Four days ago, the Flyers faced off against the Tampa Bay Lightning and completely blitzed them almost right from the start, sending consistent pressure all game and more than doubling the reigning Eastern Conference champions in shots on goal in one of their most dominant performances of the season.
Tonight, the Flyers and Lightning played what was largely a fairly even, low-event game of hockey, with both teams relying more on trying to finish and convert the relatively few chances they had. A number of missed opportunities stood out for both sides, with only 42 shots on goal total between the two teams.
Fortunately, the end result was the same both times.
The Flyers relied on similarly stingy defense, strong goaltending, and power play help from a rather unlikely source as they won the rematch against that same Lightning team by a 3-1 score, keeping pace in the race for one of the East's wild card spots.
The Lightning jumped out to a pretty quick start, tallying a few chances and forcing Steve Mason to get to work early, but that would come to a screeching halt about five minutes in as Steven Stamkos would force Brandon Manning to bleed his own blood (by way of a high stick), giving the Flyers a four-minute power play. After stumbling through the first three minutes of that power play, it was a goal by the second unit (!) that put the Flyers on the board, as a Sean Couturier shot led to a wild scramble in front that may or may not have been tipped in by Sam Gagner.
Tampa would get the better of the chances the rest of the way in the first period, but the Flyers took over the game in the second period, largely by way of slowing it down and playing absolutely suffocating defense.
As that was happening, though, they'd manage to double their lead, by way of a Matt Read slap shot on the power play. Great, great screen of Ben Bishop by Ryan White here. And yes, that's two goals for the power play's second unit. Did they have two goals this entire season before tonight?
And four minutes later, they'd manage to grow that lead by one more, as Brayden Schenn took a wraparound chance and just beat Bishop to the far post.
From there, strong play on the forecheck and in the neutral zone managed to keep the home team from getting much of anything going. Tampa registered just one high-danger scoring chance in the entire period, and were handily outshot and out-attempted by the visitors even while down 3-0. As far as good periods while protecting a lead go, the middle period tonight couldn't have gone much better.
Despite the outstanding second frame, one could have been forgiven for having some concern going into the third. Facing one of the East's deepest and most explosive teams, one would probably have guessed that with a three-goal lead, the Flyers would end up facing a deluge of shots and chances from a hungry Lightning team in the third period. Locking down a win didn't seem like it'd be easy.
Instead, the Flyers' strong defensive efforts in the second period only ramped up even farther. Tampa put only one shot on Steve Mason from the start of the period until there were just over five minutes left in the game. A truly superb defensive effort from the Flyers, who would hold Tampa to just 19 shots in the entire contest.
Brian Boyle would spoil Mason's shutout bid on an extra-attacker goal for the home team with just under three minutes left, but that'd be all they'd get as the Flyers completed their home-and-home sweep of the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.
* At one point in the game Ryan White tried to hit Victor Hedman and it ended pretty much exactly how you would expect Ryan White trying to hit Victor Hedman would end up.
Bumper cars pic.twitter.com/2S2kdQ5zkm— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) March 12, 2016
Yes, CSN Philly called that the Great Check Of The Game ... for White. Sure.
* This is the third straight game where the Flyers have held their opponent to fewer than 20 shots on goal, particularly impressive when you consider that two of those teams were against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
* Very good night for Steve Mason, who (unsurprisingly) hasn't been very busy in recent games but has made important saves when the team's needed him to. With the pressure that Tampa had early, it wouldn't have been surprising to see them give one up before the four-minute power play in the first. They've got Mason to thank for it still being scoreless at that point.
* The win was the Flyers' first win in Tampa in over five years. In that game, James van Riemsdyk had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick and Kimmo Timonen scored the game-winner in the seventh round of a shootout. We're all old.
Questions to Answer:
- Despite the close score, the Flyers skated all over the Lightning four days ago en route to a huge home win. How do they stack up today on the road? Not nearly as lopsided of a game as Monday's, but the Flyers were able to slow things wayyyy down for the home team after they got an early lead, which counts.
- The Flyers -- Claude Giroux's line, in particular -- totally silenced Steven Stamkos last time around. What does the future Flyer do tonight? Do you guys get it? I made a joke because Stamkos is totally going to sign with the Flyers this summer. Gonna be a thing. Totally. Anywho, Stamkos was definitely more noticeable than he was last time and had some chances -- including an open net that he whiffed on in the second period -- but he was again kept off the score sheet, while primarily facing the Couturier line.
- Power play sans-Voracek is still kind of a problem. Can they look better tonight? Two goals! From the second unit! I feel like I saw a unicorn tonight!
- After sitting for five games in a row, Steve Mason starts his third straight game. Good things? Yep! Only faced 19 shots, but there were some good ones in there and just one of them -- while Tampa had an extra attacker -- made it past him.
- Can the Flyers get any assistance in the standings elsewhere tonight? Nope. Columbus was not able to pull through for the Flyers again this week, as they lost to Pittsburgh. Flyers remain two points back of eighth place (with a game in hand).
Comment of the Night:
Laughton definitely just ate one of his boogers hahaha
-- OneFineSandwich. I did not see this happen. Did anyone else see this happen? Please advise.
Florida tomorrow. Like, further down in Florida than they were tonight. You know what I mean. Keep this train rolling. Go Flyers.