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Couturier leads the way as Flyers top Maple Leafs in shootout, avoid playoff elimination

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Do-it-all center sets career-high in goals, then notches the game-winner during the shootout as Flyers secure massive win.

Heather Barry.

Sam Morin, hello.

PUCK DROP

The Flyers had the better of the early chances with a Scott Laughton deflection and then a James van Riemsdyk shot off the post behind Frederik Andersen. JVR had three goals in two games against his former team coming into tonight’s action.

But even with a strong start for the Flyers, it would be the visitors to record the first goal of the night. Connor Brown was the beneficiary of some great work from Tyler Ennis as the Maple Leafs took a 1-0 lead just 5:03 in. As has been the case in recent games, the Flyers paid for failing to push one across at the other end and found themselves playing from behind.

Another trend in recent games continued as Carter Hart was left to fend for himself with some less than ideal defending and/or marking in front of him. On Toronto’s first goal it was Ryan Hartman losing his man in front combined with Corban Knight being bodied by the 4-foot-8 Ennis … which is: not great.

Also not great: The Maple Leafs scoring again before the end of the first, this one coming with 7:58 left in the frame. They’d take a 2-0 lead after a bad turnover from Sean Couturier in his own zone with Nazem Kadri putting it past Hart about three seconds later. Turning the puck over in your own zone is a really quick way to dig the puck out of your own net, but the Flyers just can’t seem to grasp that concept lately. Oh by the way, the Flyers are just 7-19-4 when trailing after the first this season, so they’re facing an uphill battle to say the least.

Travis Konecny was flying in the first, and nearly cut the Flyers’ deficit in half, but his rising wrist shot was snared by Andersen confidently with 4:36 left in the first. Flyers coach Scott Gordon would love to get Konecny going as he hasn’t scored since March 9 on Long Island, and has just three points in his last eight games.

Armed with a brand new two-year extension, Michael Raffl celebrated by hooking Morgan Rielly to put the Maple Leafs dangerous power play on the ice with 2:52 left. Some momentum for the second period though as the Flyers killed it off, making it 16-straight for the maligned penalty kill.

AFTER 20: Maple Leafs 2, Flyers 0

Like the first, the Flyers would have the early jump in the period with solid chances for Oskar Lindblom and then Jake Voracek in the first minute. Problem was that Lindblom missed the net and Andersen turned aside a weak wrister from Jake.

But that man that was flying in the first was right back at it in the second, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Flyers.

Konecny skated in and ripped a shot past Andersen from the right dot to cut the Toronto lead to 2-1. That ended the eight-game goal drought for TK and put the Flyers right back in this one less than four minutes into the second. Travis Sanheim and Laughton picked up the helpers though TK did mostly all the work here.

With their playoff hopes firmly on the line — they could be eliminated with a regulation loss— the Flyers would erase the two-goal deficit with some luck, and the butt of Ryan Hartman.

Hartman took away the sightline of Andersen as Radko Gudas’ seeing eye shot towards the Toronto cage that found its way all the way to back of the net to tie things up at 2-2. Gudas’ fourth of the season came 8:15 into the second, meaning a brand new hockey game nearly midway through.

Suddenly back from the dead and even on the scoreboard, the Flyers tried to surrender a third goal as Toronto buzzed thanks to a slew of turnovers, but Hart was there to shut the door on Jake Muzzin and the Leafs with five minutes left in the period.

Mark that work from Hart down as the Flyers would make their goaltender’s work stand up at the other end.

Sean Couturier made up for his gaffe earlier with his stick on the ice in front and Sanheim hit him with a perfect pass that deflected past Andersen to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead. It’s a new career-high in goals for Couturier with 32, which is incredible given that he won’t ever be able to put it together offensively.

Pretty solid work from the Flyers in that frame, erasing a two-goal deficit and somehow turning it into a 3-2 lead.

AFTER 40: Flyers 3 (!!!), Maple Leafs 2

Armed with an all-important lead and their season on the line, the Flyers would surrender a quick goal not even three minutes in.

To be fair, it was quite the effort from Auston Matthews, using his quick hands to pounce on a rebound off Hart and tie things up at 3-3. It’s the 36th of the season for Matthews, who was quiet prior, but showed what an all-world talent can do in mere seconds. Not the start Hart and the Flyers wanted, as he’d love to have that juicy rebound back.

Andreas Johnsson would give the Flyers a chance to regain their lead by tripping up Sanheim with 13:52 left in the third. It’s the first man-advantage for the Flyers and just second penalty of the game. Nothing would be doing as the Flyers couldn’t take advantage

It wouldn’t matter, though, as the Flyers would take back the lead not long after.

An aggressive forecheck from Corban Knight forced a turnover, and the centering pass from Laughton to Hartman was perfect as he buried it from the doorstep to give the Flyers a 4-3 lead with 11 minutes left. Hartman waited a while before notching his second goal as a Flyer, but boy did it come at a huge time.

But the Flyers would gift it right back as Matthews picked off a Shayne Gostisbehere pass right in front of Hart and found William Nylander to deposit the puck past Hart to even things up at 4-4 with 8:27 left.

Ugh, this freaking team.

Still deadlocked at 4-4, Konecny was buzzing again with a little more than three minutes left, but Andersen was there to scramble around to deny the forward of a second goal. With time ticking away, the Flyers could ill-afford a regulation loss or watching their playoff hopes die.

So of course they’d take a penalty with two minutes left and have to sweat it out, right? And it had to be Sanheim, who was having perhaps the best game of anyone in orange outside of Konecny. That figures.

On the ensuing power play Hart would come up with a massive save on a Mitch Marner one-timer with 1:18 left. Hart was square up the whole way and the blast hit him right in the logo at the top of his crease. That save would help push this one to overtime as the Flyers staved off elimination on this night thanks to a point earned.

AFTER 60: Flyers 4, Maple Leafs 4

The Maple Leafs controlled the early part of the 3-on-3 overtime session, keeping the Flyers’ first three on the ice for over a minute before Hart came up with a save and cover on John Tavares.

After two full minutes in overtime, the Flyers finally got control of the puck with the combination of JVR and Ivan Provorov doing the honors. JVR and the Flyers nearly had the game-winner, but the refs disallowed a Travis Sanheim goal because they couldn’t locate the puck in the Toronto crease. The puck was in the net when the whistle blew, but apparently the referee had the intent to blow the whistle, which is always stupid.

A quick whistle going against the Flyers? Ya don’t say.

After the Flyers had this game over and done with, a shootout was needed thanks to the zebras.

AFTER 65: Flyers 4, Maple Leafs 4

Claude Giroux would go first for the Flyers, but Andersen wasn’t buying any of the dekes. Ennis would go for the Leafs, but Hart was there to deny.

In round two, Voracek would try a quick snap shot but Andersen easily turned aside the bid. Marner would shoot too but like Voracek, couldn’t find twine.

Nolan Patrick started round three, but missed high and wide ala Jeff Carter. Auston Matthews couldn’t end it either as extra shooters would be needed in this one.

JVR couldn’t beat his former mates to kick off round four, but John Tavares did much worse as he lost the puck before even shooting lol.

Sean Couturier would finally find the back of the net in round five with a nice deke on Andersen and Hart would make it count by denying Nylander to give the Flyers the extra point and the win.

FINAL: Flyers 5, Maple Leafs 4 (Shootout)