It’s hard to believe that the NHL’s top assist man could be in a slump, but if he was Jake Voracek sure broke out in a big way against the Canadiens.
Voracek scored the game-tying goal with just 1:25 left in regulation and then added the game-waning goal 1:26 into overtime as the Flyers topped the Canadiens by a final of 3-2. The Czech winger figured in on all three Flyers goals on the night after recording just two points in his previous five games.
Nolan Patrick also scored for the Flyers, potting his seventh of the season on the power play in the second period. Alex Lyon made 25 saves on 27 shots to earn his second NHL win less than 24 hours after the Flyers acquired a goalie in the form of Petr Mrazek.
Shayne Gostisbehere got the action started early, weaving through the Montreal defense for a good chance on Carey Price just under three minutes in, but the Habs goalie flashed the glove to deny.
Montreal’s first chance came at the 13:44 mark when Tomas Plekanec nearly banked home a shot from the goal line past Alex Lyon, but the Flyers’ goalie was able to reach back and hold onto the puck just long enough to earn a whistle from the official.
Lyon came back with a couple nice saves as the Canadiens started to push, stopping Jeff Petry and Plekanec again nearly a minute after surviving the bank play.
Playing in his first NHL game, Oskar Lindblom came close to scoring in his debut at the 8:02 mark, cutting across the net but failing to get a shot off on the backhand towards Price. The rookie showed his ability to work along the boards on his first couple shifts, something that will translate well to the league.
Lindblom was one of the few bright spots early as the Flyers were plagued by messy passing and a general lack of urgency.
With 2:13 left the Flyers would pay for a sluggish start as Jeff Petry headed to the net and tipped home a Karl Alzner point shot to give Montreal a 1-0 lead. Alex Lyon was screened well by Petry and had little chance, Alzner and Charles Hudon picked up the assists.
The Sean Couturier line came out on the first shift of the second ready to roll, with Couturier generating a nice chance on Price less than a minute in but Price made the blocker save in close.
At the other end, Brendan Gallagher responded quick and rang one off the cross bar behind Lyon as the Flyers avoided a two-goal hole thanks to the goaltender’s best friend. Montreal kept up the early push with Max Pacioretty getting robbed in the slot by the glove hand of Lyon as the Flyers sagged defensively.
A bad penalty to Jordie Benn would gift the Flyers a power play and a chance to get back in the game and they would do just that.
Claude Giroux found Nolan Patrick in front for the re-direction past Price at the 12:42 mark to tie things up at 1-1. Giroux and Jake Voracek picked up assists on the goal. It was yet another heads up pass from the captain and a great play by the rookie to keep his stick on the ice and make himself a target.
Yo, Nolan Patrick. pic.twitter.com/eem8LH6twM— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 21, 2018
Suddenly Patrick is rolling on a little three-game point streak (2G, 1A) as he settles into a top-six role in the middle for coach Dave Hakstol.
After a dominant power play and a tying goal, the Habs would put the Flyers right back to the man-advantage but live to tell the tale this time - but just barely. The Flyers’ top power play unit held the Habs in their own zone for more than half of the time and were just inches away from a go-ahead goal on more than one occasion.
Speaking of living to tell tales, Alex Lyon got away with one at the 14:38 mark, recovering from his own giveaway behind his cage to cover the puck after a whiffed Canadiens shot. It was Lyon’s first real gaffe in four periods, as he was very good in New York on Sunday and early on as the Canadiens put a slew of chances towards his net through two periods
Giroux setup Valtteri Filppula with a golden chance to break the tie with 3:25 left in the period, but Price was able to stop the veteran. The captain used a sly move faking a drop pass before circling around and spotting Filppula in the high slot.
With 30 seconds left it would be Giroux with the puck on his stick and a chance to break the tie, but Price sprawled out to make the save as he faced Voracek and Giroux in on a quick developing two-on-none.
After a lackluster 20 minutes, the Flyers really turned up the heat in the second but were matched by the outstanding Carey Price in the Montreal goal. To his credit, Alex Lyon was there save-for-save with the all-world Price through 40 minutes.
The first five minutes of the third saw the Flyers all over the Canadiens in their own zone. Sean Couturier weaved through the forecheck and in with a shot that was again fought off by Price.
Then Nolan Patrick hit Jordan Weal with a perfect pass for a re-direction, but Weal directed the chance just wide of the net.
The Flyers would prove to want those early chances back as the Canadiens would break the tie at the 11:15 mark. Paul Byron rammed home a Tomas Plekanec feed past Lyon to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. Brendan Gallagher made the initial play, spreading the Flyers defense out wide and opening up the middle for Byron to park in front.
Trailing still with 9:23 left, Michael Raffl would draw an important penalty to give the Flyers a chance to respond to Byron’s goal quickly. Both earlier power plays were very effective and could have easily both resulted in goals.
Instead, the Flyers would follow their first two excellent power plays with a dud that just never got going for either unit. Given the Flyers’ 3-0 edge in power plays, it was likely their last chance at the Canadiens’ putrid penalty kill on the evening.
Jonathan Drouin nearly gave the Habs a 3-1 lead with 6:20 left, but his rising shot glanced off the post behind Lyon’s glove side as the Flyers caught a major break off a bad turnover in the neutral zone.
A lengthy shot drought of more than 12 minutes in the third wouldn’t deter the Flyers from finding an equalizer courtesy of Jake Voracek.
With 1:23 left, Voracek let loose a shot along the ice that glanced off a Montreal stick and beat Price to nod things up at 2-2. Alex Lyon had just found the bench as Voracek’s shot hit the back of the net. Sean Couturier and Shayne Gostisbehere picked up the assists on the goal, Voracek’s 12th of the season and an important one to grab the Flyers a point.
Jake Voracek had the first chance to end things in the overtime less than a minute in, taking a Couturier pass right to the doorstep of Carey Price but he fired a backhand attempt up and over the glass.
But with 3:34 left Voracek would aim for the game-winner again and this time he would not be denied. Voracek used Joe Morrow as a screen in front of Price and roped a wrist shot up above the glove hand of the Habs goalie to give the Flyers a 3-2 win. Gostisbehere and Filppula picked up the assists on the goal.
Voracek’s heroics proved to be even better given that the Caps and Devils both lost in regulation though the Blue Jackets did pick up two points in that game against New Jersey. The two points keeps the Flyers firmly entrenched as the third seed in the Metropolitan Division and just three points behind the first place Capitals.