Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 72: PHI 2, PIT 1 (OT) - Alive
After a game like that they might as well rename it St. Carter's Day.
The Philadelphia Flyers playoff hopes have been saved by the luck of the Irish. 18.8 seconds away from succumbing to a heroic Matt Murray, one bad bounce to Teddy Blueger, and refs who kept their Irish eyes shut (except when their were too many men on the ice), the Flyers once again kept the 18-wheeler from riding off the cliff, WINNING a heart-stopping 2-1 game over rival Pittsburgh in overtime.
Coming off a heartbreaking loss to Toronto that mathematically eliminated the club's preseason 100-point season goal from becoming reality, it would've been easy for the Flyers to mail it in Sunday. After all, captain Claude Giroux was reported as ill before the game, meaning the Flyers were close to another 11 forwards-7 defenseman combo. Add in that Carter Hart may have still needed a little more rust shaking off and the game was in Pittsburgh, and things didn't look great.
But a closer look at the scenario suggests otherwise. Yes, the Flyers were on the road. But they have won their last 3 games at PPG Paints Arena dating back to Game 2 last spring. The Penguins were also on the second half of a back-to-back, and while they were a solid 6-4-0 in that circumstance, it's still not easy for a team to deal with. Pittsburgh was also missing star center Evgeni Malkin, which would've cancelled out with G if he missed the game as well. But the captain took warmups and was good to go, giving the Flyers an edge.
The first period, especially the first five minutes, may have been the most fun period of the Flyers season. Play was back-and-forth, high octane, with both teams generating chances and both goalies standing tall. The only blip on the Flyers radar was a too-many-men penalty that the team killed off with relative ease. Carter Hart looked like the goalie that had gotten the Flyers back into the playoffs, and the game remained scoreless after one.
Shortly into the 2nd period, the Flyers got a power play of their own. With Nick Bjugstad in the box, Philadelphia appeared to score the first goal of the game when a Claude Giroux wrister snuck past Murray. However, the goal was immediately waved off due to goalie interference on Jake Voracek. After 10 minutes of time I'm never getting back, everyone came to the conclusion that it was Jack Johnson who hit Murray, but none of that even mattered because the play was offsides. It took two separate challenges and way more time than it should've have, but it stayed no goal. Just for a different reason than before.
The rest of the period was dominated by the Penguins, who in turn were dominated by Carter Hart. The Pens wound up outshooting the Flyers 18-7 in the 2nd period, with a bevy of chances coming right in front of the Flyers net. Rebounds, deflections, even a Nick Bjugstad breakaway came Carter Hart's way. But the young goaltender, who struggled in his first appearance against the Pens, was equal to the task and then some. Philly survived the 2nd period with the game still scoreless.
After the Flyers nearly scored in the opening minute of the 3rd on a Claude Giroux deflection, the Penguins inevitably broke the dam. Hart made a good save on Phil Kessel only to have the rebound kick right to... Teddy Blueger? Is that even a real person? The only other explanation is the puck hit off a ghost (no, not that kind of Ghost) and went in, which considering what happened Friday night honestly doesn't seem that far fetched.
Thanks to score effects and a couple of Pittsburgh penalties, the Flyers were able to control play throughout the 3rd period. Essentially, Philadelphia flipped the shot clock on the Pens, outshooting them 19-9 over the final 20 minutes of regulation. Unfortunately, the incredible goaltending also flipped from Starter Hart to Matt Murray, who unfortunately was in first 57 minutes of the Stadium Series form rather than how he played in the last 5. Just like the Pens in the 2nd, the Flyers threw everything but the kitchen sink on Murray, yet were being held at bay.
It seemed like the Flyers playoff hopes were destined to fade away right then and there. Pittsburgh came close to icing things with a goal into an empty Philly net in the final 100 seconds, but the Flyers kept them out. With 25 seconds to go, Shayne Gostisbehere and Sean Couturier made a great play in the neutral zone to get the puck in over the right wing. Coots found TK, who laid it off into the slot for-oh my gosh, did they actually just do that.
JAMES VAN CLUTCHSDYK!
#25 for #25 ties the game with 18.8 seconds to go, a snapshot from the slot to the left side of the net with Murray moving to his right. All of a sudden, the Flyers had life, momentum, and a point. But we all knew they needed two.
