Flyers close the gap to one with crucial win
Photo: Steve Kuzma/Flyerdelphia
As the playoff race carries on and draws closer to the end of the season, it is all in the points for the Flyers. And after Saturday, who knew how important that one point lost in the shootout would really be.
When the Detroit Red Wings lost on Sunday night, it was clear, the Flyers could draw to within striking distance if they handled the task at hand: beat the Red Wings on Tuesday in regulation. It was sure to be a playoff atmosphere.
It took almost everything the Flyers had in them, but mission accomplished, as the Flyers claimed a 4-3 victory on Tuesday night. The Flyers have the path to the final spot. Now, they just have to take what got them into this position and carry into the final four weeks of the season.
"We were ready to play," head coach Dave Hakstol said. "We came out and we played fast and hard, but it we knew it was going to be competitive through, highly competitive, through sixty minutes and it was right down to the wire."
"That’s how you win hockey games," Wayne Simmonds said. "Lines one through four and you need all six defensemen. Sometimes you need both goalies. Every single player contributes something overnight. That’s how you become successful and that’s what we did tonight."
The first period was arguably the Flyers best period of the season and certainly their best start. The 23 shots was astounding. Had it not been for a solid penalty kill for the Red Wings and Petr Mrazek, the Flyers may have been up by three or four goals instead of the 2-0 advantage they had.
"We wanted to let them know it wasn’t going to be an easy game, and I think we did that," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We were doing our thing, just getting pucks to the net and making teams not really want to play against us."
From there, the Flyers were held in check as Detroit made its push. In reality, the Flyers response to that push was what made the win all the more impressive.
In the second, Detroit opened the scoring early. The Flyers desperately needed an answer and got it from Michael Raffl, who scored his second goal of the game.
"Raff’s played pretty good hockey here over the last couple of weeks," Hakstol said. "He’s playing relaxed, he’s playing hard. The play that he made on the first goal was just kind of classic power hockey, classic Michael Raffl."
"I’m feeling pretty good right now," Raffl said. "I’m healthy and everything. I really enjoy playing with [Sean Couturier] and [Sam Gagner], gives me confidence, Coots is very strong defensively, that helps."
When the Red Wings trimmed the lead back to one, the Flyers grabbed a late goal from Gostisbehere to get to the third with a two-goal lead.
"We did a good job but we didn’t break. They got a couple goals in the second. We got a couple goals in the second," Simmonds said. "I think the second period obviously was more even. I think it was a good game for both sides."
Similarly, in the final period, they bent, but they didn't break. Detroit closed to within one in the final five minutes, but the Flyers held on for the win that drew them to within one point of the final playoff spot.
These five games between the Flyers and the two teams they are chasing -- Detroit and Pittsburgh -- are going to go this way. They are going to be fights to the finish, going down to the wire to determine who will survive the stretch run and make the playoffs.
But in the early going, the Flyers made some serious headway on that front. With four weeks to go, the city starts to take notice. It would have been a huge buzzkill for the Flyers to drop a game like this and watch the odds go from being in their favor to being stacked against them. It was that much of a swing game.
"It’s a playoff game, sort of," Gostisbehere said. "I think the fans really helped us. The building was electric tonight, and we just stood up to the task at hand.
So with the win, the odds swing further in their favor and the ride continues for much more than just the next game on Wednesday when the Flyers could officially make the leap into the final playoff spot with a win.
It is the one-game approach that is keeping the Flyers level-headed as the week continues.
"We want to think of short term picture," Simmonds said. "We have Chicago tomorrow night that’s what we’re focused on."
"You have to move on quickly because the games come at you extremely fast, especially with all the back-to-backs we have remaining," Steve Mason said. "The biggest thing is that, to have a short-term memory, win or lose."
"We’ll enjoy this for a couple minutes," Gostisbehere said. "We’ve got a big game tomorrow, back-to-back against a team that just got beat pretty bad at home the other night. So they’re gonna be ready and hopefully we’re ready for them."
It is a week where the spotlight shines a little brighter on the Flyers. On the night of the first test, they passed and moved one step closer to an improbable playoff run.
Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.