By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
Alain Vigneault has said it before, and he said it again on Friday night. “I’m not going to apologize for great goaltending.”
He shouldn’t have to. In fact, it was nearly the rest of the Flyers roster that was going to have to apologize to Carter Hart. Hart had made 30 saves on 33 shots against Toronto earlier in the week, and up to the midpoint of the third, that was still a one-goal game. Entering the third period on Friday night in Carolina, it was another similar case. Carolina had only one goal. Hart had 27 saves.
This time, the Flyers gave him some run support, and Hart did the rest in a dominant performance that continued his hot start to the season.
More on Hart and other takeaways from the Flyers 2-1 win over the Hurricanes.
1. Hart Stopping, Point Stealing
What more can you say about Carter Hart’s performance? It’s becoming a broken record, stating how Hart is keeping the Flyers in games and essentially stealing them points. Since his season-opener struggles against Vancouver, Hart has been outstanding in essentially every game he has played.
Facing the team with the best record in the NHL at 10-1-0, Hart needed to be every bit as good as he was. The Hurricanes came in waves as expected, but there were some real highlight-reel saves that are going to stand out in this one.
After making a few good stops on a Carolina man-advantage, Hart had to make one more save in the final seconds of the period. As the Flyers failed to take advantage of a two-man advantage, Jordan Staal exited the box and took a lead pass for a shorthanded breakaway. Hart stayed right with him to make one more of his 13 saves in the opening period, keeping the game scoreless.
In the second, there were multiple saves. First, Hart kept the game scoreless with a nice cross-ice tip from Steven Lorentz. While the Flyers were down 1-0, Hart continued to make saves as the Flyers faced another penalty kill. Then in the final seconds, Hart made one of his best saves of the night. The cross-ice pass to Andrei Svechnikov left him with an open net, but his shot was partially blocked by Claude Giroux before moving toward the crease and a diving Hart, keeping the margin at one with five seconds left in the period.
In the third, the Flyers got Hart the lead with some dominant play early, then Hart stole the show again. Back on the penalty kill, Hart was their best player again, making one big save on Teuvo Teravainen at the side of the net, then recovering to keep out a rebound after Teravainen hit the post.
With the Flyers on the power play late in the period, Hart still had to be sharp. He made two shorthanded stops on Derek Stepan and Jordan Martinook. Then in the final minute, with the Flyers absolutely gassed, Hart held the post on a couple of attempts by Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Following an icing, Hart made a pair of glove saves in the final minute on Sebastian Aho and Svechnikov, the latter being his 39th of the night.
The 39-save show from Hart brought his record to 4-3-2 on the season, but lowered his goals against average to 2.32 and increased his save percentage to .931. I don’t think it’s a question anymore if he has his confidence back.
2. Rally in Raleigh
Entering the third period, the Flyers faced a 1-0 deficit. On most nights, there’s still plenty of hope entering a third period down by just a goal. All you need is a bounce and you can have a tie game.
But this wasn’t your ordinary third-period deficit. In their first 11 games of the season, Carolina had allowed a grand total of three goals in the third period. One of those goals was an empty-netter in their only prior loss on the season to Florida. Another was a goal against Chicago with the game well out of reach already.
So in situations where the game was still on the line, the Hurricanes only make it tougher to get back into the game. That didn’t stop the Flyers, who made a subtle line change – moving Travis Konecny off the top line to play with Scott Laughton and Joel Farabee and moving James van Riemsdyk up – and came out with more jump in the third period than they had shown all night.
The Flyers opened the period with a 10-1 advantage in shots, nearly doubling their total for the game in a matter of five minutes. One of those shots was Farabee’s tying goal.
It was another bank play, this one set up by Laughton. Farabee raced into the zone past Josh Leivo and cut in on goal alone, getting Frederik Andersen down and beating him through the five-hole. It was a great time to break out of a slump for Farabee, who had been held without a point since the third game of the season.
Farabee’s goal came just over four minutes into the period. Shortly after the halfway point of the period, the rally came complete with a fourth-line goal. Zack MacEwen’s first goal as a Flyer was the result of hard work. Patrick Brown nearly lost the puck near the blue line, but barely regained control enough to inch it to Justin Braun. Braun simply puts a shot on goal and a cutting MacEwen gets a deflection.
