For a brief second, it looked like the Philadelphia Flyers were going to lose out on yet another regulation win due to a last-second goal. Michal Neuvirth had other ideas.
With 2.4 seconds remaining, Neuvirth sprawled across the crease and miraculously swatted away Charlie Coyle's last ditch effort to send the game to overtime, preserving a 3-2 Flyers victory. Neuvirth made 24 saves in total, but it will be the final one that ends up on highlight shows across North America. Minnesota goaltender Deven Dubnyk made 28 saves and took the loss.
Returning home after a dominating effort against Carolina in every category except the score, the Flyers looked like the exact same team in the first period, except this time they won on the scoreboard as well. Helped by stellar passing on the breakout, Philadelphia torched the Wild to the tune of a 73.8% Corsi For percentage in the opening stanza. The top two lines were particularly dangerous, blasting away at Minnesota goaltender Devan Dubnyk and generating plenty of offensive zone time.
Their effort was finally rewarded with less than two minutes remaining in the period, when Sam Gagner fought to retrieve a Brayden Schenn pass into the crease and then batted it past Dubnyk to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. They entered the locker room a satisfied bunch, confident in the knowledge that forty more minutes of that caliber of play would almost certainly result in a victory.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, the Wild stabilized their game in the second. Thomas Vanek took advantage of an early Nick Schultz penalty and tied the game on the ensuing power play. But minutes later the Flyers would strike back with a power play tally of their own, as Mark Streit sniped a shot from the slot past Dubnyk to put Philadelphia back in front.
Still, this wasn't the same Minnesota team from the first period. They tightened their checking, and even began to generate some extended cycles in the Flyers' end. It was on one such cycle when Mikael Granlund would take advantage of a defensive lapse by Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas in front to slide a shot right under Michal Neuvirth and re-tie the contest. Despite Philadelphia still holding a massive territorial advantage due to their dominance in the first period, it was obvious that the Wild were now on equal footing with the Flyers after two - both on the scoreboard and in terms of quality of play.
It would be an unlikely hero who broke the tie in the third. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who scored his last goal way back on December 4th, dove for a loose puck in the slot and lifted it over Dubnyk to hand the Flyers a 3-2 lead that they would never relinquish. Despite his game-winning tally, Bellemare would happily cede the title of hero to Neuvirth by the end of the contest.
Questions to Answer:
- How does Michal Neuvirth bounce back from a poor and rather strange game on Tuesday? He had some hiccups early, but totally redeemed himself with stellar play in the game's second half. His robbery of Charlie Coyle is a legitimate "save of the year" candidate.
- Scott Laughton's been playing arguably the best hockey of his young NHL career since being moved to the wing. Does he (and that entire line) look good again tonight? Laughton made some slick plays, but his line was consistently the least effective unit for the Flyers all night long, especially in the offensive zone. They justifiably received fourth line minutes in this one.
- The power play has struggled a lot without Giroux. Minnesota's PK isn't great -- can the Flyers take advantage? The first unit still looked like garbage without Giroux, but surprisingly, it was the B-team that broke through, as Mark Streit ripped a shot from the slot past Dubnyk courtesy of a Matt Read pass.
- How long is the Chris Porter tribute video? Porter added his third assist of the season - a secondary on Mikael Granlund's second period tally. Should of kept.
- Point str--...shit. No more point streak. How does Shayne Gostisbehere's first game post-streak go? No points for Gostisbehere, though he finished solidly in the black from a on-ice shot attempt differential standpoint despite receiving a whopping 20:34 minutes at even strength.
Comment of the Night:
Think I know what the #1 play on Sportscenter is going to be tonight. Wow.
-- Planet Shrooms