PHILADELPHIA – It was one of those colossal meltdowns that can ruin a playoff drive.
The Flyers appeared to be coasting to an easy win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday afternoon when things took a decided turn for the worse.
Leading 5-1, the Flyers gave up four straight goals in the third period, including a tying goal from Anthony Mantha with seven seconds left in regulation time.
Somehow they won it in overtime, 6-5, on a goal by Travis Konecny at the 1:27 mark.
Down by four goals, Detroit picked up goals from Tyler Bertuzzi (2:39), Thomas Vanek (3:23) and Mantha (8:36) and suddenly things got very quiet in the WFC.
Even rookie goalie sensation Carter Hart looked particularly vulnerable.
With time running out, Mantha deflected a shot high into the net to make it 5-5.
Fortunately for the Flyers, Konecny was able to circle the net in OT and beat goalie Jonathan Bernier on a wrap-around shot.
More relief than joy?
“Yeah, it feels good to get that one,’’ Konecny said. “The thought of losing a game that you should have (won). . .we definitely have to clean some things up. Some of that stuff is not acceptable for a team to come back like that.
“We’re just glad we came back on top here.’’
The Flyers appeared to get complacent after taking that seemingly safe 5-1 lead.
“It’s definitely not how we want to play after going up 5-1,’’ Ivan Provorov said. “They scored one, then another real quick and they had the momentum. We really couldn’t stop it.
“It’s great that we got the win. In overtime we didn’t change our mentality, stuck to our game and ended up getting the win.’’
With the win, the Flyers went to 11-1-1 in their last 13 games and closed back to within six points of eighth-place Pittsburgh (which lost to Calgary). Carolina, which began the day seven points in front of the Flyers, was scheduled to host Dallas on Saturday night.
Early on, the Flyers got some unexpected offensive help.
Scott Laughton had gone 26 games without a goal (Dec. 15) and Shayne Gostisbehere’s drought had reached 17 games (Dec. 29).
But both put an end to those dry spells.
Konecny broke a 1-1 tie at 2:59 of the second period when his shot from the right circle eluded Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard while the Flyers were on a power play.
Just 63 seconds later, Laughton finished off a tic-tac-toe play off passes from Nolan Patrick and Wayne Simmonds to make it 3-1.
Gostisbehere opened the scoring at 4:34 of the first period when his short-side shot from the left circle beat Howard.
The Red Wings tied the score at 14:07 on a goal by Gustav Nyquist.
Laughton was relieved to have his skid come to an end.
“It felt good,’’ he said. “When you’re getting chances and the pucks aren’t going in, it kind of weighs on you.
“It’s been a pretty long time since the last one. It feels good to get one but more importantly we’re playing good hockey.’’
In the third period, Jake Voracek scored at the 31-second mark and Patrick quickly followed with another goal to make it 5-1.
At that point, Howard was lifted and replaced by Bernier.
Then came the Detroit rally and the Flyers had to regroup to get that valuable second point.
Hart echoed what some of his teammates said about maintaining composure in the OT.
“You don’t want to do that (lose poise) with a 5-1 lead,’’ Hart said. “At the end of the day, we got the two points and that’s what matters. A little bit dicey there at the end, making it interesting. For most of the game, I thought we played really well. I have to play better, too.’’
Coach Scott Gordon said not much had to be said on the bench going into the overtime.
“They (the Red Wings) didn’t lay down and die just because it was 5-1,’’ he said. “We can do a better job. In the third period, we started icing the puck, started throwing it to nobody, trying to chip out when there was probably a better option that was a tape-to-tape pass.
“(On the bench he said) Go get the second point that we lost. We talked about our game plan for the three-on-three and I thought we did a real good job with it. I think that’s why we’ve been able to come away with some points.’’
It looks like Hart could get the start when the Flyers and Red Wings meet again Sunday night in Detroit. Gordon said newly acquired goaltender Cam Talbot, obtained in a trade with Edmonton for Anthony Stolarz, will not be joining the team in time to play against Detroit. . .The Flyers began the season just 2-5 on the back end of back-to-backs but have won their last two.