The San Jose Sharks dealt the Flyers the first loss of their current losing streak and then extended it to five games just nine days later when they beat them, 3-2, Saturday night as Tomas Hertl’s goal in overtime gave him a hat trick..
Both teams struggled to maintain control of the puck through the first period. As they traded possession and skated back and forth, the Flyers generated 15 shots while the Sharks put 13 shots on goal, but few were high-danger chances.
The scoreless first period was the first time the Flyers weren’t trailing after the initial 20 minutes since the last time they played the Sharks four games ago.
While the Sharks came out in the second period with more energy, it took the Flyers longer to heat up. They traded shots, but by halfway through the second, the Flyers’ chances were much better than the Sharks’.
This season, second periods have been a struggle for the Flyers. They have given up 43 second-period goals, second-most in the league. By not giving up one to the Sharks, the Flyers, for the first time this season, had consecutive games without surrendering a second-period goal.
The Flyers, again, started slow, forcing goalie Martin Jones to make two early saves in the third period, but James van Riemsdyk flipped the switch for the team when he scored on a breakaway. Five minutes later, van Riemsdyk netted another, tipping in Cam York’s shot from the point on the power play.
“We scored two quick goals and I think that was pretty fortunate because, honestly, if it wasn’t for Jonesy, we should’ve never been in that position,” Flyers interim coach Mike Yeo said. “I think we were lucky to get a point tonight and obviously we have to be better.”
On their 37th attempt, the Sharks finally got the puck past Jones, their former teammate, when Hertl registered his 11th point in 12 games. Then, he notched his 12th point, which tied the game and sent it to overtime.
Jones, who faced 47 shots, gave up a goal 43 seconds into the extra session on the first shot he faced in overtime.
Leaving it all on the boards
As they have most of the season, the Flyers struggled to move the puck into the offensive zone and set up any plays. They spent so much time trying to kill plays in the defensive zone, win battles on the boards, and gain control of the puck in the neutral zone that by the time they recovered the puck, they had to dump it and change shifts.
“I just remember us not having the puck a whole lot, to be honest with you,” Yeo said when describing the second period. “We put ourselves in a position where we had to defend the whole time and you build no momentum and the other team’s feeling good. I thought things got a little bit better as the period went on.”
The Flyers killed several of their own opportunities when they turned over the puck. They had six giveaways. The Sharks also recorded seven takeaways. When the Flyers finally scored their first goal in the third, it wasn’t on a controlled offensive possession but on a breakaway.
The Flyers finally found a rhythm offensively, but it didn’t last long. The Sharks responded with two of their own, and they outshot the Flyers, 20-4, in the third.
Fourth line spark
Their names won’t show up on the stat sheets for it, but the fourth line helped spark a momentum shift for the Flyers. All game, they played with a different level of physicality, barreling after pucks and forechecking hard.
That paid off in the second period when they started creating offense. On one possession halfway through the second period, they got off three shots, pulling the loudest cheer of the night from the crowd. After that, the team played some of its best hockey of the night and had its best opportunities.
By the end of the second period, they had generated 13 chances and given up just three as a line, which was the best among all four lines. They started most of their shifts in the defensive zone, which meant they had to win the face-off and move the puck up the ice to create the chances.
Cam York, No. 1 defenseman
York went straight from AHL call-up to the top defenseman for the Flyers. After returning to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms following training camp, York didn’t return to Philadelphia until he was placed on the taxi squad for the West Coast trip. His chance came when Ivan Provorov tested positive for COVID-19.
Rather than shift the pairings, Yeo slid York right into Provorov’s spot on the top pair. York not only slid into his place in the lineup, he also slid into a similar role, logging the most minutes for the Flyers.
“Guys come in; he’s got to perform and he’s got to accept that opportunity and he’s done that,” Yeo said. “He doesn’t seem to be shying away from it right now. He looks confident. He’s defending aggressively, assertively, and obviously part of his strength and a big part of his strength is his ability to move the puck.”
In the two games since, York has continued to lead the Flyers in ice time, and he’s held his own against opposing top pairs. His partner Justin Braun commented that York wasn’t intimidated by the Sidney Crosby line. Then, against the Sharks, York took Keith Yandle’s place at the point on the top power play unit.
York’s offensive contributions helped the Flyers push their lead to two in the third. After the Flyers passed the puck around, trying to generate an opportunity, York took a shot from the point. Van Riemsdyk tipped it in from his position in front of the net, and York recorded the assist. It was his first NHL career point. He finished with 23 minutes, 35 seconds of ice time, the most on the team, against the Sharks.
The Flyers host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. They played them on Nov. 12 and dealt the Hurricanes their first home loss of the season in a 2-1 victory.