TORONTO – Philadelphia’s prospects outplayed Toronto’s big-league hopefuls in a pre-season match tinged with sibling rivalry Tuesday night.
The Flyers, playing their first game of the NHL’s exhibition schedule, scored three times in the second period to break open a scoreless contest and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves in a 4-0 shutout victory.
Young forwards Zac Rinaldo, Wayne Simmonds and Mike Testwuide beat Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer in an 11-minute span in the middle frame, with Flyers defenceman Matt Carle chipping in with two assists.
Sean Couturier also scored for Philadelphia in the third period in front of announced crowd of 18,480 at Air Canada Centre, where the Leafs had defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-2 just 24 hours earlier.
“We’re just trying to prove ourselves…We all have opportunities here and we want to take advantage,” said Couturier, who was drafted eighth overall last June and playing in his first NHL-calibre contest.
“I was kind of nervous, but once you get going, you feel pretty good. I tried to approach it like it was any other game, but for sure it was something special.”
The exhibition game was also special as it featured two pairs of brothers going to head to head, with established NHLers Luke Schenn and Phil Kessel suiting up for Toronto against Philadelphia youngsters Brayden Schenn and Blake Kessel.
Brayden Schenn was a key part of the off-season trade that saw the Flyers send captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings, while Blake Kessel was signed to a free-agent deal last week.
Toronto’s Schenn, entering his fourth NHL campaign at the tender age of 22, was suitably impressed with his younger brother’s performance.
“I thought he played pretty well, nothing flashy but he was sound defensively, good on faceoffs and strong on the penalty kill,” said Luke of Brayden, who was drafted fifth overall by the Kings in 2009.
“There was probably some nerves, it being his first game with the Flyers and playing in front of a big crowd here at Air Canada Centre.”
Bobrovsky, a first-half sensation for Philadelphia last season before faltering in the second half, wasn’t overly busy in Philadelphia’s pre-season debut. His biggest stop came during a two-man advantage for the Leafs when the game was already out of reach in the third period, going post-to-post to frustrate winger Clarke MacArthur.
“It is always my goal to be better than the other goalie and Bobrovsky was pretty good out there tonight,” said Reimer, who helped the Leafs salvage the 2010-11 season by winning 20 NHL games in the second half last year after being called up from the minors.
“I was not up to the task (tonight). It sucks to start out that way, but in the silver lining, it is the pre-season, and now is as good a time as any to get the kinks out.”
The first period was typical for an early pre-season game, as the mix of NHLers and training camp hopefuls made for scrambly and chippy action. Reimer stopped Simmonds on a short-handed breakaway late in the first for one of the period’s few highlights, but the Leafs goalie couldn’t deny the Flyers in the second.
Rinaldo opened the scoring at 7:25 of the second when he took a pass from Jakub Voracek at the blue-line, beat a diving Schenn and then swooped in on Reimer and slid the puck between the Toronto netminder’s legs.
With Toronto’s Schenn serving a holding penalty, Simmonds made it 2-0 at 16:11 of the second. The right winger, who was also obtained in the Richards deal, deflected Carle’s point shot past a screened Reimer. Brayden Schenn also earned an assist on the play while his brother watched from the penalty box.
“Philadelphia was a way better team tonight,” said the Leafs defenceman. “We weren’t very good…Even though it’s pre-season, there’s no excuses.”
Less than three minutes after Simmonds’ tally, Testwuide took a pass from Carle at the left faceoff circle and wristed a high shot over Reimer’s blocker to give the Flyers a 3-0 edge heading into the final 20 minutes.
“I felt good in the first period,” Reimer said. “I was feeling pretty good in the second, I thought…Just a couple of bad bounces. The onus is on me. I have to make four more saves.”
Couturier capped the scoring early in the third period. The Leafs committed a turnover in the defensive zone and the rangy six-foot-four centre picked up the loose puck and wristed a shot past Reimer’s glove at 2:40.
“You couldn’t fault (Reimer) on any of those goals,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. “There was poor defensive coverage, bad turnovers in our own end and guys getting beat 1-on-1. You can’t blame James for that.”
The Flyers went 1-for-5 on the power play, while Toronto was 0-for-9. The Leafs had a two-man advantage for a full two minutes midway through the third period, but Bobrovsky was sharp when called upon to preserve the shutout.