Shayne Gostisbehere made a fist with his right hand and roared.
Before his teammates skated over to celebrate the early first-period goal -- a rocket that shot across the ice -- the defenseman’s body shook with an energy visible from up near the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers still had nearly a full game of hockey left to play before securing a 4-3 win, and at times they’d look like a lesser team, one rattled by the Ottawa Senators’ chippy, physical style. A period later, Gostisbehere would even be part of an embarrassing miscommunication between him and young goalie Carter Hart that would lead to a shorthanded Ottawa goal.
But for a fleeting few seconds, as the scoreboard changed to 2-1 Flyers, Gostisbehere celebrated, by himself as the crowd cheered. And he had reason to take in the moment in such an impassioned yet personal way.
The score marked his third goal in five games since returning last week from a three-game benching, a break that coach Alain Vigneault called a “reset." That number already exceeds the one goal he scored in the 22 games prior.
The 26-year-old, who’s in his fifth NHL season, said he would give his confidence high marks in Saturday’s emotional game, the vibe of which changed once Travis Konecny was flattened by a violent hit and left the game with an unspecified upper body injury. The collision lit "a spark” in every player on the team, and Gostisbehere said it complemented his growing confidence.
His mindset “was good," he said. “It was a weird game. I have some opportunities, and I’m just trying to take them in stride here. But the way we responded as a team, to come back a couple times, was huge for us.”
Gostisbehere’s biggest mistake of the game came in an ugly second period when he and Hart botched a handoff on a Flyers’ power play, which already has its share of struggles.
“It was just a miscommunication with Hartsy," the defenseman said, in an assessment Hart later echoed. “I think we could’ve made a better play, both of us. I could’ve talked a little more, and it’s a learning thing.”
Gostisbehere has experience learning from on-ice struggles. After logging 65 points two years ago, he has said he battled confidence issues and mental fog early this season and could’ve been a more supportive teammate.
During his three games off the ice, he said he spent a lot of time by himself, reflecting on how he could be both a better player and a better teammate. His renewed confidence has shown not only in his game stats but also in his body language.
And in his answers to reporters’ questions in the locker room on Saturday, he often turned the conversation back to his team’s grit and perseverance. He was candid, too, when asked whether the Flyers’ 2-1 loss to the Senators last month played a role in this win.
“You never really want to play down to your competition," he said, "but for us I think that stung a little bit because we knew we were the better team, and I think we even played better that night, too.”