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Flyers 4, Kings 3: The streak is dead

Cam Atkinson wills the Flyers to a win for the first time in exactly a month

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Philadelphia Flyers Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

With a win over the Los Angeles Kings today in snow-covered Philadelphia, the Flyers ended their winless streak at 13 games. Thanks to two goals from Cam Atkinson, a relatively strong performance from Carter Hart in net, and an overtime-ender from Scott Laughton, the Flyers were able to make today’s game—featuring the debut of 22-year-old tall guy Isaac Ratcliffe, 100-level-only seating thanks to last night’s bomb cyclone, and a little pre-game ceremony honoring Keith Yandle’s games played streak—something worth sitting down to watch on a Saturday leading up to some playoff football.

When things are bad, one of the best things you can do to get through it is remember to celebrate the little victories. When I’ve had terrible jobs that I hated going to, I would remember to relish when there was a particularly kind customer or when I got an unexpected day off. Giving up a two-goal, third period lead for your only win in your last fourteen is certainly the littlest of victories, but it is a victory nonetheless. But beyond that, the game was legitimately fun. If the Flyers are going to be bad, this is the kind of bad that we—or at least I—would prefer. Back and forth, big hits, lots of chances, overtime, young guys jumping in. Again, that’s a little victory, but I’ll take it. You should, too.

Today’s last chance for the Flyers to win in January began with the previously mentioned ceremony honoring Keith Yandle’s record 965 (now 966) consecutive games, including video testimonials from family, former teammates, and the league’s former record holder Doug Jarvis. Good for him. Seriously. Yandle hasn’t played very well this season for the Flyers, but he’s certainly not the sole reason they’re a bottom five team in the league and we should feel lucky to have hosted the final 40-something games of a historic streak.

First period

The game’s action opened with a potential highlight series of passes between Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny that placed the latter open in front of Kings’ netminder Jonathan Quick, resulting in a glove save by Quick.

The first penalty of the game came from everybody’s favorite Mayor of Whoville, Gerald Mayhew, putting the Kings on a power play. They would not score.

After trading chances for much of the first half of the period, Mayor Mayhew scored the icebreaking goal, a forehand-side one-timer from near the goal-line off a nice Rasmus Ristolainen deke and pass around a flat-footed Quinton Byfield.

Isaac Ratcliffe made his presence felt for the first time in his NHL career on the following shift, with a big hit on Mikey Anderson, which drew action from both sides despite play continuing.

The Kings took their first penalty of the game with just 3.7 seconds left in the period, an interference call on a hit from defenseman Matt Roy on Max Willman. The first came to an end with these two teams at a draw in 5-on-5 shots and a 1-0 Flyers’ lead.

Second period

The power play that opened the second period was defined mostly by the Flyers’ inability to enter the offensive zone with control of the puck and a high danger scoring chance from the Kings. The Flyers were then quickly sent on the opposite side of a man advantage thanks to a hooking call on Scott Laughton. The Kings then demonstrated rather well what a team should look like when they have more players than the other team, dominating the puck, getting multiple guys on loose pucks, and moving the puck around the Flyers’ zone without much resistance from the Flyers. Despite that success and 4 shots on net, the Flyers escaped two minutes later with a hold on their 1-0 lead.

Following another missed opportunity for Konecny, the Flyers would find the back of the net on an intentionally lucky bounce play—a seeing-eye dump-in from Claude Giroux that skipped up, catching Quick in the shoulder and leaving a juicy rebound for Cam Atkinson, who finished to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead midway through the game.

Isaac Ratcliffe’s second career shot was his first real scoring opportunity, a play that came off a flung puck from Connor Bunnaman that resulted in a two-on-one with Ratcliffe and Zack MacEwen, but ended up in Quick’s equipment.

The very next shift, the Kings put themselves on the scoreboard when a two-on-two at the Flyers’ blue line turned into a two-on-none thanks to some lackadaisical backchecking. Viktor Arvidsson finished an easy goal off a nice pass from Sean Durzi and the Kings’ 22nd shot of the game was the first that Carter Hart couldn’t stop.

