By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
In many cases, the Flyers have been bailed out by Carter Hart on their way to wins and standings points. On Thursday night, the Flyers needed to bail out their goalie.
A late goal that leaked through Hart’s pad allowed the Tampa Bay Lightning to be positioned for another regulation win against the Flyers, a chance to run away with the two points after the Flyers controlled the third period.
Then the captain took matters into his own hands. Claude Giroux’s second goal of the game earned the Flyers a valuable point against the reigning Stanley Cup champions. It was just another example of their resilience in the face of adversity, another quick response just when you think this team is starting to reach the breaking point.
Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Lightning.
1. In the Clutch
So many times this season, the Flyers have leaned on Carter Hart in the final moments of a one-goal game or tie game to keep the opposition at bay, to help them gain points in the standings. For a change, the Flyers needed to find a rally to get any points out of this game.
Enter Claude Giroux, who wasn’t necessarily trying to score on his game-tying goal with 8.1 seconds left in the third. Off a face-off win by Derick Brassard, Giroux got controlled and put the puck on net, looking for a potential rebound with three players going to the net. Instead, the shot sailed right by Andrei Vasilevskiy and in, giving Giroux his second goal of the game.
This marked the second time this season that Giroux has been on the scoring end of a game-tying goal in the final moments of regulation. This one seemed to mean a lot more though, given how the Flyers had played the entire third period, given how reliable their goaltender had been all season to allow a go-ahead goal like that.
Giroux’s tally erased all that and started things over. And while there’s no way to know if anything would have been different had Steven Stamkos not scored from an angle and Giroux played hero to get the Flyers at least one point, it is a point the Flyers will gladly take as their stretch of tough November games continues.
2. Fast-Scoring Start
Giroux was also on the scoresheet early in the game. A nice move on the breakaway pulled Vasilevskiy way out of position and allowed Giroux to strike first, giving the Flyers an early lead just 1:34 into the game.
Despite getting out-shot in the first period, the Flyers proved to be opportunistic. On their fourth shot of the period, the Flyers scored again as Travis Konecny fired one home off a 3-on-1. In the opening period, the Flyers had a 2-0 lead and trailed in shots, 13-5.
While certainly not a formula for success, the Flyers did get the positioning they wanted for the remainder of the game. Of course, it’s hard to protect even a multi-goal lead against the talent that the Lightning possess. But that fast start production-wise, which put the Flyers in position to score more than two goals in regulation on a tended net for the first time in 10 games, gave them a chance in this game.
3. Penalty Trouble
The Flyers were less than a minute away from a strong result in the first period, holding a 2-0 lead and playing a relatively clean game. That’s when Rasmus Ristolainen was whistled for interference out of a battle for possession, giving Tampa Bay the first power play of the game.
The Lightning didn’t score in the first, nor did they strike on the 1:15 that carried into the second, but this penalty did start a bad trend that ultimately allowed the Lightning to get on the board and the Flyers to lose momentum in being able to attempt to establish an offensive push.
The Lightning were on the power play again just 14 seconds after the Flyers killed off the first minor. Then it took them just 22 seconds to get on the board with Brayden Point scoring on the backhand.
The Flyers only took one more penalty in the game, coming at the 15:05 mark of the second period. That was just 13 seconds after the Lightning tied the game on a rebound chance for Mathieu Joseph.
It certainly could have been a lot worse than the 1-for-3 night that the Lightning had on the man-advantage, but the Flyers didn’t do themselves any favors in a rough second period that featured three penalties.
4. Lost in the Skills Competition
There are times where the hellacious nature of 3-on-3 overtime delights so much and brings about so much entertainment that the shootout is nothing more than a buzzkill on a great game. This was one of those times.
Both teams had multiple chances to win in the overtime. Victor Hedman had a breakaway. So did Cam Atkinson. Scott Laughton hit the outside of the post. Travis Sanheim just missed on a tip play. Possession changed hands multiple times.
And then the five minutes was over, and it only about another five minutes of real time for the game to be over in two rounds of the shootout. The Lightning’s talent took over, as Stamkos and Point scored and Couturier and Giroux were stopped, putting a quick end to this game.
Alain Vigneault typically highlights these games based on how good they are in the 65 minutes leading up to this point, then notes that the team “lost in the skills competition.” Yeah, that about sums it up.
5. More Injury Woes
As if Ryan Ellis’ injury wasn’t already an issue for the Flyers, there was more bad news in the hours leading up to warmups. Max Willman was recalled by the Flyers on an emergency basis.
This was really no surprise, given that Vigneault had hinted that a player may not be available for Thursday’s game, seemingly announcing a possible game-time decision for an unknown player. However, Vigneault did specify a couple of players. Oskar Lindblom was going to draw back into the lineup for the injured Patrick Brown and did. Atkinson, who missed Wednesday’s practice with a maintenance day, was also going to be available.
How about Kevin Hayes, who awkwardly tangled with another player in Tuesday’s game against Calgary and left the ice for the remainder of the second period before returning for the third? Was Hayes alright?
Vigneault assured that Hayes was expected to play and that everything had gone well. But when warmups started, Hayes was nowhere to be found. It became clear that he was the player not available and the rest of the lineup was.
Following the game, Vigneault did not have an update on Hayes and said he would know more in the next 48-to-72 hours. That seems to be an indication that Hayes will at least miss another game on Saturday night when the Boston Bruins come to town to close out a three-game homestand. But that long of a period to even find out more information is alarming.
After getting Ellis back for just one game before losing him again – for 4-to-6 weeks Vigneault said in his morning availability – could the Flyers end up without Hayes again after just two games back for the foreseeable future too? It remains to be seen, but it would be quite a hit for the Flyers to take so soon after getting both players back.