Pittsburgh came so close to winning the game in overtime. Carter Hart made perhaps his best save yet, sprawling out to rob Brian Dumoulin of the game-winner on a rebound. Despite some chances, it appeared the game was headed to the coin fl-I mean the shootout, sorry. Eh, what's the difference, neither one includes defense.
Then the Flyers got the puck in their own zone with 15 seconds left, just enough time to engineer a breakout. Sean Couturier took the puck up the right wing, but it looked like things were going nowhere. Until Jack Johnson possessed Sidney Crosby, who in a drunken St. Patty's day stupor took a massive gamble to try and strip the puck. But Sid should know an elite 1st line center like Sean Couturier wouldn't give up the puck that easy, and all of a sudden the play became a 2-on-1.
With 7 seconds left, Coots made his move around Sid. With 6 seconds left, he crossed the blueline, rapidly going over his options. With 5 seconds left, he had to choose between a pass to Giroux on the left wing or a shot. With 4 seconds left, he shot it.
At 3.4 seconds left, Flyers eyes were smiling.
ELITE 1ST LINE CENTER SEAN COUTURIER SAYS TAKE THAT 59-MINUTE SHUTOUT AND SHOVE IT WHERE THE SUN DON'T SHINE, MATTHEW! A perfect wrist shot inside Murray's blocker found the back of the net mere seconds before the buzzer, completing an amazing comeback for the Flyers, a necessary one to keep whatever slim playoff dreams they have alive.
*Mandatory Standings Update*
7th: Carolina - 85 PTS, 71 GP, 38 ROW (1st WC)
8th: Columbus - 84 PTS, 72 GP, 39 ROW (2nd WC)
9th: Montreal - 81 PTS, 72 GP, 35 ROW
10th: Philadelphia - 78 PTS, 72 GP, 33 ROW
That doesn't look great. Say for a moment the Flyers win out. That puts them at 98 points. Assuming none of the teams in divisional spots drop out of the playoffs (highely unlikely, as all are 3+ points clear of Carolina) and the Canes make it, Philly would need some major help. Columbus could go no better than 6-3-1 (or any variation that leads to less than 14 points), while Montreal must be kept under 8-2-0 (or any combination leading to less than 17 points). Neither of those are impossible - however, both happening and the Flyers winning out are nearly impossible. The odds are not on Philly's side. But odds can be defied. If the Flyers can take care of business down the stretch, there's still a good chance that they pull off the impossible.
Another reason why the Flyers are heavy underdogs to make the playoffs? Strength of schedule. 8 of the Flyers final 10 games remaining are against playoff teams, and one of the two teams that aren't (Chicago) is only 5 points out with a game in hand on 8-seed Arizona. They also have two back-to-backs to deal with.
Starter Hart is officially back. Hart kept them in the game through a barrage in the 2nd period, then went 7-for-7 in 3-on-3, including the aforementioned highlight reel save on Dumoulin. Sunday was his 3rd 40+ save effort of the season, making him the 3rd goalie 20 or under since 1987 to hit that mark, per Hockey Reference.
It's a good thing he's healthy, because the Flyers have lacked stability in net for a while to say the least. In fact, they've started a different goalie in each of their last 6 games in Pittsburgh. From most recent to least - Hart, Stolarz, Lyon, Elliott, Mason, Neuvirth.
Oskar Lindblom was absolutely dancing throughout this game. Lindy showed off some moves in his arsenal we (and probably he) didn't even know he had. He made a spin-o-rama in the 1st and through-the-legs move in the 3rd, but was the same tenacious, effective forward throughout the contest. He's going to be a heck of a "supporting" player going forward.
The Flyers comeback would not have been possible if it wasn't for the hustle of Ivan Provorov. With 80 seconds to go, Provy dove out to win a race against two Penguins with the puck rolling towards an empty Flyers net. It may not show up on the stat sheet, but this win never happens if it's not for vintage Provy showing up once again.
Turns out no play in NHL history before Giroux's no-goal had been double challenged before. So just like in 3-on-3, the Flyers find themselves on the wrong side of a "first" in NHL history.
1st - C. Hart (PHI) - .976 SV% (41 Saves/42 Shots)
2nd - S. Couturier (PHI) - 1 G, 1 A
3rd - T. Bleuger (PIT) - 1 G
PHI - 3/19 vs. MTL (37-28-7, 3 PTS ahead of PHI)
PIT - 3/19 @ CAR (39-25-7, 7 PTS ahead of PHI , so go Pens! I feel dirty)