Reserve goaltender Alex Lyon won his first NHL game in nearly two years and Sean Couturier had three assists as the Flyers beat Colorado, 6-3 on Saturday night.
Lyon made 28 saves, including 11 in an otherwise sloppy first period, to put the Flyers in position to get back into the playoff race. At last for another 24 hours.
Joel Farabee and Kevin Hayes scored a pair of goals, including a shorthanded tally by Hays with less than four minutes left.
It was just the second time in 15 games the Flyers had scored at least five goals, but this would have been different if not for Lyon, who was in the lineup because of Carter Hart’s injury.
“That guy works his butt off and has had a great attitude since he’s been here,” said defenseman Matt Niskanen. “It’s awesome to see a guy like that get a win.”
Lyon was asked to come up big just 34 seconds in when he turned away a wide-open Matt Calvert from inside the right faceoff circle. The 27-year-old Yale graduate was starting his 10th NHL game.
“This is extremely personally gratifying,” Lyon confessed. “I think I’ve learned at this point being around these guys, who are so even-keeled. I think the challenge for me in the next 24 hours is going to be to come back down to earth. I’ve learned the hard way that you just don’t know when you’re going to get the opportunity.”
Lyon made two appearances for the AHL Phantoms while the Flyers were enjoying their extended break following the All-Star weekend, the most recent on Tuesday.
In the second period, Lyon stopped Nathan MacKinnon on a partial breakaway with a staunch right pad as MacKinnon tried to stuff the puck home. MacKinnon, fourth in the league entering Saturday with 30 goals, then rang the post 15 seconds later. Sometimes it’s OK to be lucky.
“No doubt, the difference in this game was Alex,” coach Alain Vigneault said.
The win moved the Flyers into the eighth and final playoff spot in a chase that figures to change nightly.
Farabee capitalized on two of Couturier’s assists.
“I don’t know how he saw me on the second one,” said Farabee.
Each time the Flyers tried to pull away, Colorado kept climbing back. With Hart injured and Brian Elliott having played the night before in Pittsburgh, the Flyers had no choice but to go with their third-stringer against a Colorado team that came in leading the NHL in goals per game.
Lyon’s 28 saves included a stop on J.T. Compher on a full breakaway following Colorado’s third goal in the third period when the game was just 4-3. He didn’t make every save, but he made enough to keep the Flyers in it.
“Backup goalie in general is not an easy position,” Niskanen said. “That’s got to be the toughest to stay mentally sharp when you’re out of rhythm. ... You’ve got to respect guys who keep a good attitude and are appreciative when they get a chance.”
The Flyers head to Detroit on Sunday and will play the Red Wings on Monday. Detroit easily has the fewest points in the league. They are on an 0-7-1 slide after losing to the Rangers on Saturday.
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere skated again Saturday and appears on track to play Monday at Detroit. That probably means Robert Hagg would come out.