Flyers 4, Hurricanes 2: A timely push gets things going

Staring down their eighth loss in nine games, the Flyers threw on the jets in the third period and rallied to pick up a big road win.

With about 15 minutes left in the third period of tonight’s game in Raleigh, the Flyers were trailing 1-0 and looking their eighth loss in March dead in the face. On a day where two of the teams chasing them in the playoff race drew even closer to the Flyers, there was a potential disaster brewing for the guys in orange. And for the first time in a while, they played like they knew it — and it worked out for them.

Four goals in the final 12 minutes of the game pushed the Flyers over the edge, giving them a huge 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes and keeping them (for now) in third place in the Metropolitan Division. Valtteri Filppula scored the game-winner with just under six minutes remaining, while Travis Konecny, Jakub Voracek, and Michael Raffl (into an empty net) also lit the lamp in that final frame. Oskar Lindblom picked up his long-overdue first NHL point in the process, while Alex Lyon played an excellent game with 23 saves on 25 shots.

This one started out a bit slowly, as would maybe be expected in a contest with two teams that don’t really bring that much in terms of top-to-bottom offensive firepower. After Ivan Provorov rang a shot off the post on the opening shift, the game became a tightly-checked affair (or poorly-played offensive affair, depending on your viewpoint), as neither team managed to get much going in terms of dangerous offensive chances.

The game opened up a bit after an unsuccessful Flyers power play that started halfway through the period, as Lyon and Cam Ward finally had to start actually playing the game a bit. It was Carolina, though, who would strike first, as a long shot by Jaccob Slavin was artfully deflected in mid-air by Jordan Staal and fooled Lyon, who jumped to stop the high shot only to get beaten low by the deflection.

Carolina would keep pressing for much of the rest of the first period, but we’d head to the second period with no more goals.

The second period started out pretty poorly for the Flyers, who had a few prolonged defensive zone shifts because of players having trouble clearing the puck out. Lyon would hold strong, as he did for most of the game, and the Flyers would get their chances to tie things up not long after. But a Konecny breakaway was turned aside by the glove of Ward, and minutes later Sean Couturier couldn’t get much on a shot as he was staring at an open net.

From there, though, offense became increasingly difficult to find for the visitors, and it felt as though the game was becoming a defensive struggle that was playing into Carolina’s hands. Twice in the period, the Flyers would have to call upon their much-maligned (deservedly so, I may add) penalty kill, only adding to the stress of a period that was brutally frustrating for fans to watch in a game that the Flyers desperately needed.

The first of those penalty kills came and went with little incident, as a Travis Sanheim interference penalty near his net was killed off with ease. The bigger challenge came in the final minutes of the period. With 1:28 remaining, Andrew MacDonald high-sticked Phil Di Giuseppe right in the lip, and the ensuing blood coming from his face meant that the Flyers would have to kill off a four-minute penalty.

It would have been pretty easy (quite rational, in fact!) to guess that this was the beginning of the end in this game. But the Flyers, against all odds, had other ideas. Outside of a brief flurry in the final 10 or so seconds of the second period, Carolina generated almost nothing in the entirety of that four-minute kill. In the 2:32 of PK time that took place at the start of the period, Carolina generated just one shot attempt — as many as the Flyers had in that time, in fact.

It was an outstanding penalty kill by the Flyers, one that you’d hope would have sprung them a bit as they tried to rally to tie the game. But it didn’t quite go that way, at least not right away; Carolina got the better of the play more or less from the time the penalty expired to the first commercial break in the third period. At that point, it didn’t seem like a comeback was really in the cards.

Then things changed quickly.

First, a long shot by Sanheim from just in front of his own blue line was deflected past Ward by Konecny, tying things up and giving the folks at home (not to mention, the many audible Flyers fans in the stands in Raleigh) something to cheer about for the first time in a while. That joy was short-lived, though; at the end of a long defensive shift that once again had too many instances of a Flyer failing to clear the zone, Slavin carried the puck down low and beat Lyon up high to restore the Canes’ one-goal lead just as we reached the period’s halfway point.

(A quick sidebar: are there any other people in the world named Jaccob with two C’s that aren’t Jaccob Slavin? A quick Google search does not suggest that there are very many. If you’re reading this and your name is Jaccob, reach out to me. This isn’t actually that important, but it’s fascinating, I say.)

Then, with just over eight minutes remaining, it was a tremendous effort by all three members of the team’s current second line, one which has been long overdue for a goal or two or eight. They’d settle for just one for now, though, as Patrick would win a board battle with Justin Faulk, get the puck up along the boards to Lindblom, who quickly spotted Voracek in front of the net, where Jakub would flip to his backhand and tap the puck past Ward while falling down.

Just a remarkable individual effort by Voracek, and one that led to Oskar Lindblom’s first NHL point at that!

Then came one of the most bizarre sequences, perhaps, of this Flyers season, one that we genuinely will probably be talking about unironically if this team does hold on to a playoff spot down tge stretch.

With just over six minutes left, Travis Konecny carried the puck in deep and sent it below the goal line to Valtteri Filppula, who tried to carry it out in front of said line only to run into an official and lose the puck. Carolina would then, thanks in large part to the Flyers center that found himself behind the play thanks to a ref being in his way, get an odd-man break the other way, one that ended in Alex Lyon setting aside a shot by Justin Williams.

And then a funny thing happened. Turns out that, when you a) get stuck behind the play thanks to your having run into a ref and b) are already a pretty slow NHL skater, you actually end up so far behind things that when your teammate in the defensive zone sees you, he sees a breakaway opportunity. So Wayne Simmonds alertly gets the puck up to Filppula, who gets in all alone on Ward, dekes back to his forehand, and beats Ward high on the blocker side to break the tie with 5:49 left in the game.

My goodness.

From there, the Flyers largely managed to stifle the Carolina attack, and 11 seconds after Ward was pulled for an extra attacked, Raffl would find the empty net from center ice to end this one and give the Flyers a crucial 4-2 win.

With New Jersey and Columbus both winning today, it was crucial for the Flyers to keep pace; had they come away from this one with no points, they’d have dropped to the East’s second wild card spot. Instead, they hang onto third place in the Metro (they and Columbus both have 83 points in 72 games, but the Flyers hold the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker), and maintain their lead on ninth-place Florida (who lost today at home to Edmonton).

Big game tomorrow at home against Washington. See you then. Go Flyers.