COLUMBUS - Less than a minute on the game clock separated the Flyers from another loss devoid of consistent offensive production. Worse yet for the orange and black, if the score through 59 minutes had stood, the decisive goal would have belonged to former Flyer Scott Hartnell.
But with 55.3 seconds left, the puck squirted through the pads of Sergei Bobrovsky. Brayden Schenn was rewarded his second goal of the evening. The Flyers ensured themselves that they would steal at least a point.
They would have liked to walk out of Nationwide Arena late last night with another, though. One minute, 58 seconds into overtime, Kevin Connauton negated that opportunity, corralling a perfect pass from Ryan Johansen and firing a shot past Steve Mason.
The Blue Jackets' 3-2 win, their season-high fourth in a row, meant the Flyers (9-13-5) capped their five-game road trip with a 1-2-2 record. They arrived back in Philadelphia ahead of tomorrow night's game against the Devils (11-13-5) having lost seven of their last eight games, 11 of their last 13.
They were lucky to even get a point last night, Schenn noted. Columbus (10-15-2) held the edge in shots, 24-21, 10 of Philadelphia's coming in the third period or overtime.
"It was a tough game from our standpoint,'' Schenn said. "[We] didn't generate a whole lot, weren't great in our own end and we were lucky to squeeze into overtime.''
Columbus moved within a point of sixth-place Philadelphia in the Metropolitan Division standings. The Flyers are 3-9-3 in road games this season and have yet to win consecutive games away from the Wells Fargo Center.
"It has to do with five guys giving the right effort on the ice at once, playing the game the right way the whole time for 60 minutes,'' said Flyers coach Craig Berube, who used the word "average'' to describe the road trip as a whole. "We played the right way in the third period and we got a point.''
The Flyers didn't put enough pressure on Bobrovksy, who has a .948 save percentage in the Blue Jackets' four consecutive wins. They were 1-for-4 on the power play, scoring in the first period on a one-timer from Claude Giroux to Schenn.
Schenn's second score of the night, in the final minute of the third period, came on a redirected puck sent toward the net by Jake Voracek. Schenn's two-goal night gave him nine on the season, tying him with Voracek for second on the team behind Wayne Simmonds (11).
The Blue Jackets scored both their regulation goals with a man advantage. On the first, Braydon Coburn blocked a Boone Jenner pass intended for the other side of the net, only for it to bounce right back to Jenner with plenty of open net in front of him. The second was Hartnell's.
Standing just outside the crease with his back to the net, the former Flyers alternate captain kicked the puck off his right skate, corralled it with his stick and, backhanded, whisked it around his left skate and behind him.
Mason, without his stick after chaos in front of the net, dived to his left but had no chance. Hartnell emphatically pumped his right fist and let out a celebratory yell as his power-play 'mates skated over to embrace him.
With all that went on in front of the net, one could have made a case Mason was interfered with.
"I haven't seen the video, but I felt that I had contact that pushed me out of the net and didn't put me in a position to get back,'' Mason said. "The puck was sitting there in front and Hartnell banged it in.''
Hartnell's first goal in 13 games signified his first against the Flyers in nine career games as an opponent. It was his first point in the three meetings between these teams since the surprising June trade that abruptly ended his tenure as a Philadelphia sports fixture.
For a while, it appeared Hartnell's goal, his sixth in 27 games, would hold up as the game-winner. After the Flyers had pulled Mason for an extra attacker, not more than 15 seconds before Schenn's equalizer, a Columbus player's across-the-ice shot on the empty net skidded just wide.
Connauton's overtime score was his first goal of the season and the second of his NHL career. It ended a sequence that began with a Sean Couturier turnover in the Flyers' offensive zone. Johansen drew in Andrew MacDonald and fit his pass in front of a chasing Matt Read to give Connauton a clear shot on goal. Couturier and Read overstayed their shift, according to Berube.
The breakdown ended the Flyers' chance of consecutive wins for the first time since their three-game winning streak from Nov. 4 to Nov. 8. They are back at practice today to ready for their second meeting with New Jersey.
"It's great that we got [the point],'' Mason said "It's huge for the standings. It would've been nice to get the two. But I don't think anybody was happy with the effort. I think we looked sluggish out there. Until the last little bit we weren't generating enough offense.
"[Berube] says in the second intermission, 'You're not going to win many games with that kind of offensive production in the offensive zone,' and he's right. We have to generate more. We have to shoot more. We'll take this one point, but we have to have a better effort all around. Right now it's just not good enough on a consistent basis.''