A night that started with the celebration of the retirement of Eric Lindros’ No. 88 jersey ended with the Flyers celebrating two huge points in the standings.
Sean Couturier notched the game-winner in overtime and Michal Neuvirth stopped 29 of 31 shots as the Flyers overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Maple Leafs by a 3-2 final on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Two second-period goals seemed to give the visitors a stranglehold on the game, but Nolan Patrick sparked the Flyers with his third goal of the season early in the third and Wayne Simmonds tied things up with a shorthanded goal to even things up before the end of regulation.
The win moves the Flyers closer to a playoff spot, trailing the last Wild Card spot by just one point after Thursday’s action.
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol tried to play the early matchup game with Sean Couturier out against Auston Matthews, but Leafs coach Mike Babcock quickly got away from that matchup.
The best chance of the first five minutes for the Flyers was Claude Giroux finding a trailing Ivan Provorov for a one-timer, but Frederik Andersen was in position to deny the scoring chance.
Giroux then picked off a Matthews pass in the neutral zone and fired a wrist shot that was again met by Andersen as the Flyers churned up back-to-back scoring chances.
At the 7:40 mark Michal Neuvrith came up with a big save on Tyler Bozak off a deflection in front. Though Neuvirth was tested with a couple early shots, Bozak’s net drive was easily Toronto’s best chance through the first 10 minutes.
After a slew of icings killed the quick pace from the first half of the period, Nolan Patrick jumped on a loose puck near center ice with 5:25 left and fired a quick shot that Andersen had to fight off. The rookie had a couple good shifts and was quick to the puck, perhaps getting a little jolt from the pre-game festivities.
With 1:59 left in the first, a Zach Hyman tripping call would put the Flyers on the power play with a chance to break the ice in what turned into a highly defensive stanza.
On the power play the Flyers managed to control zone time and pump a few shots at Andersen, but a Shayne Gostisbehere point shot was deflected just over the net. The Leafs’ netminder would come up with a dandy pad save on Gostisbehere just after that, but it would prove to be the lone shot on goal on the man-advantage as the first went scoreless.
Andrew MacDonald would give the visitors their first power play of the night after hooking James Van Riemsdyk just 1:59 into the second. It would be a relatively easy kill for the 29th-ranked penalty kill, as the Leafs never really got setup and didn’t record a shot.
The Flyers, and their goaltender, would come under fire seven minutes into the period as the Leafs started to tilt the ice. Neuvirth would be up to the task, making a pair of good saves on Patrick Marleau and then Leo Komarov to keep things scoreless.
At the other end Travis Konecny tried to get the offense going, but missed his spot high and wide of Andersen as the Flyers picked up the pace after a series of stellar saves from their netminder.
The all-important first goal would go to the Maple Leafs, as a loose puck found its way past Shayne Gostisbehere and gave Connor Brown a breakaway that he’d bury past Neuvirth to make it 1-0 with 6:57 left in the frame. Zach Hyman picked up the lone assist on the goal.
Toronto wouldn’t waste much time extending the lead, as Frederik Gauthier would make it 2-0 just 28 seconds later, jamming home a broken play in front of Neuvirth. Jake Gardiner and Matt Martin picked up assists on the goal, Gauthier’s first of the season.
On replay it was very close as to whether Gauthier was onside at the Flyers blue line, but Dave Hakstol did not utilize his challenge on the play. Had Hakstol been wrong, he’d have put the Leafs on a power play armed with a two-goal lead.
Protecting the two-goal lead wasn’t a problem for the Leafs towards the end of the period as Andersen was calm in moving post-to-post to deny Gostisbehere on his way to a perfect 40 minutes of work, stopping all 21 Flyers shots.
In need a burst of energy early in the third, it was the rookie Nolan Patrick to provide it for the Flyers.
Patrick would end up with his third goal of the season just 1:33 into the third to cut the Leafs’ lead to 2-1 after sticking with a loose puck and wrapping it past Andersen. Michael Raffl made a strong rush up the wing before firing the pass to Patrick for the eventual goal.
A phantom interference call on Jori Lehtera would put the Flyers shorthanded, but it would be the Flyers to strike with Valtteri Filppula hitting Wayne Simmonds on the two-on-one to tie things up at 2-2. Time of the goal was 3:25 and was assisted by Filppula and Andrew MacDonald.
Then it was Neuvirth at the other end protecting the tie game, stoning Auston Matthews and Connor Brown in close on back-to-back golden scoring chances to bail out his teammates as the Maple Leafs responded after giving up the tying goal.
Not to be outdone in the other crease, Frederik Andersen responded with a slick save on Jake Voracek as the Flyers were unable to capitalize on an interference call on Leo Komarov at the 8:30 mark.
With 2:49 left Neuvrith would come up with another massive pad save, this time going post-to-post to rob Patrick Marleau off a nice feed from Nazem Kadri. The Flyers’ netminder was fantastic throughout the third period, keeping the Flyers in the game with some unreal stops as the Leafs pressed for the go-ahead goal.
That would prove to be the final scoring chance of regulation as the Flyers and Leafs would need extra time to settle this one with things still noted at 2-2 after 60 minutes.
Sean Couturier needed just 18 seconds to find the game-winner in overtime, burying his 26th of the season to send the Flyers home with a 3-2 win. Couturier put home a nice feed from Travis Konecny after Michal Neuvirth made one final stop at the other end on Auston Matthews before the Flyers rush up ice.
In the end, on the night that Eric Lindros’ No. 88 was hoisted to the rafters, it was only fitting for the Flyers to get a comeback win and two huge points.