Ahead of their final game before the NHL trade deadline, one logically would have expected the Philadelphia Flyers to sit their players drawing trade chatter from around the league. James van Riemsdyk? Justin Braun? Nick Seeler? Kevin Hayes? Surely they’d all be nestled in the press box covered head to toe in bubble wrap for asset management reasons, right?
Not so fast.
Surprisingly, each of the Flyers’ top trade candidates took the ice Wednesday night. Unfortunately, their presence didn’t exactly do the Flyers much good. The Flyers lost 3-2 to the New York Rangers in overtime, and it was one of the Rangers’ big trade acquisitions who netted the dagger.
Vladimir Tarasenko, who the Rangers picked up from the St. Louis Blues in February, scored the game-winner in OT with a snipe on the rush, giving the Flyers 12 losses in their last 15 games.
They’ve now lost four games in a row.
Patrick Kane, the Rangers’ big addition from the Chicago Blackhawks, did not suit up for the contest. One can imagine things may have gotten slightly out of hand if he were able to take the ice. Kane will make his Rangers debut Thursday.
But because of Kane’s arrival to New York, the Rangers were forced to dress just 16 skaters against the Flyers due to salary cap limitations. And they certainly played like a team missing a pair of skaters in the game’s early going.
After Mika Zibanejad scored on the power play less than three minutes into the tilt, the Flyers played a largely inspired game. They led the Rangers 27-25 in shots and dominated the puck possession battle for much of the contest.
Owen Tippett scored the Flyers’ first goal of the night. Just 25 seconds into a Flyers power play, Tippett beat star goaltender Igor Shesterkin with a wicked shot off a Rangers turnover, giving him 18 goals on the season.
For reference, Tippett only managed 18 total goals in his first four seasons in the NHL combined.
Tippett put together a huge performance against the Rangers. While he only finished with one point, he led all Flyers forwards in ice time and was on the ice for numerous high-danger scoring chances. He was all over the ice (in a good way).
One of his better chances of the game came seconds after a big Carter Hart stop in the Flyers’ end. Hart stoned Filip Chytil, and Justin Braun desperately swatted the loose puck into the neutral zone. Tippett then turned on the jets, raced into the Rangers’ zone, toe dragged around a defender and attempted a shot on goal, but his wrister was deflected above the net.
Just a wild sequence for the Flyers. Carter Hart robs Filip Chytil, then Owen Tippett races into the Rangers zone and toe drags around a defender, but his shot got deflected above the net. pic.twitter.com/Pur3fs0Ddx— Ryan Quigley (@ryanquigz) March 2, 2023
“He was free, he was playing, he was looking at me wanting to play more,” head coach John Tortorella said of Tippett. “I’ve said it to you all year long, it’s an encouraging sign with that kid as far as what he’s gonna be for this team.”
The second period was another productive one for the Flyers as they continued to generate quality chances and own in the possession department.
Scott Laughton gave the Flyers their first (and only) lead of the game with a gorgeous marker in the middle frame. Stationed on the goal line near the end boards, Laughton scurried in toward Shesterkin and beat him top shelf with a perfectly placed wrister to give him 14 goals on the season — a new career high.
As fruitful as the first 40 minutes were, though, things got hairy in the third. The Rangers began generating high-danger scoring chances of their own, and, inevitably, it wound up costing the Flyers. Just after the period’s midway point, Chris Kreider redirected a Tarasenko shot past Carter Hart for the game-tying marker.
The Flyers were unable to formulate a response in regulation, and in overtime, their struggles continued.
Just after the halfway mark of overtime, Tarasenko entered the Flyers zone with speed and beat Hart for the win.
The Flyers are now 1-10 in overtime this season.
It was an unfortunate result for Hart, who otherwise was solid against the Rangers with 22 saves on 25 shots against.
They may not have earned a win, which may actually be a good thing at this point for their lottery odds, but the Flyers played a gutsy game against a very good Rangers squad (even though they were undermanned). At this point, competitive play is the most one can ask for from this team.
The Flyers are off the next three days and will return to action Sunday at 6 p.m. ET against the Detroit Red Wings at Wells Fargo Center. Expect things to look a little bit different when they take the ice for warmups ahead of that tilt with the trade deadline roughly a day and a half away.
One of the players likely to be moved, of course, is van Riemsdyk, who is aware he may have played his last game as a Flyer.
“It’s obviously been a little bit of a stressful last few days coming into this, and obviously the uncertainty around it, so just trying to prepare yourself as best you can,” said van Riemsdyk. “The few extra days my body felt good and stuff like that, but definitely a little bit stressful for sure. You try to just play your game, though, and go from there.”