Is anyone still awake? Did we make it through the end of that game? I’m still alive, but barely.
The Flyers closed out their back to back and swing through Florida tonight, and after falling flat against the Panthers last night, things tonight went, well, just about as far from expected as possible.
The Flyers kicked things off in much the usual way. Winning the opening faceoff, they chipped the puck into the offensive zone, held it there for a hot second, and then gave it up for the Lightning to steal it away and carry it out.
But the Flyers were able to bring some early pressure. After a bit of initial uneventful back and forth, Scott Laughton broke out a bit of speed to generate a chance on goal, but it wouldn’t go. Just after, it would be Michael Raffl who would bring the next chance on the rush, but his centering attempt couldn’t find anyone to tap it in. The results weren’t there, but the bit of early pressure was encouraging, and it helped them start a period of sustained pressure across shifts. Imagine that.
But you thought this would be all good news? Oh no, can’t have that. The Flyers would be the first to go on the penalty kill before we even hit the midway point of the period. And who else but Steven Stamkos would tally the first goal of the night.
And a chance to even things up! Just moments later Shayne Gostisbehere was able to draw a penalty, and off to the man advantage the Flyers went. But after a few early opportunities, the Lightning penalty kill took over, keeping the Flyers tied up and the puck cleared.
A Jori Lehtera wraparound attempt would threaten Peter Budaj, but ultimately send the puck down into the Flyers own zone where the Lightning would bring a threat of their own. Brian Elliott made the stop and off the Flyers went in the other direction. A bit of flash and a bit of speed, but no results, and a puck into the crowd gave them a bit of a breather.
But this breather was not long lived. With just under eight minutes to go, Valtteri Filppula was flagged for a hook, and the Flyers were back on the kill. We held our breath and watched through the cracks between our fingers as the Flyers managed the Lightning well, keeping the puck cleared, limiting their chances, and neutralizing the ones they did allow. No goals to be had. Penalty killed.
From here, both sides kicked up the speed and intensity, kicking off a real run and gun. Tampa Bay brought the extra danger, but Elliott had the answer, looking sharp early and keeping them in it.
Are we tired of Flyers power plays? Because they got another, with 1:11 left in the first period, after Jordan Weal’s stick was slashed in half. The first half of the power play saw the Flyers well established in the zone and cycling the puck well, but they couldn’t seem to get the puck past Budaj. And one final clear would send them into the first intermission.
AFTER ONE: Lightning 1, Flyers 0
Oh, hey, would you look at that! The Flyers still have 49 seconds of power play time left! I wonder if they’ll be able to do anything with it.
Narrator: they weren’t.
It took them a bit to get into a rhythm, and it wasn’t until they only had two seconds to go that they were able to get their first shot. And then it was over and the Lightning were heading full steam into the Flyers’ zone for a few looks of their own.
But it would be the Flyers who would be able to bring the more solid, sustained pressure. Hemming the Lightning into their own zone, they were working hard to generate pressure, putting pucks on net and creating chances.
And they would have the chance to bring even more, as they went to their third power play of the evening. And it was all the first unit all the way. After a bit of early pressure and a close call, the Lightning cleared the puck away. But the Flyers rallied back.
The pass by Coots, the tap in by Wayne. This goal was pretty. pic.twitter.com/oqZQh428oy— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 30, 2017
A pass in close. A pass jumping across the crease. A Wayne Simmonds stationed in front of the net to tap it in. And it was all tied up in Tampa.
Middle second period quick hits: Checks. Shots. Speed. Back and forth. All the things.
And another Flyers power play, my goodness! The Lightning went aggressive from the start, making it hard for the Flyers to get set, but when they did, oh man was it good. Claude Giroux sent the puck in on goal, and while it was blocked easily, Simmonds was right there to collect the rebound. And with a quick pass through Victor Hedman’s legs, it was right to Gostisbehere to knock it into the empty net.
The Lightning really kicked things up from here, and with all their pressure, they were finally rewarded with a goal. A turnover by Ivan Provorov found its way to the stick of Brayden Point, and with a little bounce giving the puck a bit of elevation, it was in past Elliott.
With the speed bumped up a notch further, it was really anyone’s game. The Lightning kept Elliott busy, and Point nearly picked up his second goal of the night, but the Flyers were having none of it.
Back into Tampa’s zone they went, and they got back to work. Once again, the Flyers were able to bring the puck in close to the net, juggling it around the crease and getting Budaj scrambling. And this time it was Sean Couturier there to scoop up a rebound, elevate it, and sling it home. And the Flyers were back in the lead again.
AFTER TWO: Flyers 3, Lightning 2
With the third period underway, the Lightning were the first to bring a high danger chance. With Nikita Kucherov sending a laser in on the Flyers’ goal with another unattended Lightning ready to scoop up the rebound, Elliott made an excellent glove save, neutralizing the threat.
Things are getting crazy, but can they get any crazier?
That’s right. Mike, also known as Mark, also known as Mark Alt, came in hot with the bold and correct prediction. On a pass from Travis Konecny, Brandon Manning swept in for the wraparound goal to extend the Flyers’ lead to two. So, welcome back, Brandon.
And after a bit more back and forth, momentum was broken up when Jake Voracek drew a tripping penalty, and the Flyers had another chance on the power play. And this one went… badly.
The Flyers had trouble getting going, and just when it looked like they were starting to figure it out, everything fell apart. Provorov tried to take a shot, broke his stick, and the puck found its way to Johnson, who flew out on a breakaway
And a freak play followed quickly after, with the Flyers in the offensive zone working to start putting up some pressure, and Laughton losing his edge by the crease as play moved away, taking out Budaj in the process.
If this sounds confusing, well, it was. Let’s have a look.
Scott Laughton lost an edge and fell into Peter Budaj, Budaj went to the locker room after this. pic.twitter.com/If4pjy8LXi— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 30, 2017
Budaj was helped off the ice, and in came Andrei Vasilevskiy.
And then another power play for the Flyers, as Voracek was hooked. The Flyers were able to get a nice bit of movement going, but allowed for a Tampa Bay breakout, and then all hell broke loose.
In perhaps the weirdest series of events, when going to change, Dale Weise somehow got his stick tangled between two changing Lightning players, and was called for a high stick. So the tail end of the power play was negated, and the Lightning of 1:52 of power play time of their own.
And boy was it a dangerous attempt. The Lightning, speed and all, kept the puck nearly constantly moving and brought some close calls. A final clear by Andrew MacDonald effectively killed off the rest of the penalty, and the Flyers escaped unscathed.
With 1:58 left on the clock, Tampa pulled Vasilevsky to put them back on the man advantage. The Lightning kept the puck cycling in the zone, but the Flyers were ultimately able to break up the play. And, with Voracek and Filppula sprung from the zone, Filppula notched the empty netter, and it was all over.
FINAL: FLYERS 5, LIGHTNING 3