The Philadelphia Flyers have won back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 18-20. On Wednesday night, the Flyers erased an early 2-0 deficit for the second straight game and went on to defeat the Boston Bruins
, 4-3, in a nationally televised game.
The keys to the win: outstanding goaltending from Carter Hart, stellar second period and third period penalty killing, and enough timely offense to prevail despite getting outshot, 42-19.
Sean Couturier recorded the first regular season hat trick of his career (goals 17, 18 and 19 on the season); a natural hatty at that. It was the first natural hat trick by a Flyer since Scott Hartnell had one on January 22, 2012, also at home against Boston. Per the NHL stats database, the occasion marked the first time since October of 2002 that the Flyers had players record hat tricks in consecutive games, and just the eighth time in team history it’s happened.
Oskar Lindblom played an excellent game in many regards, including breaking out of his long goal-scoring drought (5th of the season) and assisting on Couturier's third goal.
"I’m getting more and more ice out there and the more you get out there, the more comfortable you get. I feel like we played very good today. We need those in those tight games, so it was an important one," Lindblom said.
Claude Giroux picked up two assists for his 37th and 38th of the season and the 500th and 501st of his NHL career. He joined Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke as only the second player to record 500 assists in a Flyers uniform.
"It’s feels great. I’ve been lucky to play with really good players and lucky to be able to give the puck to all these players. It’s a great accomplishment but we just have to keep going here," Giroux said.
Once again, Hart was stellar in goal. He had no chance on any of the three goals he allowed on 42 shots, and made a host of vital saves along the way including a breakaway stop on David Pastrnak and a one-on-one save against Ryan Donato among them.
The Flyers went 1-for-3 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill. The latter may sound pedestrian, but one of them was a successful five-minute kill late in the second period and early in the third after Jori Lehterä received a boarding major and game misconduct for a hit from behind on Donato near the defensive side boards that drew blood. The Flyers subsequently had to kill two additional penalties in the third period.
"I thought our forwards did a good job coming down the walls and things like that, eliminating their time with the puck and once they did, our defensemen were going down on it and our forwards were sealing the wall. It was huge for us to get that big five-minute kill," Scott Laughton said.
The Flyers blocked 30 shots for the game; many on the penalty kill. Robert Hägg led tehw ay with seven blocks, while Ivan Provorov blocked five. For the night, shot attempts were a whopping 84-34 in the Bruins' favor. Boston also missed the net a dozen times.
Called up by Boston on Tuesday, Peter Cehlarik tallied twice (1st & 2nd) for the Bruins. David Pastrnak opened the scoring with an early first-period power play goal (27th). Torey Krug and Brad Marchand picked up two assists apiece.
Jaroslav Halak, who shut out the Flyers at TD Garden the first time the teams met this season, took the loss. He was not at fault for the Flyers first three goals but Couturier's hat trick goal was a leaky one despite it coming on a 2-on-1.
The Flyers were lucky to escape the first period down only 2-1, for which they mostly had Hart to thank. However, the Flyers' play picked up over the latter part of the period. Philly was opportunistic in the second period, scoring twice on seven shots. The third period was all Boston until Couturier's insurance goal.
"It’s not by design for sure, but I think there is a mindset. Obviously, we didn’t have a good first period, it wasn’t just the first two goals. Carter gave us a chance to still be in the game with the saves he made, but we did have some pretty good chances ourselves, we just made it way too easy for Boston, and the fact that you get down 2-0, and you don’t have your best period, you get the one goal and then you start the second period on the right foot," said Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon.
"We talked about with Boston how much they get their shot from the slot and as much as we talk about it, we were giving them up all the time in the first period, and in the second period we paid attention to that, and the game got a little bit easier for us. But it started in our zone. I thought we were way too lose in coverage, and sometimes to go back to your question, it’s not so much that we’re down 2-0 and were going to flip the switch as far as attacking with the puck and making plays, for me it started with the defensive zone, and we got back to doing that, and I think overall, we’ve been consistent with our defensive zone coverage and responsibilities and that’s when the game has changed for us."
A synopsis of the goals:
0-1 BOS (PP, 4:39 1st pd)
: With Lehterä in the box for tripping, the Flyers failed to prevent a pass through the box by Krug to the deadly Pastrnak below the left dot. Hart did all he could to quickly move laterally and got a piece of the shot but not quite enough. Marchand got the secondary assist.
0-2 BOS (9:12 1st pd)
: The goal sequence arose from a Bruins counter out of the defensive zone. Giroux got caught in no man's land in the defensive zone and winger James van Riemsdyk only arrived back in the defensive zone a split second before the goal was scored. Jake DeBrusk made a tape-to-tape pass to Cehlarik in the right slot, and made no mistake. No goalie was stopping this one. David Krejci drew a secondary helper.
1-2 PHI (12:44 1st pd)
: Lindblom had been knocking on the door several times in recent games and finally got rewarded. Giroux hit him with a perfect pass and Lindblom's shot from the left shot was partially deflected by Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara and past Halak. Provorov got the secondary assist.
