PHILADELPHIA — The excitement James van Riemsdyk felt about playing his first game in Philadelphia since a trade to Toronto quickly turned to nerves when the Maple Leafs winger spent four minutes in the penalty box in the third period.
But the Maple Leafs survived van Riemdsyk’s late double minor and picked up goals from Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski and Jay McClement to beat the Flyers 4-2 on Monday night.
Van Riemsdyk, who was drafted with the second overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Flyers and played three seasons with them before being traded in June, was held scoreless in his return to Philadelphia but was happy to get out of town with the win.
“It was one of those cases where the boys did great on the penalty kill,” said van Riemsdyk, who leads Toronto with 11 goals. “That’s a first for me: two penalties on one shift. Hopefully, the last. It was an uneasy feeling for me, and the team really bailed me out.”
Scott Hartnell, playing his second game since fracturing his foot Jan. 22, scored his first goal of the season for the Flyers. And Jakub Voracek, who brought a five-game scoring streak into the game, assisted on Hartnell’s goal and then scored one of his own on the power play to cut Toronto’s lead to 3-2 late in the third period.
But Toronto goaltender Ben Scrivens, who finished with 23 saves, was at his best in the final few minutes to secure the victory.
“We did a really good job of clearing pucks and clearing rebounds in the third,” Scrivens said. “The (Flyers) really got into it in the third, and made it close and then their building got into it. We found a way to hang on and we made some smart plays.”
After Toronto opened a 2-0 lead, Hartnell, who enjoyed a breakout season last year with a career-high 37 goals, got the Flyers on the board with 2 minutes left in the second period off an excellent crossing pass from Voracek.
Despite getting his first goal of the season, however, Hartnell said he felt “a little worse” physically than he did in the last game and that he “won’t be able to sleep much tonight” because of the loss. The most frustrating part, he noted, was that the defeat came after such a strong surge to close the contest.
“When we play like we did in the last 10 minutes, I don’t think there’s a team in the league that can play with us,” Hartnell said. “We’re skating, we’re hitting, we’re beating them to pucks, we’re winning battles. And that’s something in the first 50 minutes we never did.”
The Leafs took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission after Kessel outhustled Kimmo Timonen to a puck along the boards with 2 minutes, 41 seconds left and beat Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who made 17 saves, to the far side. The tough-angle goal — Kessel’s fourth of the season — came off a smart pass from Tyler Bozak.
Toronto doubled its lead with just less than 5 minutes remaining in the second period when Nikolai Kulemin was sprung free on a breakaway by Nazem Kadri and backhanded it past Bryzgalov for his second goal of the season.
“It’s been talked about too many times,” Hartnell said. “It’s got to change fast. We can’t get down 2-0 every game and expect to win, especially against a team like Toronto. They’re playing really well.”
Toronto made it 3-1 with 12:08 left in the game on Grabovski’s sixth goal of the year. Seconds after the Maple Leafs’ power play ended, Clark MacArthur’s shot right in front of the net was saved but the rebound was kicked right to Grabovski, who backhanded it past Bryzgalov.
Voracek’s goal came with 8:18 off an assist from Timonen, slicing the Flyers’ deficit to 3-2. The 23-year-old winger, in his second year with Philly, now has five goals and nine assists in the past five games.
But McClement iced the victory with an empty-netter in the final seconds.
“It’s a challenge here but we did enough to get a win,” said van Riemsdyk. “We were all in, we all went in the right direction, we all pulled the rope. There were no passenger and that’s what we needed. We got off to a good start and that was the key.”
Notes: NHL legend Wayne Gretzky was in the house, watching from a suite at the Wells Fargo Center, along with former Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent. ... Philadelphia’s Tye McGinn and Toronto’s Mike Brown dropped the gloves in the first period and Brown didn’t return after the fight because of a lower body injury. When asked if the injury was serious, Carlyle said, “They’re all serious.” ... During the game the Flyers announced they traded Mike Testwuide to Calgary for Mitch Wahl. Wahl is currently playing for AHL Abbotsford and will be assigned to Adirondack.