The volume in Wells Fargo Center jumped up and down as the Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning traded breakaway overtime chances followed by strong saves. However, the arena was quickly silenced Thursday night when the Lightning’s first two shootout attempts went in to give Tampa Bay a 4-3 win.
The Flyers jumped out to a quick start with two goals in the first 11 minutes from Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny. Despite the 2-0 deficit, the Lightning dominated puck time and chances.
The Lightning started the second with a man advantage. While the Flyers killed the initial penalty, they immediately went on the penalty kill again and quickly gave up a goal. With five minutes left in the second, the Lightning tied the game on a wrist shot by Mathieu Joseph.
The score stayed locked despite two Flyers power plays and multiple chances until late in the third when Hart gave up a fluky goal to Steven Stamkos.
The Flyers rushed to pull their goalie with less than two minutes to play. Giroux, helped by Konecny’s screen, tied it with eight seconds left.
The Flyers and Lightning traded breakaway chances, but both goalies held strong in overtime to send it to a shootout. However, both Giroux and Sean Couturier missed while Stamkos and Brayden Point easily got around Hart. The Flyers are now 0-2 in shootouts this season and 53-93 in shootout history.
New lines, new life
For the first time since the Flyers started tinkering with the lines, a new combination showed an immediate spark.
Within seconds of hitting the ice together, Cam Atkinson and Derick Brassard helped set up an easy scoring chance for Giroux. Atkinson and Brassard have played many games together, but Giroux has consistently been on the top line with Couturier and Konecny or James van Riemsdyk.
In the second, Brassard made a backward pass to Atkinson, who immediately directed it to Giroux. If not for a weird bounce, it would have been another easy shot for Giroux.
“It’s fun,” Giroux said. “Their hockey IQ is really good and as a line, we just tried to make the right play. If we do that, we’re gonna get our chances. Being able to have that first game together and we know we can play better as a line, we’ve just got to keep building on it.”
The second Flyers goal came from another new combination. In his first game partnered with Oscar Lindblom and Laughton, Konecny was put in a two-on-one with Lindblom and scored easily. It was the first time the Flyers had taken a multi-goal lead since their game against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 6.
“Them switching up some of the lines tonight worked out,” said Konecny, who gave Giroux’s line an extra shout-out.
Hart stays busy
Despite facing more than double the number of shots Andrei Vasilevskiy faced through two periods, Hart held solid and only gave up one goal and one power play goal. Hart faced 26 shots to Vasilevskiy’s 14 through the first two periods, but he would have faced more if not for his teammates.
Both forwards and defensemen put their bodies on the line, blocking 16 shots by the end of the second period. Several players had to shake off the hits, but their efforts helped reduce the number of dangerous chances Hart faced.
“He’s doing what a goaltender needs for a team to have success and that’s give his team a chance,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We need top-end goaltending, and we’re getting it right now.”
Hart gave up a third goal in the final minutes of regulation on what looked like a routine save. Following the game, Hart chalked it up to an equipment malfunction. Normally, his pad would stop that puck, but it didn’t seal correctly, and it got between his shin and toe to the goal.
Hart rebounded by going toe-to-toe with Vasileskiy in overtime, making numerous saves on breakaways. He finished the night with 29 saves but went down in the shootout.
Anything but the power play
The Flyers spent more time on the penalty kill than the power play, but with how things have been going, that might have been a positive. Even with new units, the Flyers fell to 7-for-47 with the man advantage.
The Flyers didn’t send their power play unit out until the last seconds of the second period. With very little time to work with, they created a shot opportunity for Giroux. However, the clock buzzed first, and it didn’t go down on the stat sheet. When they came back out in the third, they only created one more shot, a bank pass to Konecny.
As soon as the Flyers went back to five-on-five, they immediately generated more chances and drew another penalty. Once the power play unit went out again, their shot production drastically decreased to one shot in the two minutes with an advantage.
The Flyers were able to dominate the third period with help from their power plays, but their 15.6% power-play percentage ranked 26th in the NHL before this game. Now, their average has dropped to 14.9%.
Konecny pointed out that their final goal came when they pulled their goalie, which gave them a 6-on-5, technically a man advantage. He also said that the stat doesn’t tell the full story.
“The coaches talk about creating momentum on the power play,” Konecny said. “It’s not all about goals and I think we did a lot of that tonight.”
The Flyers have the day off from practice, and then they play the Boston Bruins (8-5-0) at home Saturday at 7 p.m. It’s the second time the two teams have played this season. The Flyers took the first meeting, 6-3.