(Apologies for this post not going up until the morning. The editorial side of things shut down across the network last night. Thanks for your patience. -- Kurt)
So my original plan for this recap was just to post this .GIF of Claude Giroux scoring the most ridiculous goal you and I and everyone else has ever seen. But for some reason I can't upload it to the site right now, so instead you'll all have to read me writing words. My apologies in advance.
As has happened before when the Flyers are losing and looking like poop, I started writing the recap for this game early in the third period. I'd written some crap about how sometimes luck goes your way and sometimes it doesn't but when push comes to shove there are games where you need to make your own luck, and the Flyers -- through 40 minutes -- hadn't been doing it.
The first two periods of this game had played about as differently as they possibly could -- the first largely controlled by the Flyers in all phases, the second spent with the Jackets controlling the puck much moreso -- but the results that mattered read 3-0 for the visitors and really gave us little hope for confidence.
For basically the entire second period, the Flyers couldn't sustain pressure in the opposite end of the ice. They'd have breakdowns that would lead to chances the other way. And a total team breakdown that handed Columbus a goal with eleven seconds left in the second period -- beginning with two defensemen getting beat behind the net and ending with a shot weakly dribbling through Steve Mason's five-hole -- sent the Flyers into the locker room to some of the loudest boos they've heard this season. And deservedly so, as it sure looked like the chances of a comeback were pretty slim.
Hockey's funny sometimes.
Yes, the Flyers pushed hard and played well for just about the entire third period, as they should be when they're trailing at home against a depleted division rival. And they earned the comeback win and earned those two points they got in the standings (two points which, by the way, have pushed them into a playoff position for the first time since the 2011-12 NHL season). They attacked, and they created a variety of different chances in the final frame (while allowing one bad goal following another defensive breakdown).
But most importantly, they (a.) outworked their opponent to make a play and then (b.) put the puck on the freaking net and saw good things happen. Watch any of the Flyers' five (!) goals in the third period. A quick recap, if you've forgotten any of them:
* Jakub Voracek throws a shot on net from behind the circles, Claude Giroux chases down the rebound in the corner, and gets it back to Voracek, who came out from behind the net and sniped one into the net.
* Braydon Coburn makes a great keep along the boards at the blueline and throws a shot on the net that deflects off a Blue Jacket and knucklepucks its way past Curtis McElhinney.
* On a delayed penalty, Wayne Simmonds throws an off-balance attempt on net, and Erik Gustafsson -- who jumped up to play deep in the zone -- was right in position to put home the rebound.
* Voracek led a rush up-ice from the defensive end and threw the puck at the net, where it deflected off Michael Raffl and sat behind McElhinney until Giroux managed to tap it in.
* Mark Streit, from the blue line, threw the puck just wide of the net, where it bounced to Giroux, when, well, this happened.
Look at these. Watch them all again. Every single one of those involved some combination of a Flyer making a big play to set up the chance and a bit of good fortunes. That's exactly what needs to happen to erase a three-goal third period deficit. You don't see everything fall into place like that too often. You did last night. It was pretty great.
A FEW OTHER THOUGHTS:
* Claude Giroux had four points -- the first time he's done so since Game 2 against the Penguins in the 2012 playoffs, when he had six. He also scored the most ridiculous-looking goal I have seen in a very very long time. He has scored 30 points in 30 games since starting the season on a five-game scoreless streak. He is an incredible hockey player and sometimes this team is going to live and die by him. It lived last night. Wonder if Steve Yzerman was watching.
* The win came in spite of a bit of a sub-par effort from Steve Mason, whose first chance to prove his old team wrong didn't quite go as he was probably hoping. Tough to fault him a ton on either of the first two goals -- both of the 2-on-1 variety -- but the aforementioned five-hole goal at the end of the second period is one he has to have, and it's a testament to the way the Flyers played in the third period that it didn't break them. He apparently went around and thanked all of the skaters after the game, to which their response was "you don't need to win every game for us". Fair enough! His stretch of struggles now extends to his past six starts, and while it's still too soon to say anything concrete about where he's headed, it'd be nice to get some good performances from him again in the near future. It was reported in-game, though, that he won't get a chance for redemption on Saturday -- Ray Emery will get the start in Nationwide Arena.
* That said, though, Steve Mason getting a win against Columbus in a game where he did not play well is basically the trolliest possible outcome from this game. Good stuff.
* Mason's struggles acknowledged, all four goals against were pretty excruciating to watch for the Flyers from a defensive perspective. A mishandled puck by Voracek at the blueline led to the first goal, an awful change to the second, and a pair of bad in-zone defensive breakdowns leading to open men in front created the third and fourth. Do better, please.
* Sean Couturier took a shot off of his foot in the first period, and it looked like he was in pain on the bench. He came back in and played the rest of the game, but after playing more than 25 and 23 minutes in his last two contests he was at just 17:09 in this one. Maybe they felt he couldn't go at full strength with it, maybe they liked how some other lines were playing, and maybe the fact that the Jackets don't have a clear-cut top line that needs to be shut down (the way Washington did with Ovechkin) meant that he didn't have to be leaned on as much. But there were a lot of different forward lines being thrown out there as the game went on. Here's to hoping everything's OK with him -- it's almost not possible to overstate how huge an impact he's had on this team's recent turnaround.
* Brayden Schenn probably should not have been playing in this game, but he was actually above his season average in ice time per game, and he put a team-high five shots on goal even though none of them found twine. Guess the coaches really did think he was good to go. Let's just hope that we don't hear on Friday that he's not making the trip with the team to Columbus.
* Throughout the game, the Flyers controlled possession against their opponent, ending with 55 unblocked attempts on net to 37 for the Blue Jackets. Fourth straight game that they've done that. Fourth straight game with this set of forward lines, too. Take the hint, Craig.
* The Flyers are now "over .500", insofar as the team now has more wins than it does non-overtime losses. I guess that counts. And they're now sitting in third place in the (admittedly bad) Metropolitan Division. And they're 15-8-4 since that brutal 1-7 start. And they've won eight straight home games. Not too bad, folks. Not too bad at all.
* I mean seriously with this. Did we mention that this was his 100th career goal?
Comment of the Night:
Great finish, so good it broke the internets!
-- J. Wil, with the only possible explanation as to why the site went down last night.
These guys again on Saturday in scenic central Ohio. Have some fun until then. Go Flyers.