‘He’s got some fire in his belly.’ William Nylander leads the Leafs to their sixth win in seven
PHILADELPHIA—The Core Four was Minus One. And the Maple Leafs still got the job done.
With captain John Tavares missing the game because of an undisclosed lower-body injury, William Nylander scored twice — his sixth and seventh of the season — and led the Leafs to a 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
It was the sixth win in their last seven games and a quality rebound after a 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.
“It was a really good response from us. Everybody up and down the lineup was really solid,” said Matthews.
“I just thought we did a really good job of defending our net,” said coach Sheldon Keefe. “I liked the intensity our team played with defensively in a game that we knew was going to be a low-event game.”
But the goals from Nylander certainly broke the game open: a controversial one in the second period, and the other on the power play early in the third.
“When he’s going, he’s going,” said Auston Matthews, who assisted on both Nylander goals. “When he is skating and moving his feet, he is dangerous all over the ice. He reads the play well, obviously. He has been shooting the puck a bit more (and) it’s been going in.”
Nylander is on a five-game point streak (four goals, three assists).
“He’s got some fire in his belly,” goalie Jack Campbell, who made 36 saves for his second shutout of the season, said of Nylander. “He is moving out there and doing everything we could possibly ask. He’s got a heck of a release, and it’s tricky. He still fools me a lot. So we’re lucky to have him on our side.”
Kase, like Tavares, had been day-to-day and missed Tuesday’s practice. But he was good to go when the puck dropped, and made a difference.
“A lot of our guys lower in our lineup have been working real hard,” said Keefe. “But particularly with him, he’s really competed hard. He’s had a number of chances to score. He was questionable to play even, but felt good enough after the morning skate … and he goes out and plays as hard as he does and then gets rewarded. I think it’s great.”
Meanwhile, the penalty killers were superb, especially early when the Flyers were the better team. Their disappointing efforts on their power play had the fans here in the City of Brotherly Love booing the extra-man units.
“He’s going to remain day-to-day,” said Keefe. “He obviously skated and went into the day planning to play. But the decision was made that an additional day — or a couple of days, a few days, whatever it’s going to be — would benefit him. But he’s not far away.”
“It was just a good, clean game for him,” said Keefe. “The puck gets on his stick, he makes a play and doesn’t panic with it. Defensively, he’s in good spots. He works, he competes. So we got a lot of really good shifts out of him tonight.”
He played 11 minutes and 40 seconds, with one shot and three hits.
“I feel very good,” said Semyonov. “I have good emotion. It’s my first game. I had a dream (to play in the NHL). I want to thank my family, my wife. They helped me and the guys on the team, everyone supported me. It’s nice. I had a good time.”
“I thought he was huge on the power play,” said Keefe. “That goal, there were a few touches in that sequence where he makes great plays and leads to the goal. So that’s really great to see. I’m sure that will give him a boost. It shows what he’s capable of — a guy with hands like that to be able to make plays.”
The Leafs led in shots, 12-11, and while the Flyers had a few more good scoring chances there were other positives. Wayne Simmonds laid a big hit. Rasmus Sandin saved defence partner Timothy Liljegren with some extra effort getting back. Ritchie put in strong work in the Flyers end and was a nuisance in front of goalie Carter Hart. The Leafs have been outscored 12-8 in the opening frame, while Philadelphia had dominated opponents 11-6. So, for Toronto to come out of it unscathed was a step in the right direction.