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Wrap: Flyers Lose to Canes in Stunning Fashion

March 19, 2023, 2:41 PM ET [149 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Wrap: Flyers Lose to Canes in Stunning Fashion

The Philadelphia Flyers were less than one-half second away from a 4-3 regulation victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday evening before disaster struck twice. Skating 6-on-4 with their goalie pulled and Philadelphia's Scott Laughton in the penalty box, Martin Necas scored with 0.3 second left on the regulation clock. On the first shift of overtime, Sebastian Aho put the puck through Tony DeAngelo's legs on the rush, went around him and then roofed a shot to complete a hat trick and end the game.

Even by the standards of what has been a very difficult season for the Flyers -- one in which they are a lock to miss the playoffs by a wide margin for the third straight year -- Saturday's outcome was a gut punch.

The way the game ended aside, Saturday's match was a highly entertaining game. Playing against one of the top teams in the NHL -- a Carolina club that was coming off a highly disappointing loss to Toronto the previous night and held a skinny one-point lead atop the Metro Division -- the Flyers played an overall strong game led mostly by a contingent of players who are 24 years old or younger.

Ultimately, the Flyers wasted multi-point efforts from Tyson Foerster (1st career NHL goal, 2nd career assist), Noah Cates (5-on-3 power play goal, one assist), Owen Tippett (one primary assist and one secondary assist), Morgan Frost (two nicely executed primary assists). They couldn't come away talking about Joel Farabee cashing in a game-tying rebound goal in the third period for a goal in a second straight game after enduring a 26-game goalless drought.

Among the contingent of players on the Flyers' roster who are 25 or older, 27-year-old impending unrestricted free agent Brendan Lemieux had a goal and an assist on Saturday. The apple was a secondary assist that triggered a give-and-go sequence between Frost and Foerster that led up to Foerster nabbing his first goal. The Lemieux goal was a go-ahead tally in the third period. He scored it into a gaping net after Frost pressured Carolina goalie Frederik Andersen into a turnover behind the net and center the puck to Lemieux in front.

The Flyers power play, bottom ranked in the NHL and net neutral (four PPG scored, four opposing shorthanded goals allowed) since the All-Star break entering Saturday's tilt, showed progress for the third straight game. Cates' 5-on-3 power play rebound goal cut a 3-1 deficit to 3-2 late in the second period. The Flyers now have scored a PPG in back-to-back games. On Saturday, the team's 1-for-4 showing came against the NHL's 2nd-ranked PK club.

The Flyers nearly avoided taking a penalty all night; something they desperately needed to do with their own PK in a freefall and the Hurricanes connecting on more than 20 percent of their power plays this season. Instead, with Carolina attacking 6-on-5 after pulling Andersen and Philly having had a couple near-miss opportunities for a win-sealing empty net goal, Laughton was called for a neutral zone hooking penalty at exactly 19:53 (7.0 seconds left on the clock).

Now on a 6-on-4, Carolina's Jordan Staal won the ensuing faceoff cleanly against Cates. Flyers goalie Felix Sandström made a save on ex-Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. With the PKers overloaded to that side of the ice, Gostisbehere attempted a desperation second shot into traffic. The shot was blocked by Philly defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and then rattled around before going to a wide-open Necas on the other side of the net. He knocked the puck over the goal line and into the net almost simultaneously with the buzzer.

A replay conference ensued. Replays showed that the puck entirely crossed the goal line with 0.3 second on the clock. The game went overtime, where the Flyers entered with a 1-10 record in games decided during 3-on-3 sudden death and a 2-11 record in all games decided beyond regulation via OT or shootout decision. Aho made quick work of Saturday's overtime and the Flyers dropped to 1-11 in OT finals and 2-12 in all post-regulation outcomes.

Back in the first period, Carolina built a 2-0 lead on goals by Aho (28th) at 14:52 and Brady Skjei (15th) at 16:51. On the first goal, the Flyers had their coverages scrambled as they were unable to clear their defensive zone. Ivan Provorov was on the right side around the hash marks, Cates rotated down low to assist Cam York behind the net. There were no Flyers guarding the house except goalie Sandström. The dangerous Aho received a pass in the slot from Necas and buried it. Sandström had little to no chance of stopping it.

The second goal was one Sandström needed to stop, especially with his team already trailing. It started with a failed clear by Wade Allison, which Brady Skjei intercepted. From above the left circle, the defenseman wristed a shot that beat Sandström over the glove to the far side. The goalie appeared to be victimized by an accidental partial screen by York but from that distance and angle, that was a save that Philadelphia needed to have made. Goals such as this are a significant part of the reason why Sandström is 1-10-2 this season after Saturday's game. It's certainly not all the netminder's fault but the "one bad goal per game" syndrome can be fatal on many nights.

At 4:51 of the second period, Tyson Foerster (1st NHL goal) narrowed the deficit to 2-1. It was a nicely orchestrated counterattacking give-and-go with Frost for the entry and goal just above Andersen's pad. The netminder seemed to be expecting a return pass from Foerster to Frost, and got caught in between on a nice low shot by Foerster.

Tippett, coming off a hat trick against Buffalo on Friday, once again had numerous scoring chances. Right after another bonafide goal opportunity, Tippett started to skate off for a line change. He tripped up a Cane for a delayed penalty. However, the Flyers never got a touch-up or stoppage as Aho buried another slot shot for a 3-1 Carolina lead at the 13:55 mark.

At 18:18, Cates potted a 5-on-3 power play goal (11th) rebound of a Foerster shot to send the game to the third period with the Flyers' deficit reduced to 3-2. Tippett drew the secondary assist.

At 3:33 of the third period, Joel Farabee (11th of the season) tied the score at 3-3, knocking home a Tippett rebound from the doorstep. Cates earned the secondary assist. Philly took a lead for the first time at 5:50 as Lemieux (2nd) received a Frost centering feed and scored into a gaping net off a goalie turnover behind the cage.

The Lemieux seemed destined to be the game winner, especially after Sandström made a save on Gostisbehere in the waning seconds of Carolina's end-of-regulation 6-on-4 power play. It wasn't to be as Necas (27th) beat the buzzer at 19:59.7 of the third period. Aho then scored off the rush at 0:28 of sudden death (30th goal of the season) to end the game.

Sandström stopped 29 of 34 shots in a losing cause. Andersen made 29 saves of 33 shots.

The Flyers shortened their bench in Saturday's game. Tanner Laczynski (seven shifts, 5:29 TOI, minus-two) and Allison (minus-two, 8:48 TOI) remained on the bench as the Flyers mostly rolled the top three lines and periodically double-shifted Frost with JVR and Nicolas Deslauriers on his wings in between Frost taking shifts with Foerster and Lemieux.
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