Flyers down Maple Leafs 3-0 for 1-0 lead in best-of-7 series
Posted: Tuesday May 04, 1999 01:12 PM
It was easy for the Maple Leafs to get frustrated, too, given the play of Flyers goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck.
Vanbiesbrouck stopped all 25 Toronto shots -- including a penalty shot by Mats Sundin. At the other end, Valeri Zelepukin, John LeClair and Eric Desjardins scored as the Flyers opened the first-round playoff series with a 3-0 victory Thursday night.
"It's only one game but it's a great start for us," said LeClair. "Hopefully, we can build off of it. We have to do a lot better. They had some really good scoring chances. We can't rely on Beezer to that magnitude every night."
Game 2 of the Eastern Conference series is Saturday.
The Game 1 turning point came early.
Toronto had a two-man advantage for two full minutes in the 11th minute of the first period and could not score. Vanbiesbrouck robbed Steve Thomas with a glove save. Then, shortly after returning to full strength, the Flyers grabbed a 1-0 lead on Zelepukin's goal.
"We just didn't score on our chances," said Sundin. "We created a lot of stuff but weren't able to capitalize."
The Maple Leafs had planned to beat the Flyers with superior speed, but bad passes and persistent Flyers checking ruined Toronto's offensive flow. The giveaways at game's end had Toronto on the high end of a dubious 24-10 count.
"They tried more," said LeClair. "When you try to open it up like that, you're going to have more giveaways. Part of it, too, is that we played well in the neutral zone."
LeClair's power-play goal at 11:32 of the second period made it 2-0. The Maple Leafs were two men short when LeClair, open in front of Joseph, banged in Rod Brind'Amour's pass.
Vanbiesbrouck stopped Sundin's penalty shot 51 seconds into the third by getting his left forearm in the way of a wrist shot. Toronto got the free shot when Steve Duchesne grabbed the puck in his team's crease.
"Anytime a goaltender does that for a team, it's a big lift," LeClair said. "Everybody got a big boost on that penalty shot."
The Maple Leafs' attempt at a late rally fizzled in the face of the Flyers' disciplined positional play. Desjardins scored with 16.5 seconds remaining with Joseph on the bench for an extra attacker.
The Flyers were in the Stanley Cup finals two years ago and their edge in postseason experience showed.
"It helps in certain situations," LeClair said. "Nobody got frazzled, especially on the early 5-on-3, then on the penalty shot. And it helps when Beezer is making big saves like that."
Flyers coach Roger Neilson said being on the road helped his team.
"Sometimes it's hard playing the first game at home," Neilson said. "That's why in the first series it's often good to start on the road."
The Maple Leafs were generally satisfied with their effort.
"During the regular season, they probably would have fell in," Derek King said of the Maple Leafs' scoring chances. "Tonight it didn't happen that way.
"But I felt we worked hard and kept coming at them. We didn't quit when they got up 2-0. I think it's good. Everybody's got a little taste of playoff hockey again. It's been a while. We've got a job ahead of us, but we knew that coming into it."
Joseph made 21 saves.
"I thought we played well," he said. "It was just one of those games where it didn't go in for us."
Coach Pat Quinn said the Maple Leafs dumped the puck into Philadelphia's zone too often. His players should have carried it in more, he said.
"We somehow decided we were going to be a shoot-the-puck-in hockey team," he said. "We didn't get to a puck we shot in all night.
"We were pretty easy to play early in the game."
His players were not demoralized.
"We had a solid effort from everybody," said Sundin. "It just wasn't our night. I think we should be satisfied with the effort we had, but at the same time capitalize on the chances we get next time."
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