For the first 20 minutes, the Flyers came out looking like a team that was truly trending in the right direction. After that, it was a battle between the Flyers and Rangers that featured numerous mistakes and sloppy play. For almost the entirety of the second, the Flyers didn’t even show up.
Yet, at the end of the night, the result went the way the Flyers needed it to. Jake Voracek scored in overtime to give the Flyers the 5-4 win over the Rangers and snap their two-game losing streak.
It may have been the desired result, but the Flyers continued to show just how much their flaws can take over a game. Despite that, they also got some standout performances that made the win even possible.
Here are five takeaways from Monday’s Flyers-Rangers game.
1. Top Line Gets It Going
It’s a habit becoming so regular that it is almost expected at this point. When the Flyers are looking to get something going in the right direction, there’s an excellent chance it involves their top line.
Monday was no different. Less than four minutes into the game, Sean Couturier used his body to shield off a defender and helped create a two-on-one for Joel Farabee and James van Riemsdyk. Farabee drew the defender, leaving van Riemsdyk wide open going to the net. The pass connected and van Riemsdyk dipped to the backhand and went five-hole to score.
That marked the fourth time in the last five games that this line helped get the Flyers on the board. The only exception was last Thursday’s game against Washington, when Travis Konecny opened the scoring on the power play.
This line didn’t stop there though. Back on the ice less than two minutes later after an icing, Couturier won a face-off back to Ivan Provorov and he fired one home. The two strikes within 1:18 gave the Flyers the early 2-0 lead and they carried the play throughout the first period as a result, once again getting the early spark from a line that has been more consistent each game.
2. No Show Second
Everything about the first period did show the better trends the Flyers were talking about – better possession, more shots than the opposition, winning board battles. It was what you wanted to see from a team that needed to play with some desperation. Then the second period happened.
In the first few minutes of the period, it wasn’t all that surprising that the Rangers pushed back. That was to be expected. But as that carried over beyond the first few shifts and into the first five minutes or so, it was becoming evident that the Flyers were back to their bad habits once again.
Turnovers were coming at an alarming rate. Puck management was brutal. Defensive coverage was getting sloppy. The feet weren’t moving, leading to more turnovers and lost battles.
The Rangers finally made the Flyers pay just over eight minutes into the period. A one-timed rocket by Artemi Panarin found the net off a pass from rookie Tarmo Reunanen. The Flyers ended up with two defensemen on the same side of the ice. Jake Voracek is back covering Colin Blackwell going to the net, but both Shayne Gostisbehere and Nate Prosser also retreat. No one steps up to take away the return pass to Panarin. All five Flyers are in the picture when the pass is made and the shot is released, but the seam remains there as three Flyers are still below the dot when the play happens. It’s yet another missed coverage in transition.
The Rangers got the Flyers again on their second goal to tie the game just under three minutes later. Phil Myers dumps the puck into the zone and the Flyers try to complete a line change. In the process, Oskar Lindblom ends up offside, so he can’t play the puck, but rather than peel back or making a strong play on the body of Brendan Smith, the defenseman spins off him and moves the puck ahead in transition cleanly to Panarin, who is now ahead of the field.
Panarin moves in with speed and gets it across to Colin Blackwell with a wide open net. The Flyers never stood a chance.
At that point, the Flyers didn’t have a shot on goal in the period, and the Rangers had now erased their hot start. But things only got worse for the Flyers as the period entered the final five minutes.
The Rangers moved the puck behind their own net in an effort to start moving the other way. It eventually gets moved to center by Panarin to Filip Chytil, creating a two-on-two, then another quick pass to Julien Gauthier has the Rangers moving faster in transition.
Gostisbehere gets caught completely flat-footed as Gauthier speeds by. He not only goes around Gostisbehere, but then is able to move inside for a better look on what is now a partial breakaway, going upstairs with a backhand to give the Rangers the lead.
3. Power Play Strikes
One thing the Flyers can hang their hat on in this game is that the power play seemed to get something going in the right direction. The Flyers had one power play in the first period and failed to build on their 2-0 lead. When they went back on the power play in the late stages of the second, now trailing in the game, they made sure to take advantage.
