TORONTO — The Philadelphia Flyers’ 7-6 loss Friday night to the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t eliminate them from playoff contention.
But it sure felt like a defeat that, in effect, ended their bizarre season.
They blew a 5-2 lead and fell to the Maple Leafs at ear-splitting Scotiabank Arena.
Auston Matthews scored on a slot shot after the Flyers couldn’t clear their zone, snapping a 5-5 tie with five minutes left in regulation.
Toronto, which skated circles around the Flyers all night, secured the victory as Matthews scored on a rebound with 2 minutes, 39 seconds left.
With Brian Elliott pulled for an extra attacker, James van Riemsdyk completed a hat trick and brought the Flyers within 7-6 with 1:14 remaining. But goalie Frederik Andersen made a clutch save just before the buzzer to preserve the win.
The Flyers, one of the league’s hottest teams over the last two-plus months, suffered their second straight loss and fell seven points out of a playoff spot with 11 games left.
“I’ve got to come up with one of those,” said Elliott after the Flyers were outshot 51-28. “They were coming at us all night, and we were playing back-to-back (nights), and we were running out of gas.
“We gave ourselves a chance, and we just couldn’t keep it.”
“It definitely stings,” van Riemsdyk said. “We just have to move on and be ready to go Sunday” in Pittsburgh. “Obviously, it gets to the point where you only have so many bullets left in the chamber, and certainly we have to have a pretty good run here the rest of the way to put ourselves in a (playoff) position.”
Toronto tied the score at 5-5 when defenseman Martin Marincin scored his first goal of the season, firing a shot that deflected off the glove of defenseman Robert Hagg and past Elliott with 17:05 left in regulation.
The Flyers outscored the Leafs, 4-3, during a wild second period in which the teams played little defense and had shoddy goaltending.
Van Riemsdyk had two of the second-period goals against his former team — a tip-in and a rebound — and the Flyers also got tallies from Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas in the stanza.
Van Riemsdyk has 18 goals in 28 games since Jan. 10, tied for the second-most in the league in that span.
“I’m playing with smart players who get the puck to the net,” he said.
When an all-alone Gostisbehere scored on a rebound with 7:33 left in the second, the Flyers had a 5-2 lead.
But Elliott — who had played brilliantly until the latter stages of the second — allowed two goals to defenseman Jake Muzzin as the Leafs closed the gap to 5-4 heading into the third period. The last goal, from long range, may have deflected off a Flyers defenseman.
The Flyers were constantly on their heels as they allowed the much-speedier Leafs to easily enter the offensive zone throughout the first 40 minutes, during which Toronto had 35-20 shots domination and a huge territorial advantage.
To honor St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the Maple Leafs wore green and white uniforms that showcased “St. Pats” — the team’s nickname 100 years ago.
Whatever you called them, they dominated the first period, creating a shooting gallery at Elliott, who stopped 18 of 19 shots in the opening 20 minutes.
The Flyers, outshot by a 19-11 margin, were fortunate to leave the ice tied at 1-all after the first. Toronto had a whopping 37 shot attempts (16 more than the Flyers) in the period.
With 7:38 left in the first, the Flyers took a 1-0 lead when Nolan Patrick won a faceoff from Matthews and fed Jake Voracek, who ripped a one-timer from the left circle past Andersen. Voracek had missed the previous two games because of a league-mandated suspension.
Interim coach Scott Gordon thought playing on back-to-back nights hurt his team against the rested Leafs.
“They were waiting here and coming off two losses and they were on their toes most of the night,” he said.