The Flyers were badly outplaying Columbus on Saturday night, but their modest two-game winning streak appeared to be ending because Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo was, in hockey parlance, standing on his head.
And, then, a late-two goal deficit -- and the game -- took a stunning turn, when Shayne Gostisbehere’s blast deflected off the Blue Jackets’ Nick Foligno to get the Flyers within 4-3. That started a shocking ending in which the Flyers scored five goals in the final 9 minutes, 8 seconds.
The 4-2 deficit turned into a 7-4 Flyers victory at the percolating Wells Fargo Center.
“It was huge,” Gostisbehere said of his first goal of the season. “It was a big one for the boys, and one of the biggest things was how we responded. Down two goals in the third, and maybe some past teams we would have folded and gave that one away, but it was a big character win.”
Less than two minutes after Gostisbehere’s goal, James van Riemsdyk’s second tally of the night tied it at 4-4 with 7:23 left. Kevin Hayes scored on a shorthanded breakaway, as he put in his own rebound with 5:38 remaining, sparking the Flyers to a had-to-see-it -to-believe-it victory that ended the dazed Blue Jackets’ six-game point streak.
The late outburst increased the Flyers’ winning streak to three games. They scored five third-period goals for the first time since Dec. 19, 2013, which was also against Columbus.
Van Riemsdyk had two goals and an assist to pace the Flyers, who iced the win on Michael Raffl’s empty-net goal with 1:39 left. With 13.3 seconds remaining, Travis Konecny added a power-play goal.
“That’s just sticking to it," Hayes said. "I think we had close to 50 shots again,”
Third-line center Boone Jenner scored a pair of goals for Columbus, which was outshot, 46-26.
“I don’t think there was one specific turning [point]. We deserved to win this game,” said coach Alain Vigneault, whose team had a 76-38 domination in shot attempts. “We were the better team. ... We gave up that an early goal in the third” to fall behind, 4-2, "and our guys just kept battling.
“Basically after two periods, we said we’re going to find a way to win this game, and we did,” he added.
Besides van Riemsdyk, Hayes and Jake Voracek had three points for the Flyers, who faced a
4-2 deficit with less than 10 minutes left.
“It was smoke and mirrors that we were up by two at that time,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “I just don’t think we played well enough. I don’t think we played hard enough. We got what we deserved.”
Gostisbehere’s goal ignited the comeback.
“He’s another guy who’s had a ton of good looks . ... and it was nice to see him get a bounce there to go his way,” van Riemsdyk said.
The Flyers had tied it at 2-2 with just 2:21 left in the second, as van Riemsdyk (power play) scored for the second straight game. Just 25 seconds later, Columbus retook the lead when Jenner scored after Brian Elliott was unable to control a rebound
Earlier in the period, Pierre-Luc Dubois’ fourth goal in his last four road games put Columbus ahead, 2-1, with 17:32 remaining in the second.
Five seconds after a penalty to Sean Couturier ended – he had yet to get into the play -- Dubois came in alone from the end line and beat Elliott. Defenseman Robert Hagg appeared to miss the coverage.
Couturier (shorthanded) and Matt Niskanen were stopped by Korpisalo on second-period breakaways. Niskanen went in alone after he left the penalty box. Late in the second, Korpisalo also denied Joel Farabee, who was alone in front, and he made a sliding save to turn aside Konecny with 55 seconds to go in the period.
Flyers left winger Scott Laughton took a puck off his right hand early in the second period and did not return. Vigneault said he had a broken finger and would miss about four weeks. Tyler Pitlick will go into the lineup Sunday against the host Islanders.
Both goalies gave up bad goals in a first period that ended at 1-1.
“I don’t know if I deserved that win so much, but the guys did, and they pulled it out for me,” said Elliott, who was shaky after two straight outstanding performances.
The early 1-1 first period seemed like ancient history after the stirring late comeback, aided by Hayes scoring a goal in his third straight game.
“We’re playing our best hockey. We’re getting a lot of chances,” Hayes said. “JVR was playing lights-out at the end. He’s been unreal so far.”
The Flyers started a string in which they will play 14 straight games against Eastern Conference opponents. They play the Islanders Sunday night in Uniondale, and Carter Hart will get his first start in the last four games.