Wrap: Flyers Dispatch Columbus, 5-2
The Philadelphia Flyers have won five games in a row for the first time since the 2019-2020 season. On Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers (10-7-1) skated to a 5-2 victory over the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets (4-11-4, winless in last nine games).
The game was tied at 1-1 heading into the second period. The Flyers took a 3-2 edge into the third period and then closed it out by limiting the Blue Jackets to five shots on goal in the final stanza.
Goals from Joel Farabee (7th of the season), Bobby Brink (PPG, 4th), Ryan Poehling (SHG, 2nd), Travis Konecny (11th) and Cam York (ENG, 2nd) led the way offensively for the Flyers. Samuel Ersson quietly played a very solid game in net, earning the win win with 20 saves on a night where he didn't say a high volume of chances but was tested by tough chances at some key junctures of the game.
In a losing cause, Alexandre Tessier (4th) and former Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov (2nd) scored for Columbus. Goalie Spencer Martin stopped 20 of 24 shots.
Columbus hung around in the game until a sniper's goal from the bottom of the right circle from a very patient Konecny put a stranglehold on the game. Even beforehand, the win never truly felt in jeopardy for the Flyers but it just takes one mistake or one unfavorable bounce off a skate or shinpad to alter a one-goal game. Konecny's picturesque goal at 12:40 of the third period came on just the Flyers' second shot on goal of the third period. The first was an Owen Tippett breakaway chance one shift earlier.
Special teams, especially the penalty kill, played a huge role in Sunday's outcome. The Flyers went 5-for-5 on the PK including Poehling's shorthanded goal that just barely crossed the goal line. Martin reeled it back with his right pad and trapped the puck. The puck was just visible enough over the line to conclusively call it a goal. Poehling knew right away, however, that the puck had gone over the goal line.
Beyond the Poehling goal, the Flyers authoritatively killed off whatever penalties they took and turned the kills into momentum builders. One especially important kill came right after Provorov cut the Flyers lead to 3-2 in the second period. Right off the drop of the puck on the ensuing center ice faceoff, Tyson Foerster took a needless holding the stick penalty. If Columbus had scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game, it could have a disastrous way to go into the third period after having led by two goals and controlling most of the play.
Instead, the Flyers killed off that penalty emphatically. I believe that the calm, cool, and collected way Philly handled the challenge played directly over into a pretty orderly closeout in the third period. The Blue Jackets mounted one final threat -- a Justin Danforth breakaway shortly after the Konecny goal -- but it was snuffed out by Ersson.
One day after breaking a 0-for-26 drought on the power play with a pair of power play goals against Vegas, the Flyers went 1-for-4 on the power play on Sunday. Back in the lineup after sitting out each of the three previous games as a healthy scratch, Brink cashed in quickly on the Flyers' second power play of the night. He moved into the circle off the half-wall and saw a wide open shooting line with Farabee moving to the net. Brink found the target.
The first (although no goal resulted) and second Flyers power plays against Columbus were strong. The latter two looked like most of Philly's man-advantage opportunities during their 0-for-26 spell. It's something that head coach John Tortorella rightfully pointed out after the game, and is still very much a work in progress.
Poehling, who was moved up to the third line at 5-on-5 at the same time the offensively struggling Noah Cates (13:46 TOI on Sunday, 0 shot attempts, 4-for-4 on faceoffs), finished the game against Columbus with a three-point game. There was puck luck involved on the two assists. The first was on a puck that squibbed past a defender and directly to Farabee, who took care of the rest and scored on a nice backhander from the slot. The latter assist was on York's length-of-the-ice empty net goal from behind the Philly net. It was almost like an air hockey ricochet that the D-zone boards just right and slid into the cage at the other end.
Sunday's game was a night where all the bounces went Poehling's way, but it should be added that luck is also the product of being in the right place to make a play. Also, the 2-on-0 shorthanded breakaway goal on a give-and-go (Poehling-to-Garnet Hathaway-to-Poehling) would never have happened if not for an excellent play in the defensive zone by Sean Walker and the Blue Jackets being caught napping.
The Flyers were guilty of some sloppiness in their own right. Ersson had to make a couple of tough saves during the game on highly touted rookie Adam Fantilli to erase issues in front of him. Walker, who otherwise had another very strong game, had a third-period turnover that forced the blueliner to take a slashing penalty to partially slow a Grade A chance from the slot for Fantilli.
All in all, the Flyers did what they needed to do against a scuffling team they should beat. It wasn't perfect but it was a deserved win, and that's the bottom line.
After last night's game, Jason Myrtetus and I recorded this week's "Mondays with Meltzer" edition of the Flyers Daily podcast. We talked in-depth about what's driving the five-game winning streak -- strong first periods and playing from ahead, clutch goaltending, improved forechecking and transition play, the penalty kill stepping up at key times, etc -- and dissected the weekend sweep of Vegas and Columbus. To listen, click here