The games may be meaningless, but that doesn't mean that they can't be entertaining.
Facing a New York Islanders team trying to officially clinch a playoff spot, the Flyers matched them stride-for-stride from the opening whistle. Led by a stellar performance by Claude Giroux and consistent pressure from the new and improved Sean Couturier line, Philadelphia jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and upped that edge to 4-1 by the three-minute mark of the third period.
Then, things began to get crazy. Anders Lee cut the lead to 4-2 with 12 minutes left, and from that moment on, the Islanders took control. Steve Mason did his best to survive the onslaught, but once New York pulled Jaroslav Halak, even his heroics weren't enough. Tallies from Johnny Boychuk and Lee quickly tied the game, and Halak was reinserted in the game in anticipation of overtime.
As it turns out, he should have stayed on the bench.
With seconds left, Brayden Schenn streaked down the left wing, and threw an innocent shot on net, the type that is easily turned aside 99 times out of 100. Unfortunately for the Islanders, tonight must have been the 100th time, as Halak misplayed the puck and the Flyers escaped with an improbable 5-4 victory.
Tonight may have hurt the Flyers a bit in terms of potential draft position. But for Fan Appreciation Night, the team certainly put on a fun show, and were able to come out on top.
- The Flyers actually started the third period playing inspired hockey before everything got crazy at the end. It was pretty impressive to see, considering the fact that they had a two-goal lead and the Islanders were trying to clinch a playoff berth.
- The trio of Matt Read, Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn has really shown something over the past few games. Maybe it's due to Schenn being comfortable at right wing. Maybe Matt Read is finally fully healthy and confident after a disastrous season. Or maybe it's just that the shutdown line no longer has any dead weight. Regardless, they've earned the right to open next season as the team's presumptive second line.
- With little to play for except pride, it was clear that the Flyers wanted to help Jakub Voracek rack up as many points as possible in his quest to surpass Sidney Crosby in the scoring race. Claude Giroux did his best to help out his winger, potting two goals with Voracek getting the secondary assist on each. Crosby had a big game as well tonight, but Jake is still within striking distance.
- Speaking of Giroux, he played his best overall game in weeks. The two goals would have been praiseworthy enough, but he brought his full two-way game tonight, excelling in zone exits and shorthanded play as well.
- For the most surprisingly solid performance of the night, I give you Vincent Lecavalier. His pass to set up Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's second period tally brought back memories of his all-star days, when Vinny's vision and puck skills made him nearly impossible to stop in the offensive cycle game. Unfortunately, Flyers fans haven't seen much of that from the aging center.
- Carlo Colaiacovo rang a sure goal off the post in the second period, but made up for it by scoring a real one in the third. Some smart team is going to get themselves a really good sixth defenseman in Colaiacovo once he hits the open market this offseason.