PHILADELPHIA â€” With a vital winning streak headed into the All-Star break, the mood has changed in Philadelphia.
Roman Lyubimov scored with 2:37 left in the game to lift the Flyers to their third straight win, 2-1 over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
Wayne Simmonds also scored to help the Flyers steady themselves after a rough month that rattled their playoff hopes. The Flyers jumped the Maple Leafs in points (56-55) and kept one of the final slots in sight headed into the All-Star break.
“It’s three games, but I’ve liked the way we’ve played all three games,” Simmonds said. “We dominated the third period tonight.”
William Nylander scored for the Maple Leafs in their first road loss in regulation since Nov. 30 at Calgary.
Michal Neuvirth stopped 27 shots for the Flyers and held off the extra skater in the final minute to give them a win they badly needed.
The Maple Leafs and Flyers are both flirting with the final Eastern Conference post-season spots. The Flyers seemed like a team on the rise when they won 10 straight in December before they proved that was more a mirage than the start of a sustained playoff push.
“I think we were trying to find our game a little bit after we won 10 in a row,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said.
The Flyers had won just five times since the streak ended on Dec. 17 and were coming off consecutive victories for the first time in 5 1/2 weeks. Steve Mason got his first shutout of the season in a 2-0 win over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night. Mason has to wait a few more days to try to make it two straight shutouts. Coach Dave Hakstol gave his No. 1 goalie an extra day of rest headed into the break and put Neuvirth in net. The move paid off and the Flyers won their third straight game for the first time since the end of the 10-game win streak.
“We’re definitely playing hard, we’re playing for each other,” defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere said.
The Maple Leafs also sat goalie Frederik Anderson a night after he stopped 22 shots in a 4-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Anderson went 6-2-2 in January with a .909 save percentage and 2.78 goals-against average.
Curtis McElhinney stopped 18 shots.
“These points are critical for us at this point, and it would have been nice to come out with at least one,” McElhinney said.
With both starting goalies on the bench after stellar outings, the Flyers and Maple Leafs took chances their backups could keep them in the thick of the playoff race.
Coach Mike Babcock is trying to lead Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs to the playoffs for just the second time since the 2003-04 season.
The 19-year-old Matthews is Toronto’s sole representative, becoming the Maple Leafs’ youngest All-Star since Wendel Clark made it 31 years ago. He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 draft has 23 goals at the break.
Simmonds began his NHL career with Los Angeles before being traded 5 1/2 years ago and returns there for the All-Star Game with a team-high 21 goals. Simmonds scored No. 21 on a breakaway midway through the first for a 1-0 lead. His goal came right after the Flyers had a 4-minute penalty kill and held Toronto to one shot over that span.
“It doesn’t matter how many we win in a row, it’s how we keep building on our game,” Giroux said.
Nylander made it 1-all early in the second when he scored off a rebound when the Flyers failed to clear him out of the crease.
“They were better than us in the third period, they played harder, a big part of that was they won the faceoffs,” Babcock said. “They spent more time in our zone. In the end, it’s disappointing, because you were two points away from getting a point.”
NOTES: Toronto D Morgan Rielly (ankle) was scratched for the fifth straight game. … The Flyers completed their 13th of 18 sets of back-to-back games.
Maple Leafs: The Maple Leafs play Tuesday at Dallas.
Flyers: The Flyers play Tuesday at Carolina.
Dan Gelston, The Associated Press