Flyers
Jake Voracek and the Flyers outlasted Keith Kinkaid and the Rangers in a wild overtime victory Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. (Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via AP)

Voracek yourself before you wreck yourself! The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 5-4, in an OT thriller, over the New York Rangers. From cruise control to utterly crushed to a late lead that wasn’t, this game had it all. And most importantly, it also had two points for the Flyers, somewhat quelling the frustration of the team’s recent skid.

The Flyers and Rangers entered this game in pretty different situations. Philadelphia had lost four of five, including three meetings with the Capitals that pushed them down in the standings. New York hasn’t turned their season all the way around, but they pulled off one of the most dominant performances for any team this season Saturday. Holding the potent Bruins to just 18 shots and prevailing in a 4-0 rout is nothing to scoff at it. Though it’s worth noting the team’s leading scorer Pavel Buchnevich, outstanding defenseman Adam Fox, and depth forward Phil De Giuseppe missed today’s game on the NHL’s COVID list.

Both teams came out of the gates pretty strong, making some nice passes and pushing the pace. But the Flyers were the only team to translate that onto the scoresheet. After the Rangers came dangerously close to creating an odd-man rush, the Flyers did just that. Sean Couturier took a hit at the red-line to filter the puck ahead. Joel Farabee took it and threaded it around an aggressive defender, springing James Van Riemsdyk to the goal uncontested. He slipped a backhander through Keith Kinkaid’s wickets, giving the Flyers an early 1-0 lead.

As is becoming tradition, a goal was scored within two minutes of a Flyers tally. But this time, it was a goal of their own. Seconds after a Rangers icing, Philadelphia turned a face-off win into another red light. Sean Couturier won the draw, went to the net, and screened Kinkaid as an Ivan Provorov shot fluttered past him.

But the Rangers came out guns blazing in the second period. The Flyers didn’t get a shot on goal until over eleven minutes had elapsed, and by that point, their lead was gone. Two backdoor one-timers; one scored by Artemi Panarin, the other set-up by him to Colin Blackwell, tied the game. It was a mess of a period for the Flyers, who couldn’t navigate the defensive or neutral zone with any semblance of success. By the time they finally stabilized, the Rangers kept pushing. After Hart made one breakaway save, Julien Gauthier burnt Shayne Gostisbehere at the blue-line and elevated a nifty backhander for his second NHL goal and the third straight for New York.

The scary part is it easily could’ve been worse; that period alone could have cost Philadelphia the game. The Rangers posted stellar 5-on-5 rates (62.96% Corsi, 66.57% xG) and four high-danger chances. Seconds before the Gauthier goal, Carter Hart stopped Ryan Strome on basically the exact same play. James van Riemsdyk has to swat the rebound off the goal-line. Ryan Lindgren hit the crossbar. The game easily could have snowballed out of reach. But with less than two minutes to go in the period, Gauthier took an errant high sticking penalty, giving the Flyers a chance to salvage the period.

In order to tie things up, the Flyers turned to something that worked very well last year. Michel Therrien has implemented a lot of confusing formations and personnel groups on the power-play, but there’s one thing he’s brought that I really liked; it’s what resulted in goals like this and this last season. The Flyers, who usually operate out of the traditional 1-3-1 PP set-up (point man, a player at each circle, bumper in the slot, net-front presence) started running some set below the goal-line plays. It worked well last year, and it worked again here, as Claude Giroux found Joel Farabee for a bomb from the left-circle to emerge from the second with several scars, but not a deficit.

Yet the Flyers couldn’t sustain their momentum. They started the third by killing off a roughing penalty from a late second-period scrum (more on that below). But the Rangers stayed strong at 5-on-5. New York’s fourth line won a board battle, and birthday boy Brendan Lemieux found Kevin Rooney for a slot snipe past Hart, restoring the Rangers one-goal lead.

But once again, a Julien Gauthier high stick turned the game back in Philly’s favor. This time, the referees almost missed it, but a review confirmed a damning double-minor for a high-stick to Giroux. After the refs actually missed a clear delay of game call on Brendan Smith (though in fairness, Nate Prosser also got away with one earlier in the game), the Flyers captain traded in his bloody nose for a game-tying goal. Giroux swung below the goal-line, popped out back post, and buried an amazing feed from Jake Voracek.

The end of the third period was a total heart-stopper. Philadelphia looked like they took the lead on a late PPG by Kevin Hayes… only for an offsides review to bring it back. After killing off the rest of the penalty, Jacob Trouba and Colin Blackwell both found themselves with A+ chances on the ensuing counter-rush. In the end, the usual outcome for a game tied late in the third period; the joy of 3-of-3 overtime.

Well, usually it’s joyful. Most of this 3-on-3 actually turned out to be a bit of a snoozefest. If overtime was decided by keep-away instead of scoring first, the Rangers would’ve won running away. New York lowered the energy of multiple Flyers groups to zero with all of the puck possession, though they weren’t able to generate much offense. Then again, considering Rangers shooters went 2-for-2 in a shootout win over Hart and the Flyers earlier in the year, New York seemed content to play out the 3-on-3 to a standstill.

But as every parent has told their children, too much of anything is a bad thing — even puck possession. After Travis Sanheim jabbed the puck down the ice so the Flyers could get a much-needed change, Keith Kinkaid tried a quick stretch pass to catch the Flyers napping. But one Flyer stayed on. Jake Voracek jumped the pass intended for a flat-footed Artemi Panarin. After being stopped on a breakaway shot earlier in the game, Voracek deked Kinkaid out of his pants for a winded but well worth it overtime winner!

Just in case you wanted a source for the winded assertion. Voracek’s OT winner (his 9th as a Flyer) coming at the end of a minute-and-fifty-one-second shift probably says enough on its own.