It’s a nice setup for the man-advantage, as Claude Giroux sets up below the goal line, walks the line behind the net and comes out the other side to feed Farabee, who unleashes a one-timed missile to tie the game back up at three.
Early in the third, when the Flyers were behind again following another turnover in the defensive zone, Giroux was on the scoring end of a tying goal.
At the end of the game, the Flyers power play was 2-for-5, but that’s not really the entire story. The Flyers were technically 2-for-3 at the time Giroux scored, had another two minutes of power-play time then due to a double-minor on Gauthier, and later thought they had a third power-play goal that was eventually taken off the board due to a successful challenge for offside.
Whether it was 2-for-5 or 3-for-5 on the night, this was one area where the Flyers were certainly stronger. It’s very well one of the reasons they managed to win the game, because instead of letting these opportunities go to waste, the Flyers jumped on them and used them to their advantage.
4. Fighting for the Captain
In the last game on Saturday against Washington, Giroux got dragged around the ice by Garnet Hathaway and no one came to his aid. It was an embarrassing showing that piled on in a week where multiple players were taking liberties on the Flyers and doing pretty much whatever they wanted with no repercussions.
That changed in the final seconds of the second period when Giroux took a hit from Brendan Smith just after crossing the Rangers blue line. It didn’t appear to be an overly vicious hit in the moment, though Alain Vigneault said after the game there should have been a kneeing penalty, but right away Nolan Patrick jumped in and went to the aid of the captain.
Patrick is certainly not much of a fighter, so Voracek also made his way over and engaged with Smith as more of a crowd gathered. Regardless of who it was – and both players were given roughing penalties – it was refreshing to see that kind of response. It was beyond time honestly.
It sure lit a fire under Giroux and the rest of the team. Giroux was an unstoppable force for the remainder of the game, helping to carry the team the rest of the way to the finish line.
5. Poetic Justice
If you looked at just the second period, you probably would think that the Flyers not only didn’t deserve to win the game, but think that there was no way they overcame those ongoing struggles.
But late in the third period, they did just about everything but finish off the win right there.
In the final seconds of killing off a penalty with just over six minutes left in the third, Scott Laughton got a breakaway. He tried to go five-hole, but Keith Kinkaid stayed with it. Voracek had a breakaway in regulation shortly after. He was stopped. Kevin Hayes thought he had the go-ahead goal on the power play with 3:04 remaining. That was taken off the board due to the previously-mentioned offside call.
In overtime, the Flyers were able to find a way though. Despite not having control of the puck for the majority of the 3:47 that was played, Travis Sanheim made a nice play at the end of a shift to clear the zone, then Voracek won a race and forced a turnover as Kinkaid tried to move the puck ahead quickly to Panarin. Voracek went in alone on the breakaway, made an outstanding move, and scored. Game over.
In the overtime, eight total players saw the ice for the Flyers. Couturier, Farabee and Provorov started the overtime. Both Couturier and Farabee were on the ice for 1:56. Provorov was out there for 2:07. Giroux, Voracek and Sanheim were on the ice for the next shift after that already prolonged ice time. Giroux managed to get off the ice after 50 seconds for Hayes, but Voracek and Sanheim remained stuck on the ice. When Sanheim made the poke check to clear the zone, he darted to the bench after a 1:33 shift and Phil Myers came on. Myers was on the ice for just seven seconds.
That’s because Voracek was in the process of winning the game as the change was made, capping off a shift that lasted 1:51.
In the end, the Flyers probably got the deserved result for the chances they had in the third period and the strong start they had in the first. It is a two points they desperately needed and will take any way they can get at this point. The process on the ice may still have a lot of flaws and they were on full display again, but it’s a game the team can put back in the win column, another game where they took care of business against a team behind them in the standings.
Take it from Carter Hart’s perspective. He allowed four goals and while several were not on him, there’s still plenty to work on. But your confidence builds even just a bit when you get the desired result.
It felt good for Hart to get a win out of this start despite the score. It has to feel good for the Flyers as well, even if it once again wasn’t pretty.