TORONTO -- Jay Rosehill and Adam Hall went from being unwanted to being heroes.
All it took was tugging on that fabled orange and black Flyers jersey for the first time for the much-welcomed transformation to take place.
Making their respective Philadelphia debuts on Thursday night, these two New Kids on the Broad St. Block played a significant role in helping rekindle the Flyers' once-flickering postseason aspirations.
But it is an old familiar face that has provided cause for concern amid the upbeat mood in the Flyers dressing room.
Blueline pillar Kimmo Timonen limped toward the team bus while refusing to answer questions about the source or identity of his injury. Should he be out for an extended period, an already banged up defense corps will be even further hampered.
But, on this night, Hall wasn't thinking about such gloom and doom.
“Every game is a playoff game for us,” Hall said after the Flyers' 5-3 victory over the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre (see Instant Replay). “I’ve only been here a day, but that’s certainly the mindset I’ve learned is in this room.”
With back-to-back wins over Canada’s Original Six franchises in the span of 24 hours, the Flyers have clawed their way to the .500 mark at 17-17-3. More importantly, thanks to those 5-3 victories over the Canadiens and Leafs respectively, the Flyers now have 37 points, leaving them just two behind the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, who are in an eighth-place tie in the Eastern Conference.
Not allowing himself to become too giddy at his team’s sudden rise into playoff contention, coach Peter Laviolette did offer high praise regarding the work ethic of Rosehill and Hall, noting that “the new guys who came in tonight were terrific in that regard.”
Rosehill and Hall left their imprint on the game early in the first period when they sandwiched Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul, who was the NHL’s First Star of a week ago. A wobbly Lupul left the game from the clean hit and didn’t return, leaving the Leafs without the services of their hottest player thanks to Rosehill and Hall.
Not bad for a couple of guys who had been discarded by their respective former teams earlier this week.
With the Leafs looking for retaliation for the hit on Lupul, Rosehill, acquired on Monday from the Anaheim Ducks in a deal that sent away Harry Zolnierczyk, dropped the gloves with former Toronto teammate Colton Orr midway through the period. Rosehill came out ahead in the bout after knocking Orr to the ice, not an easy thing to do to one of the toughest heavyweights in the league.
In an interesting twist, Rosehill often used to spend part of practice alongside fellow tough guy Mike Brown learning the art of fighting from Orr when all three were members of the Leafs from 2010-12.
“Colton and I are buddies,” Rosehill said. “I’m sure there are no hard feelings. He was just probably reacting to the hit on Lupul. You never want to see a guy hurt like that, but you have to finish your checks.”
Of course, the pupil teaching his pugilistic mentor a lesson wasn’t the end of the heroics for Rosehill, who seemed comfortable in his return to his old stomping grounds known as the Air Canada Centre.
At 15:53 of the second period, Rosehill deflected a Sean Couturier shot past Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer to put the Flyers up, 4-2. It was Rosehill’s first goal since Feb. 8, 2011 when he was a member of the Leafs.
Hall played a key role in the goal, which proved to be the game winner.
Claimed on waivers by the Flyers just one day earlier, Hall caused havoc with Reimer, nudging the stick of the Leafs goalie as he skated past him on the play. Reimer complained to the officials that Hall had interfered with him but the referees disagreed, claiming the Toronto goalie had been outside his crease at the time of contact.
Luke and Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek and Simon Gagne joined Rosehill in the scoring parade for the Flyers. It was the first time the Schenn brothers had scored in the same regular season NHL game while being teammates.
For Luke Schenn, it was his first taste of victory in Toronto since being dealt to the Flyers by the Leafs last summer for James van Riemsdyk.
“It’s nice,” he said. “It’s nothing personal. I had a good time while I was here. But yeah, it’s very satisfying to come back here and help the team get a big win.”
Another key component in the Flyers' victory was young Sean Couturier.
After ending a 21-game scoreless streak on Wednesday versus Montreal, Couturier was one of the Flyers' best players against the Leafs.
Couturier assisted on two of the Flyers' goals, including a helper on Philadelphia’s second marker that is worthy of the highlight reels.
Busting down the left side, Couturier delivered a nifty feed perfectly through the legs of Toronto defenseman Carl Gunnarsson onto the stick of Jakub Voracek, who had an easy two-foot putt into the open net for his team-leading 16th goal of the season.
In the process, Couturier was probably breathing a sigh of relief that Wednesday’s trade deadline had come-and-gone without any transactions involving him. Given how many rumours there had been surrounding the promising forward, who could blame him for being glad it was over and done with.
“I tried not to think about the (trade) talk,” he said. “But you hear about it. It’s tough not to with social media being what it is.”
Despite the fact that newly acquired goalie Steve Mason was in the house, Laviolette opted to go with incumbent Ilya Bryzgalov, who was making his 21st consecutive start.
And, as has been the case so often in the past, it was a combination of Good Ilya and Bad Ilya.
After Gagne had put the Flyers up 1-0 just 79 seconds after the opening faceoff, Bryzgalov gave up a huge juicy rebound into the slot just two minutes later that the Leafs’ Nikolai Kulemin drained to tie the game 1-1. The Flyers goalie appeared as if he was trying to do his best Lionel Messi imitation, judging by the way he kicked the initial shot back into play.
At the same time, down the stretch, Bryzgalov made some huge saves just when the Flyers needed him the most.
Mason, meanwhile, was swarmed by a throng of reporters after the Flyers' morning skate at the ACC. A native of Oakville, which is just a 30-minute drive west of downtown Toronto, Mason, 24, was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday for goalie Michael Leighton and a third-round pick in 2015.
“I’m not sure what my role is right now,” said Mason, a former Calder Trophy winner as the NHL’s rookie of the year. “I haven’t really been told.
“To me that’s not my main focus. My job is to come in here and become the goaltender the organization believes I can be, and that’s to be a No. 1 goaltender.
“I’m fully prepared to put the work in and I’m really excited to start doing it.”
“Excited” is a word that hasn’t really been associated with the Flyers for a while. But now, with the team close enough to have a sniff of a playoff spot, a victory in Winnipeg on Saturday would be yet another adrenalin boost heading into the final 10-game home stretch of the season.