Flyers
Most of Sunday’s Devils-Flyers meeting was a slog like the one pictured above. But a late Philadelphia comeback ignited the crowd, and the Flyers ultimately prevailed 4-3 in the shootout. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Not gonna lie, didn’t see that ending coming! Take what you can get at this point. The Philadelphia Flyers WIN, 4-3, shootout and come-back style, to the New Jersey Devils. New Jersey has now lost 10 straight; this is the first time they’ve gotten a point since April 8. The teams will meet three more times before the week is up. Please hold your enthusiasm, I’m sure it’s overflowing.

The Flyers could not have started this game any worse than they did. Their first five minutes or so were incredibly uninspired, and they paid for it. Michael McLeod nearly scored right off the opening face-off, then Pavel Zacha was denied on a breakaway, and eventually, the Devils lit the lamp. A bad read by Phil Myers, who stepped up in pursuit of the puck in the neutral zone to no avail, led to a 3-on-1 with only Claude Giroux back. McLeod passed it cross-crease to Nathan Bastian, who returned the favor to set up a tap-in. Brian Elliott looked sharp early, but not even Elasto Man could’ve stretched out to stop that one. 1-0 Devils.

The good news is the Flyers (and Myers) would get revenge. On a set-play off a face-off win, Myers launched a D-to-D one-timer that Sean Couturier deflected past Mackenzie Blackwood. That allowed the Flyers to settle into the game, and they turned their terrible start into a decent period (54.06% Corsi, 44.61% xG at 5-on-5, score and venue adjusted). It ended with just the two aforementioned goals on the scoreboard.

However, the Flyers’ third pair would be burnt again before long. On a seemingly innocent rush, Bastian outmuscled Sam Morin to the outside, and once again, Myers got overly aggressive. Instead of staying with his man, Myers came over to try and play the puck. Granted, this was a much more calculated risk; what were the odds Bastian could make a highlight reel feed while Morin was knocking him to the ice? Answer: high enough. Bastian got it over, and Miles Wood tapped it into the yawning cage. His team-high 16th goal breaks the tie.

The second period came and went without much of note, with a last-minute too many men penalty on NJ setting the Flyers up heading into the third. Philadelphia failed to take advantage of it, then Kevin Hayes took a penalty of his own just seconds after it expired. The Flyers killed that off but never came close to generating a tying goal before the Devils expanded their lead. New Jersey nearly took advantage of a couple of turnovers, but eventually, Jesper Bratt twisted a pass to the slot for Zacha to chip home and all but put the game away.

Hold up, just like in their last uninspiring effort against the Devils, the Flyers are trying to make this a game late. With Elliott off for the extra attacker, Jake Voracek sneaks a pass through Zacha’s skates, and Giroux juggles it before sniping on Blackwood short-side. Not like they’re gonna tie it, though. The Devils have possession of the puck in their own zone. They’re fine… until they’re not. A turnover along the boards, a shot-pass by JVR, and captain Claude tips it in to tie it!

The only good chances of OT came for Jack Hughes on a 4-on-3 PP and a late good look for McLeod off a turnover by Brian Elliott. But Elliott held down the fort, erased his own late mistake, and pushed the game to the shootout. The first two Flyers shooters (Giroux and Couturier) beat Blackwood five-hole. But the Flyers couldn’t finish the deal, with Yegor Sharangovich and Jesper Bratt scoring with their backs against the wall. After a couple of big saves by both goaltenders, Kevin Hayes undressed Blackwood with a beautiful backhand deke. Nico Hischier nearly snuck another equalizer through, but Elliott just barely held him off. Comeback complete!

Devils-Flyers games used to be incredibly boring during the days when the Devils personified the neutral zone trap. Yet this one probably makes a strong case for the most boring “Battle” of the Jersey Turnpike to date. Neither team had anything particularly meaningful to play for, and it showed in spades for most of the game. The Flyers looked like a team counting down the seconds until their season is over (28,800, barring more potential overtime action). That’s what Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault really don’t want to happen, and what the team can’t afford. That looked like it would be the main takeaway from this game. And then in the blink of an eye, it wasn’t.

This season is over — it has been for a while — but it can still build momentum, good or bad, for the future. Young players like Wade Allison and Jackson Cates have been playing with plenty of energy. Part of the reason that’s so noticeable is that the players who have been here all season look out of gas. Considering the COVID outbreak, the condensed schedule, and the season’s frustration, that’s certainly understandable. But the last two minutes show the veterans still have some fight left in them, which is very important.

These games may not matter much for the current standings, but this is time to set good habits that the Flyers can carry over into next season when they are hopefully a much more successful club. The Flyers can’t close the entire gap between where they want to be and where they are now in these last eight games. But they can shrink it — maybe by just a little, but every inch counts. Tonight’s comeback effort does just that; nothing more, nothing less. And if nothing else, it’s better than just plain giving up.

Lindies

Samuel Morin returned to the line-up today, with Shayne Gostisbehere coming out due to injury. Ghost will be out for 7-10 days with an MCL strain. Nicolas Aubé-Kubel was healthy scratched today, with Nolan Patrick taking his place at fourth-line right-wing.

Speaking of injury noise, it sounds like Carter Hart’s injury is a little more serious than originally thought. He hasn’t resumed skating or practicing, but the Flyers sound hopefully he’ll return before too long. No point to rush him right now, though.

Here’s basically the same message from a much more credible source.

More taxi squad roulette!

McLeod’s 1-0 goal gave the Devils their first lead in 354:06, a streak that cracked the top-10 all-time longest streaks without a lead. New Jersey hadn’t lead in at any point in their last eight games. Related note: when did the Devils become so terrible? The Devils snapped a nine-game regulation losing streak tonight, tied with Buffalo for the longest this season. Like the Flyers, their season really fell off the tracks after an early-season COVID outbreak. But they’re now just two points clear of the Sabres for last in the East (albeit with a game in hand).

The Flyers have now surrendered the first goal in seven consecutive games. Then again, the last game they scored first ended in a catastrophic defeat, so maybe they’re seeing how much cause-correlation there is between the two before they score first again.

Tonight was Nathan Bastian’s first multi-assist game in the NHL. He certainly earned it, too; both assist were primaries and absolute beauties. It’s his third multi-point NHL game overall.

Since the NHL starting tracking team PK% in 1977-78, only two teams (the 1979-80 and 1982-83 LA Kings) have had a worse single-season PK than the 2020-21 New Jersey Devils (69.5%). They’ve been even worse (54%) over their last eleven games. The Flyers could not manage even one shot on goal during their lone PP of the night. So… yeah.

Claude Giroux’s first goal snapped an 11-game goalless drought and tied Brian Propp for the third most points ever by a Flyer. His second goal, career point number 850, passed Propp for sole possession of third-place.

If you would like to read about a different enigmatic Philadelphia team that is still trying to live up to their potential, check out my fourth installment of the 7th-Day Stretch.

3 Stars

3rd: Miles Wood (NJ) – Goal (16), Assist (8), 5 Shots

2nd: James van Riemsdyk (PHI) – 2 Assists (22, 23)

1st: Claude Giroux (PHI) – 2 Goals (12, 13), 4 Shots, 63% Face-Offs, 20:37 TOI

Next

4/27, 7 PM – PHI @ NJ

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