TORONTO - Flyers center Mike Richards admits to getting a little extra incentive when playing on
Hockey Night in Canada
So it wasn't surprising that the team captain scored two goals - one shorthanded - and played one of his strongest games of the season last night in front of 19,387 fans at the Air Canada Centre and a nationally televised audience in his homeland.
But it wasn't enough as the Flyers dropped a 4-2 decision to the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Flyers, playing their sixth game in nine nights, suffered their first regulation loss in three weeks. They had recorded points in their previous nine games, going 7-0-2 in that span.
"We created enough chances to win, but just didn't find the net," said Flyers coach John Stevens, whose team outshot the Leafs, 30-27, but was stymied by goalie Vesa Toskala's strong performance.
For the Flyers, the killer goal was scored on a point drive by defenseman Pavel Kubina 2 minutes, 16 seconds into the third period. After Simon Gagne missed a chance to clear the puck, Kubina scored by beating Marty Biron to the short side and giving the Leafs a 4-2 lead.
Biron, 5-0-2 with a 2.09 goals-against average in his last seven starts before last night, did not have one of his better games. He gift-wrapped Toronto's second goal.
Toskala, whose team ended a five-game losing streak, was superb in the final period. He made his best save of the night when he robbed Gagne of a power-play goal with 7:27 left. Gagne had picked up a rebound off the back wall and appeared to have an open net before Toskala slid over and made the stop.
"I thought we did a lot of good things, but Toskala was seeing the puck tonight," Stevens said.
Stevens downplayed that the Flyers might have been fatigued from a six-games-in-nine-nights stretch, but Richards conceded it might have been a factor.
"We made some uncharacteristic mistakes that we haven't been making and it cost us," Richards said. "It seemed like they capitalized on every single chance we gave them. . . . Sometimes when you're tired, you make mistakes you usually wouldn't make."
Toronto's first goal was scored when a pass bounced off the skate of the recently acquired Lee Stempniak and past Biron.
It took the Flyers just 32 seconds to score the equalizer. After Kubina fanned on a clearing attempt, Toskala stopped Arron Asham's shot, but Richards knocked in the rebound.
A blunder by Biron - and a backwards shot by Nik Antropov - enabled the Leafs to take a 2-1 lead early in the second period.
Biron tried to clear a long shot but accidentally sent it off the charging Antropov, who controlled the loose puck and, with his back to the goal, put a backwards backhanded shot into the net for a power-play goal. The Flyers had killed 20 consecutive penalties.
"I hit Antropov right in the chin or something; it was just bad luck," Biron said. "If the same thing happened again, I think I'd try the same thing. It was the right play, it just didn't execute as well as I wanted it to."
Shortly after the Flyers killed a five-on-three power play, the Leafs made it 3-1 as Dominic Moore beat Biron on a breakaway with 11:17 left in the second period.
Richards' shorthanded goal, on a slick pass from Gagne, with 2:37 to go in the period cut the deficit to 3-2. It was the Flyers' league-leading ninth shorthanded goal.
Earlier in the day, Brian Burke was named Toronto's president and general manager. Richards said he expected the appointment to inspire the Leafs.
"Obviously, they want to impress" their new boss, he said. "We expected them to come out hard. I thought we did a good job answering, but four or five mental errors caused goals."
Breakaways. Center Danny Briere (groin) and left winger Riley Cote (oblique) remained sidelined. Both hope to return to the lineup Tuesday, when the Flyers play host to Steve Downie and the Rick Tocchet-coached Tampa Bay Lightning. . . . The Flyers went 0 for 4 on the power play. Too much passing and not enough shooting, Stevens said. . . . Three seconds after the Leafs took a 1-0 lead, the Flyers' Josh Gratton decisioned the Leafs' Andre Deveaux in a first-period fight. . . . Biron downplayed the injured shoulder he suffered against Carolina on Friday. "All part of the bumps and bruises you get as a goalie; it's like rug burn," he said before last night's game.