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Leafs fall short in Philly Add to ...

One high stick took Chris Pronger out of the game.

The others made sure the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t stay in it.

On the strength of two pretty breakaway goals from Jaromir Jagr, the Philadelphia Flyers downed the Leafs 4-2 on Monday night, making do without their captain after Pronger left in serious distress late in the first period when a high stick cut his right eye.

Leafs centre Mikhail Grabovski was the guilty party there – although because it was a follow-through on a shot, he wasn’t penalized on the play.

"It's strictly accidental ... There was no intent, obviously," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "That's why there wasn't a call on the play."

Toronto wasn’t so lucky elsewhere in the game, however, as it took eight minutes in highsticking penalties alone and was burned twice on early power plays by Jagr and Scott Hartnell.

The two Flyers veterans then each added their second goals of the night in the third period to put the game away, with Jagr's both coming on solo efforts where he used the same shot to beat Leafs netminder Jonas Gustavsson.

As it often is, the Leafs penalty kill was part of the problem, as they allowed the first two goals on five shorthanded situations to fall to an ugly 75 per cent on the year – continuing a trend of poor play when down a man that has persisted for more than three years under Wilson.

It didn’t help matters much that Toronto’s power play was again toothless, going 0 for 3 on the night and looking as disjointed as ever.

“We made some mistakes that gave them life and momentum," Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said. "We tried to climb back in it, but we had dug a little too deep of a hole. And then they got that one [by Jagr] late, which is tough to recover from.”

The Leafs lost despite getting yet another goal from NHL scoring leader Phil Kessel, who made it 1-0 six minutes in when he snapped Toronto’s first shot of the game past Flyers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.

Leafs centre David Steckel – also suddenly hot – had the other goal late for Toronto, mounting a brief comeback when Jagr netted his second with five minutes to play.

Moves like Jagr

For one night anyway, the Flyers' No. 68 looked like the Jagr of old rather than an old Jagr.

The 39-year-old Czech was brilliant on both of his goals, taking a long pass and converting with a pinpointed shot on the resulting breakaway.

“You don’t want to see Jaromir Jagr coming in alone,” Wilson said. “He’s going to more than likely bury you.”

Jagr's goal in the first was his first NHL goal since the 2008 playoffs, and he finished both tallies off with a patented “Jagr Salute” as he played to the Philadelphia crowd for the first time since returning to the NHL after a three-year stint in Russia.

"It had been 15 years and nobody did it," Jagr joked of the salute. "I thought it'd be kind of nice to do it again after 15 years."

He added an assist late to give him seven points in eight games so far this season.

"That's really what I needed," Jagr said, noting he was tired of questions about when he would get his first goal. "I feel a lot better. I changed everything, my skates, gloves, and then I got hit in the head in warmups. That helped.

"Now, you guys aren't going to ask me anymore. I’m glad it was tonight."

Watching how well he played, it’s hard not to think Jagr would have easily become the seventh NHLer to hit 700 goals – Monday’s two were his 647th and 648th – had he stayed in North America the past three years.

Battle of backups

They may be the second stringers, but Gustavsson and Bobrovsky both acquitted themselves well in this one, making several strong saves in a game that had very few shots on goal through the first half (18 combined between the teams) but picked up from there.

Even in a loss, the solid start was a good sign for Gustavsson, in particular, although he finished with a save percentage under .900 for the 15th time in his last 17 appearances.

“He played well,” Wilson said. “A couple of spectacular saves, but we didn’t do a good enough job obviously in front of him to help him win the game.”

Leafs GM Brian Burke could even be heard in the press box cheering for “The Monster” after one big stop on Jagr in the second period.

Pronger loses vision briefly

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was in the team's dressing room after their win to talk about Pronger's injury. He said the Flyers captain's vision was blurred and that he will be on bed rest for a few days to allow the eye to heal.

The team, however, believes the injury won't keep him out long term.

"He had a little bit of a cut, just on the outside of his right eye," Holmgren said. "He's got a little bit of an issue with his eye ... There's no real concern, other than if something happens over the next three or four days, if there is swelling or something behind the eye.

"The hope is that blood doesn't build up behind the eye and create issues."

Holmgren added that Pronger will have to wear a visor when he returns.

"I think Chris was really scared by this incident here tonight," he said. "I would like to believe that he would want to wear one.

"We made it mandatory in the American Hockey League. To me, it's not an issue, players should wear them. Obviously, some of these guys have been around a long time and for whatever reason they don't want to wear one.

"I think the improvements with the visor over the last number of years, compared to what it was 10 or 15 years ago, are tremendous."

Kessel increases his lead

Kessel’s game opening goal continued an absolutely torrid pace to start the season, giving him nine goals and 15 points in the Leafs' first eight games to increase his lead in the scoring race.

He’s now been in on 60 per cent of Toronto’s goals, a pace that can’t possibly last but which has been a huge part of his team’s 5-2-1 start to the year.

Kessel hitting 40 goals for the first time now seems perfectly reasonable, as he needs to score at only a 34-goal pace over the final 74 games of the season to get there.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

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