PHILADELPHIA – The latest episode of “Goalie-gate’’ had a semi-happy ending for the Flyers on Saturday, thanks to a tying goal by rookie Nolan Patrick with just 2.6 seconds remaining in regulation time.
Even though the Flyers went on to lose to the Ottawa Senators in a six-round shootout, 4-3, the Flyers did salvage a valuable point.
However, the dramatic finish to cap a late two-goal rally did not come without some drama.
Coach Dave Hakstol, mindful that goaltender Michal Neuvirth was still feeling the effects of a stomach flu, decided to start rookie goaltender Alex Lyon for a second straight game.
Lyon surrendered three goals in two periods before he was replaced by Neuvirth.
The Flyers, down 3-1 after two periods, allowed Ottawa only three shots in the third period (outshooting the Senators, 16-3), so Neuvirth wasn’t taxed that much.
Of course, Neuvirth (who’s been pressed into service due to a lower-body injury to No. 1 starter Brian Elliott) did have to work hard in a scoreless overtime (three shots), plus five more shots in the shootout before Mike Hoffman finally put an end to the festivities with a Peter Forsberg “Olympic move.’’
Neuvirth said he had a talk with Hakstol on Friday, which is more communication than he had with the coach during the game at Washington on Wednesday when the Czech netminder said he felt a loss of energy after the first period on the way to a 5-3 loss.
Changing goalies on Saturday appeared to have the desired effect.
“I think it changed the momentum a little bit,’’ Neuvirth said after the Flyers stopped a string of regulation-time losses at three. “It gave our team a little spark. It worked out good. . .honestly, it sucks like we lost in a shootout but it’s still a huge point for us.’’
Neuvirth admits he’s still not a hundred percent.
“I’m still battling with the flu,’’ he said. “I’m starting to feel better and better.’’
Hakstol said the switch of goalies had little to do with Lyon’s play and more about trying to get his team going.
And giving Lyon the start had something to do with the state of Neuvirth’s health.
“That (the Neuvirth illness) was part of the thought process (for starting Lyon),’’ Hakstol said. “That being said, he (Neuvirth) was available if needed and I thought that (second intermission) was the right time to make a change for our team going into the third period.
“He did a good job in the overtime and the shootout.’’
A goal by Sean Couturier at 3:53 of the second period got the Flyers to within a goal of the Senators, but that rally didn’t last long.
First, Couturier scored when Travis Konecny’s hard shot handcuffed goalie Craig Anderson. The rebound came to Radko Gudas, who backhanded a pass to Couturier for his 27th goal on a shot past Craig Anderson.
However, the Senators got that one back at 13:02. Claude Giroux slipped to the ice, setting up a two-on-one rush for the Senators. Chris DiDomenico finished off a feed from Ryan Dzingel.
The Flyers came out looking rather sleepy, falling behind 2-0 to the Senators, who entered the game with the fewest road points (16) in the NHL.
Matt Duchene opened the scoring, breaking past a Scott Laughton check and beating Lyon short side up high at 10:53.
Just 39 seconds later, Derick Brassard scored when the Flyers’ down-low coverage broke down.
It was still 3-2 Ottawa until Patrick connected from a scramble in front of the net in the dying seconds.
Lyon really couldn’t do much to prevent either goal.
Was he surprised to get the second straight start (after opening in New Jersey on Thursday night)?
“I’m just taking it day by day,’’ he said. “Just try to get in there and do the best I could and let the chips fall where they may. I felt good today, had good preparation. Didn’t end the way I hoped it would. Just keep grinding.
“Neuvy did a great job coming in. The boys did a great job battling back – it’s a big point.’’
The Flyers felt like they deserved to get something out of this game, especially after blowing leads at Washington and New Jersey. The one point kept them in a playoff spot for at least one more day.
“I think we played a pretty solid game,’’ Travis Konecny said. “I think we’ve been playing that way the last three games, we finally got a point and I think we deserved that.’’
Sean Couturier said the Flyers kept the faith, even though it was an uneven effort.
“I think we responded well in the second and third period,’’ he said. “That’s what we needed. But we need a better 60-minute effort.’’
The well-earned point should help the Flyers’ psyche after two disappointing losses.
“I think the way we played the last few, we didn’t play terribly,’’ Andrew MacDonald said. “I thought we had really good stretches, just some untimely errors. That being said, there are ups and downs all through the season. It’s just finding consistency and when you find that, you usually end up on top.’’
Wayne Simmonds played in his 499th game as a Flyer. . .Couturier moved into a temporary tie for third in NHL goals, pending Saturday night action. . .This was the first of just five home games for the Flyers in February. . .Anderson improved to 12-5-3 lifetime vs. the Flyers.