The third period came to an end with the score 2-1, but not without another Travis Konecny scoring chance, this time coming on an odd man rush with James van Riemsdyk where it looked like Konecny was shooting for a rebound, only the rebound didn’t quite reach his rush-mate and was cleared away safely by the Kings. By the time the clock stopped ticking, the Flyers had doubled up the Kings in even strength shots on goal and entered the intermission with a lead and a chance to end their franchise-worst losing streak.

Third period

At the onset of the third period, Oskar Lindblom made a strong move on the puck in the offensive zone, coming around the back of Quick’s net to make a goal-front pass to Cam Atkinson, who received an Olli Määttä stick to the face in trying to receive the pass. Määttä was sent to the box and the Flyers were obligated to spend two minutes with an extra guy. The penalty returned to the ice with nary a scoring chance from the first unit and just a solitary chance from the second unit, an unscreened wrist shot from Morgan Frost.

The Kings were sent back to the power play on a pretty questionable holding call on Oskar Lindblom, fighting to get to a flipped puck. But the Kings didn’t even get a chance to set things up, as a miscommunication sent a point pass off the boards, past Drew Doughty’s stick, and sliding into the Kings’ zone where it was picked up by a streaking Cam Atkinson. He deked around Quick, who made the initial save, but Atkinson stuck with it and put the puck in the net for his third short-handed goal of the season.

And it’s a good thing he did, too, because the Kings, still on the power play, answered right away with another goal from Arvidsson, which he was credited with after a shot from Arthur Kaliyev deflected off his skate (I think).

The Kings, having succeeded up to this point with the man advantage, gave themselves another opportunity, pulling Quick with 2:24 left in the game for an extended 6-on-5. Their ploy would work, as, even after a few adventures in their own zone, the puck would find its way past Hart with 37 seconds left. It was Kings’ captain Anže Kopitar who struck the tying blow and sent the game into overtime.

Overtime

The first minute of 3-on-3 featured less of the typical possession-hoarding than most games, leading to some exciting chances, notably a Cam Atkinson attempt and mini-collision with Quick. Once the possession game began, the Flyers controlled it almost exclusively, and it eventually led to a Scott Laughton goal, scooped into the net off a Cam Atkinson shot. The referees would take a second look at the play before officially ruling it good and rewarding the Flyers fans who braved the winter weather, sending them back into the snow happy.

Stray observations:

  • I thought Ratcliffe looked pretty solid today. For having such a large stick, it’s pretty active on defense, and he laid quite a few big hits on some unsuspecting Kings players. He played just over 9 minutes, all at even strength, and recorded 3 shots on goal.
  • It’s funny to me that the Wells Fargo Center opened up a new milkshake stand on a day where the limited number of people in the building had to battle sub-freezing temperatures, strong winds, and nearly a foot of snow. I can’t lie though: I would’ve gotten one. One with peanut butter or something, I don’t know.
  • This was one of the more positive games for Rasmus Ristolainen. The Flyers basically broke even in most shot and attempt metrics during his 5-on-5 ice time, he made minimal defensive gaffes (one big one, but that’s pretty minimal for him), and laid a bunch of people out.
  • Now that the Flyers have finally won a game in 2022, I can wear a Flyers toque with confidence to go sledding on the Art Museum steps, which is good because I don’t own any other winter hats and it would have been cold without one.
  • Let’s hope this isn’t the only Philly team to beat the Kings today inside the Wells Fargo Center, as the 76ers will face the monarch-themed NBA team from Sacramento at 7:30 tonight.

Stray stats:

  • The Flyers are now 89-43-15-6 (W-L-T-OTL) against the Los Angeles Kings.
  • This was Cam Atkinson’s fourth multi-goal game as a Flyer and the first since his hat trick against the Devils in mid-December.
  • This was the 11th overtime game for the Flyers this season. They are now 4-4 in overtime and 0-4 in shootouts. This was their first overtime win (and first win overall) since December 29, against the Seattle Kraken. Their last regulation win was the aforementioned 6-1 win against the Devils on December 14, 2021.
  • Thanks to their 2-0 shot advantage in the overtime period, the Flyers won the even strength shot battle today against one of the league’s best teams in shot differential. The Kings had 4 more shots overall, thanks to their strong power play and some chances on the penalty kill, as well.
  • The Flyers are now 6-0-2 when leading after two periods and undefeated at home when leading after two. They’re 12-3-5 when scoring first.

*All stats via Natural Stat Trick and Hockey-reference.com.