves in a strong position to win — they are 23-6-4 when scoring first and 11-2-2 when leading after the first period.
The 2nd frame was a little less one-sided offensively, but the physicality was not lacking. Toronto ranks first in the NHL in hits, while Philadelphia are first in fighting majors. The two lived up to their rankings throughout the first and second periods until tempers eventually boiled over. Frazer McLaren, just called back up to the club from the Marlies, dropped the gloves with former Maple Leafs tough guy Jay Rosehill in a heavyweight tilt that saw huge punches exchanged. The fight seemed to spark the Flyers however, as late in the period Kimmo Timonen fired his third of the season past Bernier to put the Flyers on the score sheet. The period would end with Toronto leading 2-1.
Failing to capitalize on Power Play opportunities followed Toronto into the third period. Failing on all three attempts, the Leafs saw their slump grow to 0 in their last 18 special teams chances. Philadelphia would take advantage of Toronto's inabilities as Kimmo Timonen struck again, this time on the backhand, to tie the game 2-2. The tie would not last long, however, as Mason Raymond would net his 18th of the year to put Toronto back on top 3-2. Moments later, Jonathan Bernier brought the crowd at the ACC to their feet making a spectacular save to keep his team up midway through the third period.
The momentum wouldn't last long, though. With just over two minutes remaining in regulation, Braydon Cobourn let a shot go from the point that found its way to the back of the net, tying the game 3-3. The Maple Leafs have made a bad habit out of giving up leads in the third period this season. They have now given up an NHL-leading 22 game-tying goals in the third period, a trend that ultimately ended their post season run in Boston last year. This game would need overtime.
Toronto wouldn't need a full five minutes in overtime to get it done on this night. Midway through, Joffrey Lupul controlled the play in his own end before starting the rush with Nazem Kadri. Carl Gunnarsson made a great pass to Phaneuf at the side of the net and Phaneuf would feed it back to Lupul out front as he potted the game winner on his former team. Phanuef's assist was his 100th helper in a Maple Leafs uniform.
First line scoring has been the secret to the Maple Leafs success this season, along with quality goaltending. When the top line of Kessel, Bozak and van Riemsdyk were not scoring, the club had struggled. Secondary scoring has been the target of criticism this season, but that's exactly what earned the Maple Leafs their 34th win of the season on Saturday night.
"As good as our first lines been, it would be asking a lot for them to sustain the pace they've had", Lupul told reporters post-game, "Teams are going to continue to key on Phil… He's one of the top scorers in the league."
Jake Gardiner's feelings were mutual to Lupul's following the game.
"They can't score every night…" laughed Gardiner.
Toronto's Western road swing puts them up against three very strong teams that will test Toronto's defensive core. Game one of the trip takes place Monday night in Anaheim against the Ducks, a team the Toronto roster has plenty of ties with — Jake Gardiner and Joffrey Lupul were both acquired from the ducks back in 2011, Troy Bodie spent time with the Ducks over three seasons and Head Coach Randy Carlyle won a Stanley cup with the ducks in 2007.
"It will be a nice little homecoming", said Bodie after the win, "We need some points out there… There's not many left to be had."
Toronto currently sits 3rd in the Atlantic Division, one point back of Montreal for 2nd.
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