The big Kazahk winger, often the target of the fans’ ire in these parts, was a presence all night and found himself playing alongside captain Mats Sundin in the third period. He responded by scoring the winner at 7:18 on a power play during a scramble when he swooped in and banged the puck by Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki.
Alexei Ponikarovsky and Tomas Kaberle, into an empty net, then added insurance goals to give the Leafs their fifth victory in six games.
Bates Battaglia also scored while Andrew Raycroft made 40 saves in goal for Toronto (9-5-3).
Ben Eager replied for the struggling Flyers (3-10-1), who are dead last in the NHL with just seven points. Niittymaki made 29 saves.
The game was a perfect example of the differing fortunes the teams have experienced so far this season.
The two points were there for the taking all night and it was the Leafs who found a way to grab them despite not playing their best game. The Flyers, who dropped to 2-4-0 under coach John Stevens, couldn’t get the goal that would make the difference.
Their league-low power play got even worse by going 0-for-7 on the night. Stevens might want to address that when the Flyers practice on Tuesday.
Toronto was coming off a big victory in Buffalo on Saturday night, when they beat the red-hot Sabres 4-1. They came out skating and made this one look like it might be a rout.
Battaglia did that only 5:25 into the game when he came out from behind the net, spun away from defender Derian Hatcher and beat goalie Niittymaki with a wrist shot. That dropped Hatcher to a league-worst minus-16.
Philadelphia then took four straight penalties and spent almost the entire second half of the period in its own zone. The Leafs were all over the fragile Flyers but couldn’t get a puck by Niittymaki, whose best save came when he stretched back to rob Sundin of a sure goal with his pad.
They were extremely fortunate to escape the period trailing by just one goal and made up for it by coming out flying in the second.
Eager tied the game at 2:32 after taking a nice pass from winger Eric Meloche and beating Raycroft on his blocker side. It was the first goal of the season for the 22-year-old Ottawa native and the fourth of his career.
Soon after, the Flyers were given a 5-on-3 for one minute but were shutdown by Leafs forward Michael Peca, who seems to relish those situations. It turned out to be an important penalty kill for Toronto, which has allowed just one goal this season while being two men down.
Philadelphia outshot the Leafs 17-3 in the second period and this time it was the Leafs who couldn’t get to the dressing room quick enough. They were lucky it was only 1-1.
Notes: Don Cherry must have had a loaner – John McDermott sang the national anthems wearing a sports coat that was made of several different shades of plaid . . . Leafs forward Kyle Wellwood was given the Molson Cup Award before the game for having the team’s most three-star selections in October . . . The Flyers have allowed 57 goals this season and scored just 29.