(Photo: Kate Frese)
By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
A month and a half ago, the Flyers were finding ways to lose games. Now, they are finding a way to win games.
Saturday's game was certainly not be design, but the Flyers stayed with the game and found a way to rally back and win in overtime, defeating the Oilers, 5-4, in overtime. It has them up to seven straight wins and surging.
More in our Postgame Review.
The goal for Patrick was justified after the near-miss at the end of regulation. But the play featured a lot more than just Patrick's finish. The pass from James van Riemsdyk was brilliant. He had Ty Rattie draped all over him and one-handed the puck into the slot. With where Travis Sanheim was on the ice, you could see a backdoor attempt opening up if Rattie was unable to tie up JVR. Instead, JVR used what he had and made a play.
Patrick had the finish. Talbot was left scrambling without a stick. And Patrick was unmarked. The player who was supposed to mark him: Connor McDavid, who started to turn up ice looking for the breakaway.
But this isn't just about the goal in this game. It's about the last two to three weeks for Patrick and how scoring one goal seems to have completely changed his confidence and made him a threat at every moment. Since the Flyers started their winning streak on Jan. 14, Patrick has five goals and seven points.
This is Patrick at peak potential. He's got it in him to be a high-end player. Perhaps all he needed was to just see the puck go in for him once, because since then, he's played with more meaning to his game.
Rattie's breakaway goal looked like it handcuffed him a bit, a low shot that didn't go through the legs, by past his left pad.
The goal by McDavid was pure brilliance, just a skill guy with all-world talent winning the battle. The goal by Adam Larsson was also a well-placed shot, but one that Hart will view critically. The shorthanded breakaway to Zack Kassian was the one spot where Hart really needed a save and didn't deliver. It's been rare and those shots go in against the best goalies in the league, but that's probably another he'd like to have back.
That may be the one area where Hart needs improvement: breakaways. And in fairness, he hasn't seen many since being called up, so it's a work in progress.
That said, he faced 18 shots in the first period and allowed two goals. He faced another 17 in the second period and only allowed one. The Flyers were outshot, 35-19, through 40 minutes and trailed by a goal. They owed that to their goaltender.
There was no bigger stop during the first 40 minutes than a brilliant glove save on a rebound for Tobias Rieder, following up a shot by Leon Draisaitl. The building was already buzzing from Claude Giroux's power-play goal that got the margin back to one and that raised the energy level further.
It almost felt like, with the Flyers were playing in the third period and into overtime, that Hart's save total was a forgotten footnote. He made 40 saves, topping a previous career high of 39 set on Jan. 16. It seems like with every passing game, he's achieving something different, whether it is a new career mark, or making a big save at a key time that can turn a game.
Most importantly, the team in front of him has looked completely different since his call-up. When Hart's in goal, the Flyers have a chance to win every game, even a wild affair like Saturday's 5-4 final.
The first goal by Sean Couturier was just excellent execution of a tic-tac-toe passing play with Couturier getting the finish in front.
The second was a fortunate shot by Giroux, a low shot that went right through the wickets of Talbot.
The third power play goal may have been the most important. Just 27 seconds after giving up a shorthanded goal to restore a two-goal margin, the Flyers got the goal right back. Travis Konecny got the goal, but it was the play by Oskar Lindblom right in front of the crease that made it happen. A nifty play to get the puck across to Konecny got it done, and Konecny's emphatic celebration afterwards said this team was not done.
So when they got another power play with nine minutes left in the third, there was the thought that this may be the best time to find the game-tying goal. It took 20 seconds for it to happen. Giroux took the initial shot from the left circle and Talbot left a rebound. Wayne Simmonds was there to pick it up and finish for the tying goal from the slot.
Perhaps it was just confidence. Gordon said that the power play was getting chances so it wasn't a lack of execution and Chuck Fletcher called it historically unlucky. Maybe they were right. The power play in the last two games has gone 6-for-7 and that has directly changed the results in their favor.
Giroux was a force in Boston, from the first period goal to the third period when he was giving everything just to get back in on the backcheck. In this game, he played an insane 24:50 of ice time and was used in all situations. In addition, he had three points in the game, contributing offensively as well.
You can tell watching him play right now that Giroux is feeling it — not in the sense that he's playing spectacular on an individual level, but that he's leading the way in playing every shift for the good of the team. It's not about scoring the goal in overtime or making the extra pass to end up on a highlight reel for him. It's about putting everything into the game to get two points. That's being a leader.
Look, it's still as much of a longshot as before, but the Flyers have managed to trim the gap in the standings from 14 points down to seven as the NHL's afternoon action on Saturday had ended. That doesn't happen by accident.
The Flyers are at least playing with the confidence of a team that feels like that win every game. Maybe that's the 20-year-old goalie. But it also has a lot to do with the other factors around this team. Because the goalie isn't going to steal every game. Maybe in this one, he held you in it, but he didn't steal it. He gave up four goals on 44 shots, which is still a reasonable save percentage. The result was on the players who were part of the power play and part of the overtime that got the job done.
About a month ago on Jan. 8, the Flyers lost for the eighth straight time in Washington. It appeared there was no end in sight. They got one win against Dallas, a close one where their young goalie shined. That was the first of eight wins in nine games.
The Flyers are finding a way to win games now, which is also helping them find a way to still somehow be a part of the playoff discussion. It may be a longshot, but stranger things have happened.
By the Numbers
How lopsided was this game? In the first period, the Oilers had the lead in shot attempts at 5-on-5, 17-10, and led in scoring chances, 11-3, and had eight high-danger scoring chances. They scored twice.
In the third period, the Flyers slowly pushed back. They led in shot attempts, 20-12, at 5-on-5 and had eight high-danger scoring chances. Edmonton did not have a high-danger scoring chance in the third.
Stat of the Game
Travis Sanheim recovered from a rough first period with a few turnovers and a misplay defensively that led to Rattie's breakaway. He finished the game with 19:06 of ice time, one assist, four shots, one hit and four blocked shots.