It was kids day at the Wells Fargo Center and the Flyers gave their young fans a lesson in what happens when you don’t put away a supposedly inferior opponent.
Bad things happen.
Despite overwhelming Calgary goalie David Rittich, especially with 18 shots in the second period, the Flyers let the Flames hang around long enough to force overtime. The Flyers then lost their third straight shootout when none of their three guys could solve Rittich and Calgary walked out with the 3-2 win.
“Obviously, the ultimate goal is to get two points, and we didn’t, so it’s not good enough,” said Kevin Hayes, who scored for the second consecutive game. “[But] I thought there were some positives in the game.”
The Flames, who had lost six in a row, hadn’t been able to do anything right on the road until they arrived in Philadelphia. Even getting here was more difficult than it should have been when their charter was delayed, forcing them to spend an extra night in St. Louis.
Hayes and Jake Voracek, two players pushed by coach Alain Vigneault for more production, scored for the Flyers. Voracek’s goal was his first in 13 games and came when he dove to deposit a puck that had slipped behind Calgary’s goalie after a Travis Sanheim blast.
“I knew it was coming sooner or later,” Voracek said with a shrug. He was more proud that he and linemates Sean Couturier and Oskar Lindblom held the Flames’ top line in check.
Hayes, who ended a 12-game scoring drought of his own with an empty-netter Thursday, scored his goal on a play set up when Joel Farabee stripped Rittich with about six minutes left.
“For those two players,” Vigneault said of Hayes and Voracek, “I think it was a step in the right direction.”
The play with Farabee was Rittich’s only mistake of the day and it led to the Flyers’ taking a 2-1 lead in the third. It should have been enough, but it was not.
Elias Lindholm scored with less than two minutes left to force overtime after Calgary had pulled its goaltender.
Lindholm pumped in a rebound off a Rasmus Andersson shot that went way wide and caromed off the boards behind Carter Hart. Plenty of teams try this as a set play, but Andersson said it wasn’t intentional and the Flames got “a lucky bounce.”
Flames star and local product Johnny Gaudreau got the secondary assist for the only point for Calgary’s top line, which at that point was on the ice against the Claude Giroux, Tyler Pitlick, and Scott Laughton unit.
Calgary’s first goal, 61 seconds into the third period, came off a sequence set up by a turnover from rookie Morgan Frost.
“That was definitely a tough shift,” said Frost. “The puck blew off my stick two or three times. Definitely would like to have that one back. Unfortunately, they scored on it. I take the blame for that shift and that goal.”
Frost played just 2 minutes, 47 seconds in the third period and did not see the ice in overtime. Vigneault does not play around.
The Flyers carried most of the play in the extra session, but Rittich held firm. He then stopped Farabee, Giroux, and Couturier in the shootout.
The Flames went into the day in a deep enough drought that their mascot should be a camel. They had gone 11 consecutive periods on the road without a goal. Even though that stretch extended to 13 periods, they picked up the win when Matthew Tkachuk beat Hart for the only goal of the shootout.
The Flyers are 3-5 in shootouts this season, losing their last two. But they have also played 12 games since that 7-1 disaster in Pittsburgh in late October and gotten 16 points for a .667 points percentage (a 109-point pace). Still, they should have gotten a win Saturday.
See, kids. Nothing in life is handed to you.
“We’ve got to find ways to close out games and that’s a tough one at the end. [Their] guy misses the net by five feet and ends up right on their stick,” said Sanheim. “We’ve got to try to close out those games.”
Vigneault has not been hesitant to bench his young defensemen, and Saturday was Shayne Gostisbehere’s turn in the doghouse.
Gostisbehere has one goal in 22 games and played less than 11 minutes Thursday night, his lightest ice time in three years. Robert Hagg stayed in the lineup and was paired with Phil Myers.
“They have a heavier team on that third and fourth line, so for our third pairing with Phil [Myers] there, I thought Haggs would give us a good look."
Sanheim took Gostisbehere’s place on the power play.
Forward Scott Laughton returned after missing 13 games with a broken finger. He played 15 minutes, 13 seconds, which is right around his average ice time.
Speaking of youngsters, TSN.ca ranked the NHL’s 50 best players under 24 years old and the Flyers had three players make the list.
Ivan Provorov checked in at No. 23 overall, No. 7 among defensemen. He was joined by Carter Hart (28th) and Travis Konecny (45th). Got to wonder if Joel Farabee and/or Morgan Frost make this list next season.
Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were 1-2. Boston’s David Pastrnak, Toronto’s Auston Matthews, and Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson rounded out the top five.
It will be “Hockey Fights Cancer Night” when the Flyers host Vancouver on Monday. The place will be decorated in lavender and light-purple rally towels will be handed out to fans.
The Canucks beat Washington on Saturday afternoon, also in a shootout, 2-1.