Although the Flyers were outplayed for most of regulation, a goal by Joel Farabee in the last five minutes sent the game against the San Jose Sharks to overtime, extending the Flyers’ point streak to seven games (5-0-2) despite an eventual 3-2 loss.
Despite their late arrival in San Jose the night before, the Flyers were determined to come out with energy. But when the puck dropped, that energy wasn’t evident. Messy passes and penalties had the Flyers backed up in their own zone for much of the first period as the game stayed tied at zero.
When the Flyers started to find their stride in the final minutes of the opening period, it reflected in the score. Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny set up Morgan Frost for the first goal of the game, giving the Flyers the lead heading into the second.
Rather than build off the energy of the goal and a second-period fight, the Flyers handed control of the game over to the Sharks. They gave up two quick goals, one on their own power play and another seconds later.
With just over four minutes left, Keith Yandle, whose turnover led to the first goal, made up for it with a pass from the neutral zone to Farabee, who tied it up and sent the game to overtime. After trading chances, the Flyers gave up a goal in the final 30 seconds.
Felix’s feelin’ it
Any NHL debut is exciting, but a goalie’s debut is something special.
“It’s just the position itself is a lot more under the microscope,” Konecny said before the game. “And everyone’s watching, and plays — kinda every play through them ends on him. So it’s a lot more to watch.”
Despite the scrutiny and the excitement, Felix Sandstrom played a cool and confident game — even though his first save of his NHL career was on a dangerous shot by Jeffrey Viel off of a break-out pass. Sandstrom faced 12 shots on goal and two power plays in his first period without giving up a goal.
“He looked really calm and I think that’s kind of just a character trait of him on and off the ice,” said Frost, who played with him for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
While Sandstrom was beat on the Flyers’ own power play, there wasn’t much he could do on the shorthanded goal, which was created by Yandle’s turnover. He then stopped two more shorthanded attempts on the same power play and finished the second period, tallying 14 more stops while giving up just one even-strength goal.
The onslaught didn’t let up in the third, but Sandstrom came up big. When the Sharks opened the third on a power play, he made three big saves to keep the deficit at one. He held off 13 third-period shots before the Flyers tied it. He finished regulation with 42 saves and finished the game with 43 saves on 46 shots.
Sandstrom said, while he was disappointed not to walk away with the win, it was a great experience and a lot of fun. Farabee, however, took the blame for the loss off Sandstrom’s shoulders.
“(Sandstrom) made some big saves and kept us in it,” Farabee said. “Obviously, we want to win for him, but I think with everything, I thought he played a hell of a game.”
Power play deja vu
The last nine games haven’t called for instant dread when the Flyers go on the power play. After their long drought, they had finally found some rhythm and had scored six goals on 21 power plays and created momentum with their man advantage.
But the first power play against the Sharks looked like the Flyers’ power play of old. Logan Couture won the face-off from Claude Giroux, and after an unlucky bounce for the Flyers, scored seven seconds later. The Flyers reset and tried to take advantage of the remaining 2:53 of their power play. Instead, they gave up two more shorthanded shots.
“You always have an opportunity to come back out and get that goal back and get the momentum back,” interim head coach Mike Yeo said. “We didn’t do that.”
Down by one in the third, the Flyers were given a 5-on-3 advantage. But for the first 40 seconds, they stayed largely stationary before finally getting a shot off. They then lost the puck three times in a row, leaving them with only 30 seconds. The 5-on-3 ended with just two shots on goal.
“Our power play has given us a lot of goals lately, has given us a lot of momentum,” Yeo said. “Tonight it was off. But also, I think the way we responded to that being off, it didn’t take away from the rest of our game.”
Couturier placed on IR
With the NHL’s new COVID-19 guidelines for players who test positive, first-line center Sean Couturier had the chance to rejoin the team earlier. Instead, he went straight from the COVID-19 list to the injured reserve list.
Forty-five minutes before puck drop against the Sharks, the Flyers announced they had placed Couturier on injured reserve and described his status as “week-to-week.”
Couturier was missing from practice on Dec. 20 for what Yeo said was a “maintenance day.”
“Sean’s been battling with various upper and lower body injuries all year,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “Give him credit. He’s a warrior. He keeps playing hard. But a day like today, it’s an opportunity for him to rest up and be at his best when it matters in a game situation. And not sort of have him waste his energy for a practice day.”
The next day, Dec. 21, Couturier was back in the lineup for the game against the Washington Capitals, which was postponed. Five days later, on Dec. 26, the Flyers announced Couturier had tested positive on Dec. 21 and went into COVID-19 protocols.
The Flyers are also missing centers Scott Laughton and Derick Brassard, who are both in COVID-19 protocols.
The Flyers will head to California and rest a day before they play the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 1 at 10:30 p.m.