Once again, the Flyers pull out a come from behind win against a team they really shouldn’t need to come from behind against. No offense to the Rangers, but with Kinkaid starting and Fox and Buchnevich out, the Flyers have a far superior roster. Philadelphia was easily the better team for forty regulation minutes. The Rangers absolutely dominated the middle twenty, and that nearly cost the Flyers everything.

It’s not just the period-by-period breakdown that’s confusing. The special teams stepped up. Carter Hart had his ups and downs, but stood tall throughout and picked up the win. The Shayne Gostisbehere-Nate Prosser pairing sputtered out a 3.59% xG (not a typo!). The Flyers had more shots on goal than the Rangers, but not more 5-on-5 shot attempts (42.86% Corsi; 46.39% if adjusted for score and venue).

Looking at the bigger picture, the Flyers aren’t back in a playoff spot, but their win and the Bruins’ seventh loss in their last ten puts them one point back. Of course, that’s the same Bruins team that’s seemingly been in their head, taking all five head-to-head meetings in 2021. It’s the definition of a mixed bag. What it becomes in the future is anyone’s guess. It could be the magical turning point the Flyers Twitter prophets have spoken of. It could be another one step forward, one step back. But at least it’s something good at the moment. Considering last week’s debacles, that’s something we can all smile about.

Check out what’s going on around the NHL in the latest edition of Gavin Daly’s Three Majors and a Minor.

Lindies

The Flyers have won five consecutive games against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden dating back to February 18, 2018. Tonight’s game is the only of the five to be settled in 3-on-3.

The Flyers have allowed three or more goals in eight straight games, aka every game since Hart’s shutout against the Sabres. How different people view this game will likely vary more than most wins, but that’s a stat that everyone knows needs to improve.

Speaking of Hart, the numbers don’t look great (.833 SV%, 4 GA on 2.23 xGA), but the player did. The first three Rangers goals were unstoppable (though the first was from fairy well out, albeit from Artemi Panarin). Hart could’ve but not necessarily should’ve had the fourth one (and said postgame there were a couple he should’ve saved), he looked much better. Hart held off the Rangers second-period barrage for as long as he could, then robbed Chris Kreider backdoor early in the 3rd. Not perfect overall, but he didn’t suck or anything like that. He’ll be back in net either Wednesday or Thursday with a back-to-back looming (at Rangers Wednesday, at Islanders Thursday), so we’ll see if he can build on this win pretty soon.

Michael Raffl returned to the line-up after missing the last four games with a hand injury. A bit surprisingly, Raffl found himself at center in his return, a position he’s played in sparingly in his NHL career. Good to see him return to the line-up regardless.

Scary moments for Nolan Patrick and Farabee who both suffered injuries late in the first period. Patrick twisted his ankle along the boards and Farabee took a slap-shot to the top of his skate. Thankfully, both returned before the end of the period and finished the game, suggesting they’re good to go moving forward.

All of the “Flyers need more toughness” fans got their wish when Nolan Patrick and Jake Voracek went after Brendan Smith following a huge (but clean) hit on Claude Giroux late in the second. It was the right thing to do, although it was frustrating (but the correct call) that Smith, Patrick, and Voracek received roughing minors, putting the Flyers short-handed less than two minutes after the Farabee goal. Great to see those two having Giroux’s back and the Flyers PK and Hart having theirs.

Brian Elliott actually didn’t dress for tonight’s game; Alex Lyon served as the backup. Moose thankfully isn’t hurt; Alain Vigneault just wanted to give Elliott the night off after he had a full skate in the morning.

Joel Farabee’s goal is his first of the year on the PP and just the second PPG of his career. And speaking of PP milestones, Ivan Provorov recorded his 100th NHL assist on the Giroux goal.

Since February 7th, only Patrick Kane (1.53), Connor McDavid (1.50), Mark Scheifele (1.38), and Auston Matthews (1.38) have more points-per-game than Sean Couturier (1.36). Coots has been as consistently dominant as ever for the Flyers since returning from his early-season shoulder injury.

The Fox absence definitely hurts the Rangers’ chances, but it produced a feel-good moment. Rookie defender Tarmo Reunanen made his NHL debut and registered the primary assist on the goal scored by Panarin, who played in his first home game since his leave of absence.

Always great to see teams rocking their Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys in warm-ups like the Rangers did tonight. One of these days I’d love to see teams wear them in games. Major League Baseball has special jerseys for events like Mother’s Day; I’d love to see the NHL follow suit someday.

Philadelphia’s power-play has now scored in four straight games, their longest streak of the season (previous high: 2). The penalty kill is 90% in their last five games, and nearly scored their first shortie of the year when Kinkaid stopped Scott Laughton on a breakaway in the 3rd. Hopefully, this is the beginning of Philly’s special teams turning the corner for good.

Congratulations to Flyers prospects Tyson Foerster and Wade Allison! Both scored their first professional goals (it was also Allison’s first pro game) in the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ 4-1 win Saturday over the Hershey Bears.

Some more news good for Pennsylvania sports fans; the state is increasing allowed capacities to 50% for outdoor games and 25% indoors starting April 4. The city of Philadelphia would need to match these for the Flyers and 76ers (and soon the Phillies) to benefit. That would allow about 5,000 fans (about a 2,000 fan increase) into games.

The NBC Sports Philadelphia caption writer remains undefeated. This is great.

Flyers

3 Stars

3rd: Joel Farabee – Goal (12), Assist (12), 3 Shots, 22:34 TOI (Career-High)

2nd: Artemi Panarin – Goal (6), Assist (15), 21:10 TOI

1st: Jakub Voracek – Goal (4), 2 Assists (16, 17)

Next

3/17, 7:30 PM – PHI vs. NYR

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