Wrap: Flyers Cap Crazy Comeback with 6-5 SO Win vs Boston
WRAP: FLYERS CAP COMEBACK WITH 6-5 SO WIN VS. BOSTON
In one of the craziest games of the entire season to date, the Philadelphia Flyers wrapped up a three-game homestand with a comeback from a 5-2 deficit and eventual 6-5 win via five-round shootout (1-0) with the Boston Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night.
The game was the Flyers third in a succession of four straight games against clubs sporting top-six records across the league, and featuring each of the NHL's last two Stanley Cup champions and the defending Eastern Conference champions. A road date with the St. Louis Blues looms on Wednesday night.
Monday's victory improved the Flyers' overall record to 24-16-6 and their home mark to 15-3-4. The Bruins (27-8-12) dropped to 0-7 in the skills competition this season. It was the sixth time that a team has come back on the Bruins (15-0-6 when leading at the second intermission) to force OT and then claimed the second point beyond regulation.
I wasn’t crazy about our first period, we were able to get that power play goal which obviously helped us a little bit but I thought the second and third period our compete level was a lot higher even though we were down by 3. I liked our compete level, missed a couple of assignments that led to grade A chances that led to goals but our compete level was there and guys just stuck with it. Scored 1, scored 2 and obviously we got that big one in the third and had a couple of real good chances 3 on 3, took to shootout, found a way to win the game," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said.
In this game, both teams were quite sloppy at times. For the Flyers, it was almost a tale of two different games; they started to assert themselves on both sides of the puck over the latter 30 minutes of regulation. They also played a physical brand of hockey.
"I think everybody is looking at the goals. Those are huge, but I noticed Laughts [Scott Laughton] a few times, and Bunny [Connor Bunnaman] and a couple of guys were staying on their D and hitting them and making it really hard on these guys. Raff [Michael Raffl], too, with a bunch of hits. At the end of the day, it wore them down and allowed us to stay on them and there wasn’t a lot of time in their zone," Travis Konecny said.
Carter Hart also deserves credit; it was an unsightly night from a stats perspective (5 GA) but there were breakdowns on most of them and only one where he was part of the issue on why it ended up in the net. Showing his unusual maturity for a 21-year-old netminder, Hart slammed the door when needed over the latter part of the game to enable his team to claw back into the game.
At least in the first and second periods, this game was the polar opposite of the tight-checking content Philly played in a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay two nights earlier.
Anders Bjork (7th) and David Krejci (power play, 10th) gave Boston a 2-0 lead in the first period. Kevin Hayes (power play, 14th) got it back before the end of the period.
In the second period, there was a parade of goals and breakdowns on both sides, and it ended like it started: with Boston leading by one. Goals by David Pastrnak (36th), Charlie Coyle (9th) and Krejci (11th, 2nd of game) were answered by Travis Sanheim (6th), Sean Couturier (13th) and Connor Bunnaman (1st in NHL).
Sanheim struck again, this time at 4-on-4, to force overtime. After a frenetic, and action-packed OT, nearly won by Ivan Provorov just before the buzzer, the game went to a shootout.
"I play an offensive game, I try to play a two-way game and when I get the opportunity I try to jump in and make the most of it. As of late, it’s been working," Sanheim said.
After four scoreless shootout rounds, Konecny scored. Brad Marchand then fumbled the puck at the center ice dot, grazing it with the heel of his stick but never controlling it. The puck moved maybe an inch or two from the dot, thereby losing his attempt to end the game.
When Flyers had the shootout in Boston back in Nov, Hart stopped Marchand, who petulantly shot the puck a 2nd time right back at the goalie (who stopped it again). It was perhaps a bit of karmic payback tonight for Marchand to lose his attempt at the center ice dot.
"It’s pretty funny that it happened to him and it has happened now twice to me in the short amount of shootouts I’ve been in. Him and [Toronto's John] Tavares last year. When he skated by we were kind of confused. We weren’t sure if we won or not, but then the ref confirmed it. I mean, you could see the puck move," Hart said.
Hart stopped of 26 of 31 shots during the hockey game and then 5 of 5 in the shootout. Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves on 39 shots in regulation and OT before going for 4-for-5 in the shootout.
"You just have to go with the play, whatever develops. You have to be ready for it no matter what point of the game. Whether it is first minute into the hockey game or the last minute, you have to be ready," Hart said.
"They just kind of capitalized on their scoring chances, and obviously, I have to make a couple of more saves. We rallied back and it is not always pretty, but we got the two points."
Unlike the Tampa game, where the Flyers set the proper early tone, the Flyers came out against Boston make soft plays on the puck and breaking down defensively. Boston had six shots within the first 4:04 of the game and 11 before the period was halfway through. Phil Myers looked bad on a slow-developing goal by Anders Bjork off the rush and Hart compounded it by committing to the ice very early. Bjork ended up with an easy backhanded tuck-in to a half empty net.
No one was about to stop the gorgeous power play goal that Krejci scored off the rush at 16:49 of the first period; a perfectly executed pass to the far-side post. With Patrice Bergeron in the box on a high-sticking double minor for accidentally cutting Scott Laughton, Philly got the goal back with a nicely executed goal of their own via good puck movement. Travis Konecny (who had hobbled up the tunnel after a painful shot block) returned in time to feed Hayes for a one-timer goal from the bottom of the right circle.
Another Flyers breakdown proved costly as they yielded a 2-on-1 to two of the most dangerous players in the NHL: Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Scoring his 36th goal of the season, Pastrnak slickly tucked the puck between Hart's pads. Fortunately for the Flyers, they got the goal right back on a bomb from Sanheim. At 4:50, though, Boston went ahead 4-0 on another goal off the rush where they gave up a prime chance; this one by Coyle.
Apart from the first goal, where there a breakdown but Hart also committed way early, this has been a game where goaltending was rendered a non-factor due to poor defensive play in front: bad reads, bad gaps, bad puck management.
At the other end of the ice, however, Boston wasn't much better in the middle frame. A nice feed from Voracek to Couturier created a scoring chance, and then Couturier and the Flyers got lucky as the puck trickled off his stick blade but dribbled through Halak into the net. Then, with a mass of traffic in front of the net, Mark Friedman's shot from the right side was deflected home by Bunnaman for his first NHL goal.
The third period was much tighter checking than either the first or second. During a 4-on-4, Sanheim made excellent plays at both ends of the ice leading up to tying the game at 5-5. Sanheim's 4-on-4 goal drew the Flyers even for the first time since the game was scoreless early in the first period. His escapability in the D zone and stopping at the net in the attack zone made it all possible.
"I think in the second we did a good job of kind of getting pucks behind them and establishing a good forecheck. Cycling the puck, creating some extended O-zone time. And we just rolled with it and gained momentum and carried that through the third," Couturier said.
Overtime was outstanding, frenetically paced with great chances and outstanding saves at both ends. In the dying seconds, Halak sent the game to the skills competition with a 10-bell save on Provorov near the left post.
In the shootout, neither team was able to break through over four rounds. Kevin Hayes, Claude Giroux (denied on a circus save by Halak off his pad and then his back), Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee were stopped by Halak. David Pastrnak (using the same move he tried in the shootout in Boston), Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci were stoned by Hart. After Konecny solved Halak, the bizarre ending with Marchand's flub brought the night to a close.
The Flyers will have a noon practice on Tuesday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees before leaving for St. Louis. One hour earlier, general manager Chuck Fletcher will address the media on the state of the team at midseason and has promised an update on Nolan Patrick.