With the Eastern Conference playoff race heating up, the Philadelphia Flyers know they can’t afford many disappointing efforts.
After consecutive defeats, the Flyers will try to rebound Sunday night with their fourth straight home win and fourth in a row there over the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs.
Philadelphia (33-26-4) came out of the Olympic break by routing Tampa Bay 7-2 on Tuesday to match its longest winning streak of the season at five games. That run ended with a loss at Florida the next night, but the Flyers seemed to be headed toward another win Friday in Buffalo.
They led by a goal late in the third period before the Sabres tied it with 5:58 remaining then scored midway through overtime to hand the Flyers a 3-2 defeat. Michael Leighton(notes) made 32 saves and lost for the first time in seven starts.
“You’re up 2-1 with five minutes to go; you need to win that game,” Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. “Points are a hot commodity right now.”
The losses denied the Flyers an opportunity to push ahead in a tight duel for the East’s final three playoff spots. Philadelphia is one point in front of seventh-place Boston but just five ahead of Tampa Bay in 11th.
The conference-worst Maple Leafs are not among those contenders, but they snapped an 0-4-3 road slide and a four-game overall losing streak with a 2-1 shootout win over flu-ridden Ottawa.
The victory, however, might have proved costly as the Maple Leafs lost forwards John Mitchell(notes) and Fredrik Sjostrom(notes) to upper-body injuries. With their teammates having to pick up the slack, that could leave Toronto fatigued for this game.
The Maple Leafs (20-32-12) have been outscored 72-37 during a 3-13-3 stretch on the road, including a 6-2 loss on Jan. 6 in Philadelphia. The Flyers have won their last three home meetings with the Leafs by a 18-8 margin.
Philadelphia won’t have to worry about Toskala as he was traded to Anaheim on Jan. 31 and later moved to Calgary. Toronto also shipped out forwards Alex Ponikarovsky to Pittsburgh and Lee Stempniak(notes) to Phoenix earlier this week before the trading deadline.
In the opener of a four-game homestand, the Flyers seek their 10th win in 12 tries at the Wachovia Center, a stretch that began with win over the Leafs in early January.
Jeff Carter(notes) was held without a goal in that game - but did record two assists - after scoring seven times in the previous four home matchups with Toronto. The Flyers’ leader in goals (29) and points (55) also had a six-game goal-scoring streak snapped Friday.