The Flyers fourth line is not going to set the world on fire with offensive production. It’s not really expected of them in the first place. But when they do get one, it’s a huge boost, and you saw that by the reactions on the ice. In a time when goals are hard to come by, you’ll take one from anyone.
As Cam Atkinson had said on Thursday at his media availability, the Flyers needed to work on getting greasy goals and that sometimes it needs to feel better to score those than the pretty ones. Typically, goals from your fourth-line come in that fashion. This one certainly fit the bill and proved to be the game-winner.
To get a huge two points against the Metro Division leaders in regulation, the Flyers needed to nearly double the total goals allowed by Carolina in the third period all season and they did.
3. Turning Point
Before the third-period comeback, the Flyers were facing a deficit as Lorentz did manage to beat Hart with a chance batted out of mid-air in front of the net. That goal came at 11:14 of the second, and just 45 seconds later, it appeared the Hurricanes had another goal.
Seth Jarvis had the puck go off his leg after his stick was broken in a bid to put home a rebound. It rolled into the net a few ticks after the blade of his broken stick did.
There was a lot that happened on this play, including the possibility that Svechnikov had scored rather than hit the post on the initial shot. But it came back to the entry and if Jarvis had managed to stretch out enough to maintain the blue line.
It was a quick review, and there was clear evidence that Jarvis’ skates were both across the blue line before the puck entered the zone. That second goal was waved off and the margin remained just a goal.
That was a huge turning point for the Flyers. While they did manage a pair of goals in the third, entering the final period down by that margin could have essentially been game over already with the way Carolina was playing. Instead, it gave the Flyers a chance, and after having a couple calls not go their way in Pittsburgh and at home against Toronto, this one proved to change the game too.
4. Power Outage
Not everything about this win was pretty and it rarely has been of late. The power play remained a big concern.
First and foremost, the Flyers were really gifted an early opportunity when Staal went to the box to cancel out the remainder of a Carolina power play, then Vincent Trocheck took four minutes of penalties with a tripping minor and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on top of it. That left the Flyers with 1:05 of 5-on-3 time and four straight minutes of power-play time that almost perfectly split the remainder of the first and start of the season.
It didn’t matter. The Flyers struggles in this area continued, as they ultimately went 0-for-5 in this area and prolonged their drought.
The thing about the Flyers power play goes far beyond personnel. When you watch some of the top power plays in the league, Carolina’s included, there is constant movement, so much so that the penalty kill will inevitably be out of position slightly at some point and open up a lane to shoot.
The Flyers power play is just so stagnant, essentially motionless as players wait for some magical lane to the net to appear. The top power-play units in the league create those lanes with their movement, and the Flyers aren’t doing enough of it.
It got so bad, that the Hurricanes were actually generating better chances while shorthanded than the Flyers got on the power play.
This area desperately needs to be cleaned up and soon. Even for all of their struggles in the first two periods, a late power-play goal when the Flyers got their fifth power play with 5:53 to play would have essentially iced the game. The closest anyone came to scoring was on a shorthanded two-on-one instead.
5. On to Dallas
A rough game at home against Toronto aside, the Flyers last couple of wins have been particularly big. Defeating Carolina in regulation is no small feat. With that loss, they actually move into a tie for first in the Metro with the Washington Capitals, who won on Friday night.
The common thread here is that the Flyers have played both of those teams now and handed each a 2-1 regulation loss. Both the Hurricanes and Capitals each have just two regulation losses on the season.
Next up for the Flyers, one more game on the road for the weekend before a prolonged stay at home. It’s a stop in Dallas. On the surface, the Stars record doesn’t give off the same vibe as playing Carolina or Washington. The Stars are 4-6-2 and have lost five of their last six games.
That said, the Stars followed Wednesday’s loss to Nashville by holding a closed-door players-only meeting. Head coach Rick Bowness was not in on that meeting, but said multiple times in his press conference that he knows what to fix. So with two days off between games and a string of frustration, expect a determined team in Dallas as the Flyers make their bid for another solid weekend.