PHILADELPHIA – Who said it was going to be easy?
The Flyers had to go all the way down to the wire in Thursday night’s all-important game against the Carolina Hurricanes to secure a crucial two points via a 4-3 win.
Jake Voracek’s goal with 5:45 to play broke a 3-3 tie.
The Flyers battled back from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 to finally take a lead with 9:42 to play on a goal by Claude Giroux.
But with 6:19 to play, Carolina’s Jordan Staal sent an extremely wide-angle shot past goaltender Brian Elliott (making his first start since Feb. 10) and the score was tied again at 3-3.
Then Voracek took over, beating goalie Scott Darling with a shot for the winner.
Florida beat Boston on Thursday night, so the Flyers need at least one point against the Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday to clinch a playoff berth.
The Panthers have a home game against Buffalo on Saturday, then finish with a weather-related makeup game at Boston on Sunday.
Once again the Flyers showed that they can rally in the latter stages of a game when it matters most.
“We still control our own destiny,’’ Shayne Gostisbehere pointed out after the game. “If we win this last game against New York on Saturday, we will be fine.’’
It was another night of chasing the game by the Flyers, as they had to battle through 1-0 and 2-1 deficits.
A spectacular play by defenseman Ivan Provorov tied the score at 2-2 when he rushed the net and finished off a feed from Sean Couturier with 5:04 left in the second period.
Darling managed to block Provorov’s first attempt but was not successful on the Russian backliner’s second try.
Things went back and forth in a wide-open first period.
The Hurricanes jumped on top with Klas Dahlbeck goal at 13:45 of the first. Travis Sanheim dove to block the Carolina defenseman’s shot but accidentally screened Elliott.
Philadelphia answered 63 seconds later. Giroux tried to get the puck to Couturier but ex-Flyer Justin Williams intervened, only to have the puck bounce off his stick to Michael Raffl, who spun and put a shot between Darling’s skates.
That lead held up for all of 14 seconds.
Sebastian Aho did the honors for Carolina, beating Elliott from close range.
But from there, it was the work of Giroux and Elliott which helped make the difference.
“It’s a bend, don’t break mentality,’’ Gostisbehere said. “We knew they were going to come hard. Ultimately we got the two points and that’s the biggest thing.’’
Couturier expressed some relief that it’s still win and they’re in.
“We’re still in control of making the playoffs,’’ he said. “We played a pretty good game overall. We stuck to what we had to do. We didn’t let down. . .they got a couple lucky bounces that could have been tough mentally. But we came back hard and controlled most of the game.’’
Giroux is the only player left from the 2010 team which beat the Rangers on the final day of the season to get into the playoffs. Ironically, he scored the shootout winner against New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who is scheduled to start Saturday.
“I like the way we’re playing right now,’’ Giroux said. “When we’re on and we’re playing our best hockey, we have a lot of fun doing it. Whatever Florida does the last two games, we’re just focusing on ourselves.’’
Voracek believes the Flyers have the right stuff to get the job done Saturday and clinch a spot.
“We knew it was going to come down to that almost,’’ Voracek said. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year, we never gave up. I don’t anyone expected us to get into the playoffs after those 10 games (an 0-5-5 streak in November). It’s in our hands. So it’s a great thing.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol liked what he saw from his team in a clutch situation. A loss would have left the Flyers in a precarious situation.
“I didn’t see any waiver in our game,’’ he said. “I thought our guys had pretty good determination all the way through the game.’’
Scott Laughton returned to the lineup after a one-game scratch and Jordan Weal went to the bench.