The difference between wins and losses and points in the standings or games where you come away with nothing is a mere matter of seconds. Timing is everything, especially in a conference and division where thinks can change in the blink of an eye.
The Flyers returned home on Saturday night certainly feeling that they deserved a better fate than the 4-3 overtime loss suffered in Pittsburgh on Friday after dominating the third period and falling seconds into OT off a turnover. The Flyers first period on Saturday was anything but dominant. They were getting out-shot, 8-2, as the period neared the final six minutes. Alex Lyon, the current backup with Carter Hart out, was delivering a tremendous performance already that included several quality saves.
On just their third shot of the game, one by Matt Niskanen thrown into traffic, the Flyers got a bounce and the first goal of the game. Timing is everything.
On a power play late in the period, the Flyers scored with 4.5 seconds remaining to enter the second period with a 2-0 lead. Timing is everything.
When Colorado scored to cut the lead to one, the Flyers responded 64 seconds later with Sean Couturier setting up Joel Farabee. Timing is everything.
With a one-goal lead in the third, a brutal turnover by Colorado was cashed in by the Flyers with Farabee scoring again off a feed from Couturier. Timing is everything.
Again with a one-goal lead and trying to kill off a penalty, Kevin Hayes followed a big save by Lyon with a shorthanded goal off a two-on-one. Timing is everything.
Nearly every goal the Flyers scored in their 6-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche proved to be timely in some way, whether because of a timely save by Lyon or just helping them always keep a grip on control of the game. The Flyers never trailed, but with full knowledge of how the game 24 hours earlier played out, a big swing could have been moments away.
"It's cliche, but it's a game of inches," Hayes said. "Al made some big saves and all of a sudden the puck ends up in the back of their net. It's happened to us. I know I've come down on a two-on-one and missed and all of a sudden they go down and score. It's depleting actually. It sucks. You're playing the right way the whole time like they did. They played a great game tonight, playing the right way, our goalie makes a big save and we go down and score and we're up two. That's how hockey is."
"Both those times, I think we had two-goal leads and they come right back," head coach Alain Vigneault said. "For me, one of the turning points other than Alex was we’re on the power play, we take that penalty and they do a good job keeping the puck away so they get more time on their power play. We got a couple saves and then Hayesy makes that play that gives us that goal that made it 5-3. That’s one of the quickest teams. I mean, they came at us with a lot of speed and a lot of skill so you got to give them credit. Give our goaltender full merit. I mean he permitted us to get this two points."
Lyon was certainly a star in this game. Lyon stopped all 11 shots he faced in the first period, and despite allowing a couple of quick second-period goals, made some crucial saves that could have tied the game. He stopped Nathan MacKinnon on a breakaway in the second. He stopped another breakaway for JT Compher in the third just seconds after Colorado got the game to within one goal.
With the margin still at one, Lyon made a juggling save at the top of the crease that forced a stoppage on a Colorado power play. Just seconds later, Hayes scored his shorthanded goal. For Lyon, in just his second start of the season and first win, he was able to stay within the game and maintain the same control his teammates did. Lyon certainly took the time to bask in the victory following the game.
"It's totally rewarding," Lyon said. "It's the truth, it's about swings. [In the Montreal game], I let in two goals right at the beginning of the second and you could feel it deflate a little bit. Tonight was similar in the way that we go up and they score two quick ones in the second, and so my mindset was just stop, reset, refocus. You have to cut this off right now. You have to go back to your game and play the way that you want. I was able to do that tonight and just take a lot of learning lessons going forward."
Even with the overtime loss in Pittsburgh, the Flyers have points in seven of eight games against Top-10 teams in the NHL standings in the last three weeks, posting a 5-1-2 record in that time. The Flyers have joined that company too. With the two points gained in Saturday's win, they are tied for the eight-most points in the standings. Despite that, they are ranked eighth in the Eastern Conference standings and holding the final wildcard spot.
There is surely a long journey ahead to the end of the regular season. The Flyers have 30 games left and every one of them will be a battle to at least keep pace with the rest of the teams battling for playoff position in the East. But on this night, timing was everything for the Flyers.
Maybe they did deserve a better fate in Pittsburgh, but an inability to finish on their third-period chances and a turnover in overtime changed that. And it could have set the Flyers up for a true trap on Saturday where everything on paper seemed to be stacked against them. Instead, they got the two points they felt they deserved the night before and turned it into a successful three-point weekend.