The Philadelphia Flyers are back in the win column. Even if it doesn’t feel like it. Even if there were some tense moments late in the game.
It wasn’t a blowout victory as it appeared it could be based on the first period, but the Flyers were able to hold off the Rangers in a 4-3 win.
The Flyers got contributions from most of the top-six forwards, with eight players picking up points. Claude Giroux led the way in his return with three assists, and Shayne Gostisbehere and Erik Gustafsson each had a goal and an assist.
It was a good effort from a top-heavy lineup to beat the Rangers. Well, it was a good effort outside of covering Chris Kreider. Kreider had all three Rangers goals for a hat trick, the second consecutive game in which the Flyers have allowed a hat trick.
There were some great plays, and there were some not-so-great plays. Let’s take a goal-by-goal look at the game to see how it all transpired.
Gustafsson gets his first – 1-0 Flyers
The Flyers got on the board shortly after their first power play ended. Killing a penalty can sometimes cause a momentum swing, but the Flyers stopped that before it could even get started.
It all began back in the Flyers zone. Nolan Patrick tipped the puck to Nicolas Aube-Kubel to get out of the zone and went for a change. With Alex Lafreniere out of the box and bearing down on him, Aube-Kubel made a cross-ice pass toward Giroux. It was a bit behind him, but the captain made a nice play to deflect it up to himself and bat it into the Rangers zone.
Giroux had been on the ice for the power play and could’ve went off for a change, but he went in after his own chip-in. He won the battle and got the puck back to Gostisbehere. The defenseman quickly got the puck across to Gustafsson, who was set up for a one-timer and blasted the puck past Igor Shesterkin.
Let’s admire that play by Giroux in the neutral zone, shall we?
And the blast by Gustafsson.
Gustafsson is an offensive defenseman, and with his defensive issues this season, it’s good to see him get his first as a Flyer. He put the Flyers up 1-0 in a period that they dominated.
Kreider strikes back – 1-1 tie
The Flyers didn’t have that lead for very long, however.
Sean Couturier took a holding penalty 100 seconds later, and four seconds after that the game was tied.
Chris Kreider snuck behind the defense off the faceoff and was all alone in front.
Ivan Provorov looked lost and before he knew what hit him it was too late.
The behind-the-net angle shows just how open Kreider was.
Unfortunately, that was a theme throughout the game. In fact, leaving players untouched in front of the net has been a theme all season long.
Gostisbehere gets on the board – 2-1 Flyers
As stated previously, the Flyers pretty much dominated the first period. They also had two power-play chances, and while it wasn’t a power-play goal, Gustafsson’s marker came just 17 seconds after the man-advantage expired.
The second unit made the most of the second power play, however. Gostisbehere finally got his first goal of the year with a wicked wrist shot.
The Flyers were able to get set up in the offensive zone, but there wasn’t much available to them with Gostisbehere and Gustafsson just playing catch at the points. However, once the ice opened up they were able to put it home.
When Gostisbehere winds up and fakes a slap shot early in the above clip, the Rangers shift over just enough to open up the shooting lane for Gustafsson. Giroux notices the change in defensive structure and moves down to the crease for a potential deflection or rebound.
The puck never goes to that side of the ice despite Giroux creating that option, but opening up the lane allowed Gostisbehere to put home a shot after Gustafsson’s shot went wide.
Farabee finds JVR – 3-1 Flyers
Would you believe that the Flyers scored two power-play goals in one game? Well, they did!
This one was a thing of beauty.
After entering the zone with possession, Couturier passed to Farabee along the wall. All four Rangers penalty killers had collapsed to that side, leaving the other side of the ice wide open for JVR.
You can see Farabee notice that and spot JVR as he sets up along the boards. He then creeps down the wing as JVR crashes the net and threads the needle with a pin-point pass onto JVR’s stick.
Farabee did a great job of recognizing the situation, making the necessary tweaks to get into position, and finally exploited the defense.
What a pass.
The goal was much-needed for the Flyers, who had a lackluster second period after a strong first frame. The top-six forwards – and power play – needed to get the job done given the top-heavy lineup, and Farabee and JVR did that here.
Kreider left alone again – 3-2 Flyers
Shortly after the Flyers extended their lead with a power-play goal, the Rangers scored one of their own.
Once again, Kreider was left wide open by the net and had an easy tap-in goal. The Flyers lost a battle behind the net, and after that Kreider really goes completely unmarked.
Provorov was close to him when the puck was on that side of the ice, but Robert Hagg went up too high and opened up a huge passing lane for the Rangers. Zibanejad got another shot on net, and Kreider tapped home the rebound.
Let’s look at that again.
The Flyers formed a large triangle in the circle in front of Elliott but left the other side of the ice wide open. Once Ryan Strome was able to move Hagg enough to open up the lane for Zibanejad, it was only a matter of time.
That took some air out of the Flyers’ balloon. Their two-goal lead before that already looked a bit weak given the Rangers’ play in the second period, and that got the Rangers back within one before the midpoint of the game.
Hayes snipes short side on Shesterkin – 4-2 Flyers
The flyers bounced back thanks to their top-six forward group. This time, it was the second line that got on the board.
Hayes made a good defensive play in his own zone to give the Flyers possession, and then he charged up ice looking for a pass. Giroux patiently waited and made a great centering pass to Hayes. Kreider actually did get his stick on the puck, but Hayes was able to corral it before beating Shesterkin on the short side.
Hayes wanted that puck as soon as he crossed the blue line. You can hear someone yell “G!” as Hayes is motioning with his stick, so it’s safe to assume that it’s Kevin.
Farabee’s assist was amazing, but Giroux’s was nearly as good.
Had Kreider not gotten a piece of it, the Flyers would’ve had two fantastic tape-to-tape passes. Two great assists will have to do.
That gave the Flyers a two-goal lead again and they were able to take it into the second intermission.
Kreider completes the hat trick – 4-3
Chris Kreider was a thorn in the Flyers’ side all night. He went untouched on his first two goals, and even with a man defending him on his third one, it might be the most frustrating of the three.
Let’s watch the broadcast of the goal first.
There are a few things to dissect here. Firstly, the Rangers entered the zone too easily and with too much speed. They put the Flyers on their heels and that’s never a good thing.
Once the Rangers entered the zone, Strome pulls up a few feet in. This is where the real problem starts.
Myers is defending in front of him, with Couturier on the backcheck. Ryan Lindgren is also in the area speeding toward the slot, which creates some confusion.
Lindgren goes unmarked to the net as both Couturier and Myers converge on Strome. Strome is able to get a pass off to Colin Blackwell as Kreider crashes the net.
Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers get to the crease but aren’t able to do much. It was a particularly bad sequence for Myers.
That’s just poor defending in front of your own net. Period. Especially against a guy that already has two goals from the crease on the night.
That brought the Rangers back within one, but luckily Brian Elliott was able to close the door despite some shaky moments.