As time ticked away and the Flyers just tried to survive with a 3-2 lead, a pass made its way through to Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle. He took a split-second to control then fired toward an open net.
Michal Neuvirth dove across. The six players wearing white raised their sticks in celebration.
Referee Brad Meier waved his arms to signal no goal. Neuvirth's desperation had worked.
It would have a heartbreaking goal to allow, just two seconds away from a key regulation win. Instead, the save of the season may have saved the Flyers season.
"I knew I hit it with my stick but I wasn’t sure if I had the stick behind the goal line," Neuvirth said. "You know I’ve had saves like that time to time in practice. Especially with the timing, it’s got to be one of the best saves I’ve ever made for sure."
"It was a hell of a save," head coach Dave Hakstol said. "I think that goes without saying especially when you add the time and the way he was able to fight that puck off. It didn’t look like the puck crossed the line I guess from the bench. Until you look at it on video, I mean there’s no way to tell for sure. It was a heck of a save in a great time in the game."
The Flyers 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild helped the Flyers open the homestand on the right note. Losses by New Jersey and Carolina helped them gain ground on three teams in the standings. Picking up two points on the Devils and Hurricanes and closing to within three points of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wildcard spot.
"We talked about it before the game and we wanted to start good," Neuvirth said. "It’s a good win for our confidence and we have to make sure that we bring the same effort on Saturday."
"It’s that time of the year and it’s really tough," Mark Streit said. "We were on the road for a few weeks here and when you come home you want to start on the right foot. It’s a tough team to play against. They’re in the scrambles for a playoff spot, they play well, they play defensively and they never quit. We held onto it and it was a great win for us."
It's important to remember how the Flyers got into the position to secure the win in the final seconds. It took Neuvirth's desperation to survive, but the Flyers used grit to score two of their three goals in the game.
Sam Gagner's goal in the first came on a netmouth scramble. Gagner charged into the crease and managed to find the puck and bury it.
"This time of year you have to get to the net," Gagner said. "It’s tough for goals to be scored in this league so you have to find some other ways, but that’s the majority of goals, and you have to find a way.”
The game-winning goal early in the third went to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who scored for the first time since Dec. 8. Off a hard-working shift behind the net by Chris VandeVelde, Bellemare came charging and and on a dive managed to lift a shot over Devan Dubnyk.
"The first goal was pretty much the same thing. You take it to the net and go to the blue paint," Bellemare said. "Our goal was, it’s a grind goal pretty much. Vandevelde is making a nice move and I’m just trying to see where the puck is going to come. I just dove for it and lucky enough it goes in."
"Just a grinding hard working goal," Hakstol said. "You saw quite a few of those shifts actually both ways teams grinding out. There’s no easy ice. That play by Belly and his linemates was probably typical of this time of year. You just stay with it and find a way. He got to a rebound in front and just chipped it in the net."
A loss of any kind on Thursday would have only hurt the Flyers even more. While the most of their competition suffered losses on Thursday, a loss by the Orange and Black would have only been more lost time for the Flyers. Cutting the margin to three and gaining on two teams is enough to restore a little bit of hope, at least until the team takes the ice again on Saturday afternoon.
Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.