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Flyers vs. Canucks recap: Two points all count the same

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A rather ugly hockey game saw the Flyers bounce back multiple times before Claude Giroux would celebrate his birthday with a shootout winner.

Kate Frese Photography

There are some nights where you just really need a freaking win. The Flyers, tonight, were experiencing one of those nights. It did not matter how exactly they did it, or how pretty it looked. In the middle of a 2-6-3 stretch, with a daunting weekend back-to-back staring them in the face, currently up against a very beatable team, this was simply not a game the Flyers could afford to lose.

And, despite what seemed like their best efforts at some times, they would manage to avoid doing just that.

Eight penalties, several defensive breakdowns, and some questionable goaltending were all things the Flyers were able to put behind them, coming back from down a goal twice in the game before taking a 5-4 shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks at home.

The Flyers were determined to spend the early parts of this game running uphill, as Brandon Manning would take a four-minute high sticking penalty just over five minutes into the game and Michael Del Zotto would follow suit about three minutes later. The 50 seconds of overlap between the two stick infractions would be the Flyers’ early undoing, as Daniel Sedin would wire a 5-on-3 shot past Steve Mason from the high slot to give the Canucks the game’s first goal.

A Travis Konecny power play goal (that’s right, a goal by the second power play unit! It’s like a unicorn!), made possible by an outstanding play and pass by Dale Weise (in the offensive zone! It’s like seeing two unicorns!), is what would allow the Flyers to tie things up about three minutes later. That 1-1 score is how the two teams would head to intermission — but another two penalties before the period ended would set the stage for a wild second period.

It was again Manning and Del Zotto who took high-sticking penalties in the last two minutes of the first period, this time both two-minute penalties about 80 seconds apart. The Flyers were able to weather the 5-on-3 into the second period, but Vancouver’s Markus Granlund would score on a rebound right as the second penalty expired to give the Canucks a momentary lead.

And then the Flyers would make their next move, getting help offensively from guys who haven’t done much scoring this year. A beautiful pass by Matt Read led to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare firing a rocket past Ryan Miller for just his second goal of the season. That would create a tie game that would only last for 18 seconds — at which point Sean Couturier slammed home a fantastic pass down low by Jakub Voracek to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead.

But then that lead was also rather short-lived, as Granlund needed just 22 seconds after Couturier’s goal to slam a puck basically through Mason’s pads in close — surely Mason’s low point of the night — to tie the game back up. And the visitors didn’t need much more time to take their second lead of the game, with Vancouver taking advantage of some poor transition defense by the orange and black to see Brandon Sutter deflect a pass behind Mason right in front of the crease.

Hakstol would give Mason the rest of the period in net before making a change to Michal Neuvirth as the third period began. But much like earlier in the game, it was a penalty in the closing minutes of the second period that would set things up for the third.

This time, it was Vancouver who would be the guilty party, as former Flyers draft pick Michael Chaput would slash Giroux with four seconds left in the period. And it was Brayden Schenn, scoring on — you guessed it — the power play, as he took a below-the-goal-line pass from Giroux and placed it in the top corner as he fell to the ice.

That would be all of the scoring we’d get in this one, as the teams let the rest of the third and overtime pass with no further lamp-lightings. And in the shootout, it was the birthday boy, Claude Giroux, who would pot the only goal scored by either team, allowing the Flyers to escape the night with a victory.

QUICK HITS:

  • Tonight’s shootout win was the fifth shootout win for the Flyers this season. That is a franchise record. In the 11 previous seasons since the shootout came to be, the Flyers never had more than four shootout wins in a season before this one. That is truly a remarkable statistic, in the sense that it seems genuinely difficult to not have even one year in a decade where your team is even close to average at a skills competition.
  • The Flyers killed off seven of eight penalties tonight, the first time they’ve had to kill off eight penalties in a regular-season game since October 5, 2013 against Montreal. (They had nine penalties in Game 3 against Washington last postseason, but, also, that game never happened.) Very impressive night for the penalty kill, which technically only gave up one goal during a 3-on-5, but maybe let’s see less of them going forward?
  • I understand that special teams factors skew ice time on weird nights like this, but Shayne Gostisbehere being 5th among Flyers defensemen in overall and 5-on-5 ice time is odd, right? Particularly on a night where two other defensemen couldn’t stay out of the penalty box to save their lives?
  • Steve Mason certainly did not have his finest night, allowing one goal (Granlund’s second goal midway through the game) that he simply has to stop and two others that were both varying degrees of stoppable though certainly not all his fault (we’ll give him a pass on Vancouver’s 5-on-3 goal due to a wicked screen right in his face). A ton of credit has to go to Michal Neuvirth, who was immediately peppered with several shots right after coming into the game in the third period (and stopped them all, plus three more in the shootout). Mason has started all but two games since December began, but with Neuvirth now looking back up to speed, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the two have more of a timeshare between now and the All-Star break.
  • Yeah, pretty much:

Boston on Saturday afternoon. Washington on Sunday afternoon. Two big ones. Go Flyers. Here are your highlights.