Flyers vs. Oilers recap: Seventh heaven

The Flyers picked up their 7th straight victory Thursday night, besting the Oilers 6-5 in a thriller.

In a thrilling back-and-forth affair, the Flyers won 6-5 with outstanding efforts from Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and got enough offensive support to withstand a talented Edmonton team whose speed gave the Flyers fits at times.

The Flyers looked to build on a six-game winning streak, one which saw them jump to the top of the wild card chase, at least in terms of points gained regardless of games in hand. Facing them were the Oilers, but these aren’t your slightly older brother’s Oilers as they were in first place in the Pacific entering this contest. The Flyers did catch something of a break in that usual Cam Talbot was given a night off, with Jonas Gustavsson getting his sixth game of the year. Steve Mason manned the net for the Flyers for the sixth straight game, hoping to continue a recent string of hot play that propelled the Flyers to the aforementioned winning streak. With Radko Gudas returning from a weekend bout with the flu that saw him lose 12 pounds at one point, Michael Del Zotto once again found himself in the press box.

The Oilers speed was in full effect early, and Leon Draisaitl was able to convert a 2-on-1 just 4:39 to open the scoring. Mason will probably tell you that the goal is one he should have been able to stop, but with Mark Streit covering the pass and not making much of an effort on the shooter, it was a de facto breakaway and Mason was beat five-hole. The rest of the first was fairly non-descript, with only 14 shots on goal being registered, with the Flyers getting nine of those, most of which came during two unsuccessful power plays. Both teams drew iron once, with Raffl beating Gustavsson but hitting the far post midway through the period.

Before and after some words with Brandon Manning, Connor McDavid scored on the power play at 4:35 in the second. It was a scramble play, with the Flyers failing to control a big rebound off a point shot. Draisaitl was able to find McDavid who promptly fired into a near-empty net to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead.

Just as I was about to swear off recapping forever because the Flyers stink whenever I recap their games, the Flyers struck on an even-strength goal. The puck did not leave the zone after a power play expired, and with a sweet sauce pass from Travis Konecny, Mark Streit was able to rifle one past Gustavsson from the right point at 12:31.

With a bit of wind beneath their wings, some much-maligned players got involved in the offense, with Andrew MacDonald and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare working a give-and-go in the high slot, scoring high stick-side of Gustavsson. It was Bellemare’s first official goal of the season, and tied the game at 2. This goal came at 13:24.

But wait, there was more! The Oilers never did get their skates completely under them before Voracek was able to pick off a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins pass and fed Claude Giroux in the left face-off circle, and Giroux literally leaped at the chance, wiring one passed a stunned Gustavsson, igniting the crowd in the process. The three goals were within 1:12 of each other, and suddenly the Flyers were staked to a 3-2 lead. Wow, indeed:

But, remember that McDavid kid? Yeah, he’s pretty good. He was able to win a board battle in the Flyers end, feeding Mark Letestu who went around the net and fed Andrej Sekera in the slot, who able to beat Mason just as a Flyers power play was starting following a 4-on-4. It was the Flyers league-leading 7th short-handed goal allowed this season. The game was tied yet again. The Oilers got a late power play in the second, and led in shots on goal 13-9.

But it wouldn’t take long for the Oilers speed to cause problems again, as the Oilers scored twice in the opening six minutes of the third, with Benoit Pouliot scoring on a rush play and Oscar Klefbom scoring on the power play. Just like that it was the Oilers were ahead again by 2, and hope seemed bleak.

After the Oilers got away with a penalty, Kris Russel was caught Holding Voracek, putting the Flyers back on the power play. Jonas Gustavsson is a backup goalie in the NHL, and this was one of those games where it could be seen why. Voracek was able to beat him on a rather non-descript wrister from the right faceoff circle glove side, cutting the Edmonton lead in half. This gave the Flyers thirteen minutes to find the equalizer.

That equalizer would come about six minutes later, thanks in large part to a great individual effort by Gudas. After keeping the puck in the offensive zone with a tough keep along blue line, Gudas drove the net hard. After an initial save by Gustavsson, Gudas got the puck back behind the Oiler net, then fed the bouncing puck to Giroux in the low slot, who buried it to tie the game at 5. It was Giroux’s second of the night, and the second two-goal deficit the Flyers overcame on the night.

As time ticked down, the tension rose throughout the rest of the period. The next goal was going to be huge. That’s when Michael Raffl, thanks in part to a sweet off-the-boards pass from Voracek, channeled his inner Eric Lindros and made a power move to the net, beating Gustavsson with 1:29 left.

The Oilers would push with the goalie pulled shortly after Raffl’s goal, but nothing got by Mason and the Flyers held on for the win. The Oilers outshot the Flyers 33-31 on the night.

Other notes:

  • It’s becoming apparent that Hakstol sees the Bellemare-VandeVelde-Lyubimov line as his “shutdown” line with Couturier’s absence. They were on the ice from the first shift trying to counteract McDavid. It went surprisingly well for the first 50 minutes of the game, but the top Oiler line was able to get going against the Bellemare line in the last 10, which made Bellemare’s CF% against McDavid an unspectacular 38.1%.
  • Edmonton’s penalty killing was very passive, more passive than any unit we’ve seen against the Flyers in many games during the first two Oiler penalties. The result was several shots on goal. Their third penalty kill was more aggressive, and they got some chances for as a result.
  • Speaking of special teams, the Oilers first power play unit is something to behold. With all those No. 1 picks at their disposal, the puck was flying around the Flyers end of the ice whenever they had control, and their second and fifth goals was a direct result of that.
  • With three more goals in the second, the Flyers took the NHL lead for goals in the second period, with 42.
  • Along with three assists tonight, the Voracek goal gives him 10 on the year. He had 11 goals all of last year. That contract doesn’t look so bad anymore, does it?
  • The last time the Flyers had 3 more wins in a season than losses was April of 2014.
  • The last time the Flyers won seven straight was in December of 2011. The last game of that win streak was on the 15th, and featured goals from Max Talbot, Harry Zolnierczyk, and Andrej Mezaros. Five years can be a long time, folks./

Flyers go for win number eight at 1 p.m. Saturday at home against Dallas.