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Lightning at Flyers recap: So that’s what winning is like

Flyers took advantage of some sloppy Lightning play, winning 4-2 in a key Saturday afternoon matchup against Tampa Bay

This guy got a breakaway in the game. Seriously.
Kate Frese

The Flyers ended a frustrating five-game losing streak, beating Tampa 4-2 in a contest that saw Tampa appear flat. We’ll take the wins any way we can get them, especially against a team that might figure into the playoff race as the season now enters its second half. All Flyer goals were scored in the second, and adequate play across all three periods made for a relatively easy victory.

The Flyers entered this contest in a slump, losing five in a row and erasing most of the buffer they established during the 10-game win streak last month on making the playoffs. To that end, Dave Hakstol decided to shuffle his lines for this game, resulting in some new combinations and Nick Schultz replacing Brandon Manning. Michal Neuvirth returned from injury to get his first game action since November 12. Tampa entered nipping at the Flyers heals for the second wild card spot, enting just three points behind Philadelphia. With Ben Bishop injured, Andrei Vasilevskiy got his eighth straight start, having given up five goals in each of his last two starts.

The Flyers would get the better of the play in the early going, hitting the post twice in the opening minutes, but a blown neutral zone coverage by Boyd Gordon led to a 2-on-1 for the Lightning and Nikita Kucherov took a perfect pass from Vladislav Namestnikov and got by Neuvirth with ease at 5:34. Outside of that lapse, the Flyers played very well that period, forcing several Lightning turnovers and limiting them to just seven shots in the period, with the other six besides the goal being harmless. On the other end of the ice, the Flyers put 14 shots on goal, including some dangerous chances on the period’s lone powerplay, but Vasilevskiy got to all of them for a 1-0 score after one.

It wouldn’t take long for the universe to even itself out, as it is wont to do. A bouncing puck eluded Andrej Sustr in the Philadelphia zone and led to a 2 on 1 breakaway sending Jake Voracek away with Travis Konecny. Voracek fed Konecny with a perfect pass, and Konecny beat Vasilevskiy high to even the score. There was some confusion as it hit a camera in the goal and bounced straight out, but a brief review confirmed Konecny’s sixth goal of the season, at 1:11.

After more play that generally, although not totally, was tipped in the Flyers favor, the Flyers got two goals in quick succession, thanks in large part to a great effort by Voracek to win a board battle. The puck went to Ivan Provorov, who quickly fired on net. The rebound went right to Sean Couturier, who had a wide open net in front of him, and he didn’t miss.

But wait, there’s more! After a failed odd-man rush by the Lightning, a sweet pass in the defensive zone led to a full-ice, uncontested breakaway for Konecny Giroux Voracek Simmonds Provorov Clarke Barber Lindros Leach Betts Talbot Syvret wait, who? Why yes! That press-box denizen turned offensive dynamo Nick Schultz came thundering down the ice all by himself! It was truly a sight to behold, and although the initial shot was saved, Schultz calmly gathered the puck, sent it to Giroux who fed Michael Raffl in the high slot, who unleashed a laser past Vasilevskiy to make it 3-1. Don’t believe me on it? Well have a look at this:

Amazing. The play happened 1:09 after the Couturier goal, which gave the Flyers a nice 3-1 lead.

Just as it seemed the Flyers might run away with it, a Flyer penalty gave the Lightning a chance to get back into the game. The penalty kill was generally a good one, but just as the penalty expired, Alex Killorn scored off a rebound from a sharp angle to make the game 3-2 at 16:44.

It wouldn’t take long for the Flyers to regain their two-goal cushion. Radko Gudas was rewarded for a super-aggressive pinch on a missed Brayden Schenn shot, as hegathered the puck behind the net, and banked one off of Anton Stralman’s skate in front and giving the Flyers a 4-2 edge they would take to the locker room. It was the Flyers fourth goal of the period.

Flyers again dominated the shot battle in the second, outshooting Tampa 16-9.

The third period was a good, solid defensive effort by the Flyers as the Lightning continued to not get anything going. The Flyers continued to get turnovers, and the offensive pressure that comes with it. Both teams killed off a powerplay midway through the period, and again the Flyers held a large shots advantage in the period. Tampa would pull their goalie with over three minutes remaining, but Tampa seemed willing to pass the puck around the outside of the offensive zone, and the Flyers let them do so and the occasional shot was answered by Neuvirth and the time just kept ticking away until there was none. Shots were 14-10 Flyers in the third, and 44-26 Flyers on the game.

In the end, the result matched what should have happened in this game. The Flyers gave a good effort this afternoon, and took advantage of a Tampa team that may not be playing its best hockey of late. These two points are critical to maintain a cushion on the playoff cut line, as well as keep the rest of the powers within the division within striking distance should the team get on another hot streak. It’s always good to break a losing streak, but to do so with a deserved win against another team that figures to be competitive in terms of making the playoffs is extra sweet.

The Flyers are right back at it tomorrow evening, with a 6 PM start in Columbus. Be sure to catch Charlie’s observations and Kate’s pictures of the game tomorrow.