Before the game even started, it seemed like the Flyers were destined to win. About a half hour before the game, the Panthers announced that goaltender Roberto Luongo would sit due to an upper-body injury. Backup Dan Ellis stepped in and his numbers are, well, really not good.
From the start of the game, though, it was obvious that it would be a sixty minute effort.
The first period was severely uninspired. The Panthers pretty much had their way with the Flyers, significantly outshooting them at even-strength. Wayne Simmonds drew a double minor when he was the victim of high-sticking and soon after, old friend Scottie Upshall exited for slashing. With that, the Flyers had a five on three for nearly a full two minutes. There was an incredibly loud collective sigh from fans when they managed to get nothing done on it. The period ended scoreless, but...come on.
The Flyers desperately needed to make a statement with their second period. Four goals later and I think you can call it a mission accomplished. Lecavalier opened up scoring, wristing a rebound past Ellis just two minutes into the period. From there, it was a shooting gallery. Claude Giroux notched two of his own, taking advantage of the Panthers crazy bad defense. They were beauties, too. Go watch them again. Sean Couturier closed out the period with a goal of his own, ending a seventeen game goalless drought. Feels good, man.
The third, however, definitely didn't start the way the Flyers wanted, as a point shot from Gudbranson got through a screened Mason. Things devolved from there like crazy. Claude Giroux went down and got a puck to the hand (thankfully, this amounted to nothing). Then, Mason let Huberdeau sling one through and bring the Panthers within two.
A killed penalty provided a bit of momentum for the Flyers. Just a few minutes later, Tye McGinn picked a great time to score his first since being recalled from the Phantoms, putting the last nail in the Panthers coffin and sealing the Flyers playoff berth.
Bullet points of playoff joy!!!!!!:
- Honestly, Claude Giroux. What can you say about Claude Giroux that hasn't already been said or screamed? When he's got space, he's absolutely unstoppable. He played an incredible game tonight. Thanks for that, El Capitano. We love ya.
- Not only did the Flyers kill that huge penalty in the third, but that was their only penalty of the game. That seems wrong, but no, it's true. Promise. On the other side of special teams, they went 0-3 on the power play. Not great, but whatever.
- The fourth line (in Zac Rinaldo's absence) put up two goals. Do with that information what you will, friends.
- Steve Mason let up that gross one, sure, but wow, the rest of his night was great. He made 38 saves. Phew. Side note...anyone notice how the Schenn brothers both attacked Steve Mason tonight? Stay strong, Mase.
- Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voracek, Matt Read, Scott Hartnell, Brayden Schenn, and Vinny Lecavalier. That's seven Flyers who have over twenty goals this season. Just lovely.
The Flyers are officially in the playoffs. What a beautiful, strange, glorious sentence.
The season isn't over yet and the Flyers are still fighting for home ice advantage, but forget about that for now. Tonight is for happiness, for tears of joy. Go high five someone. Go hug your mom. After the worst start in franchise history, after this rollercoaster ride of a season, we're getting playoff hockey.