"Well, he probably could have been different sooner if the coach had put him on a higher up line at the beginning. The way he is playing is the way I saw him playing in Lehigh. Whether he scored or didn’t score, you got the same game from him every night. Now he’s had a couple opportunities, hasn’t been able to score or he’s made some nice plays, the guys he has made the nice plays to hasn’t score, so it was nice for him to be able to get a goal and an assist," Gordon said.
2-2 PHI (5:32 2nd pd)
: Couturier worked a give-and-go with Voracek upon entry into the offensive zone. As Couturier continued on his path, he tipped in Voracek's wrister toward the net. Travis Sanheim got the other assist.
3-2 PHI (PP, 6:47 2nd pd)
: Boston had a shorthanded scoring opportunity against the Flyers' five-forward first power play unit and Philly then scored the other way on a counter. Couturier crashed the net to ram in the final part of a tic-tac-toe puck movement sequence on the rush from Giroux to Wayne Simmonds to the goal scorer.
4-3 PHI (15:53 3rd pd)
: Lindblom's strong work sealing off a Bruin on the defensive wall and then getting the puck to Couturier made the rest of the sequence possible. From the left circle, Couturier's low shot leaked through the five-hole to complete his natural hat trick and provide some much-needed insurance. Provorov got another secondary assist.
4-3 BOS (18:54 3rd pd)
: With Halak pulled for a 6-on-5 attack, the Bruins drew back within one. Marchand's side-angle shot was deflected by Cehlarik and changed directions past Hart. Krug got the assist.
Down only by one goal again, Boston pulled Halak a second time for a 6-on-5 attack. Krejci was forced to take an interference penalty on Couturier at 19:44 to prevent the Flyers center from getting to the puck for what would otherwise have been a surefire empty-net goal for his fourth goal of the game. Boston never got back up-ice again, and time expired.
The Flyers (18-23-6) now have two nights off. They will practice on Thursday and Friday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. On Saturday, the team is on the road to take on the Montreal Canadiens in Philly's final game before their bye week and the NHL All-Star break.
Phantoms Snap Losing Streak, Defeat Springfield, 3-1
Coming off three straight regulation losses and defeats in two of three games the prior weekend, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms came out with urgency and downed the Springfield Thunderbirds by a 3-1 count at the PPL Center in Allentown on Wednesday night. The victory was the Phantoms' first on home ice this month.
Taylor Leier (10th), rookie center Connor Bunnaman (10th) and Mike Vecchione (10th) all hit the double-digit goal mark for the season in building a 3-0 lead for the Phantoms before the game was 27 minutes along. Mikhail Vorobyev, Colin McDonald, Greg Carey and Carsen Twarynski collected an assist apiece while defenseman Reece Willcox had two.
Alex Lyon earned the win goal for Lehigh Valley. He stopped 26 of 27 shots, getting much busier as the night went along after the Phantoms took a 10-4 shot lead and 1-0 scoreboard lead to the first intermission. A mid second period goal by Springfield's Jacob MacDonald was the only puck that got past Lyon.
Samuel Montembeault got the start for Springfield and took the loss. He was pulled after the Phantoms took a 3-0 lead early in the second period. Montembeault stopped 13 of 16 shots in his 26:32 of work. Relief goaltender Chris Driedger went the rest of the way, denying all 13 shots that went on his net.
Leier has been red hot of late, scoring seven goals in his last six games (he missed last Saturday's game due to illness). He got the Phantoms on the board first on a play started in the defensive zone. After a defensive zone draw, Vorobyev sent the puck down the ice. Leier outmaneuvered a defender, claimed the puck and beat Montembeault on the backhand at 9:22 of the first period. The assists went to Vorobyev and McDonald.
The lead grew to 2-0 at 5:14 of the middle stanza. Bunnaman got himself to the "greasy area" and, after Carey won a puck battle and put it at the net, deflected the puck home. Bunnaman has a four-game point streak including back-to-back games with a goal.
The Phantom struck again quickly, chasing Montembault at 6:32 after Vecchione scored. On the play, Vecchione and Willcox worked a give-and-go and the second-year Phantoms center found the net with his shot.
Looking to give his team a desperately needed spark Josh Brown sought out a fight with Tyrell Goulbourne. Although giving up six inches in height to Brown, Goulbourne got the better of the bout. However, the Phantoms forward also received an automatic additional minor penalty for removing his helmet during the fight. The Phantoms killed the penalty on the way to going 3-for-3 on the PK. Lehigh Valley was 0-for-4 on its own power plays.
At 13:44 of the second period, Springfield's MacDonald narrowed the gap to 3-1 on a third-chance opportunity near the net after Lyon made an initial save and then a follow-up stop. The assists went to Ryan Horvat and Anthony Greco.
The Thunderbirds generated a 12-6 shot edge in the third period as they pressed for a comeback. However, Lyon and company withstood the attack and closed out the game for the win.
Lehigh Valley (21-15-3) is on the road on Friday to play the Hartford Wolf Pack and then returns home on Saturday to take on the Rochester Americans.