PHILADELPHIA – Eliminate us? Not on our ice you won’t.
That was the Flyers’ battle cry in Wednesday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Faced with the prospect of being eliminated from Stanley Cup playoff contention, the Flyers rallied from a two-goal deficit with a three-goal second period, then got one more in the third period to send the game into overtime and eventually a shootout.
Sean Couturier scored the only goal of the shootout and rookie goalie Carter Hart – playing in his first NHL shootout — did not allow anything in five Toronto attempts as the Flyers came away with a 5-4 win at the Wells Fargo Center.
The win keeps the Flyers alive, but barely. Philadelphia doesn’t play again until a home game against the New York Rangers on Saturday. A lot could happen between now and then, including Montreal’s game at Columbus on Thursday night.
The Flyers could still win out and pass the second wild card Canadiens, who have 90 points. The Flyers have five games left and could potentially get to 92 points. But a Montreal win would give the Canadiens 92 points and eliminate the Flyers because of tiebreakers.
All that said, the Flyers weren’t worrying about all the numbers as they played the Leafs.
Basically, they just knew if they didn’t get at least one point, the meaningful games segment of their season schedule was over.
“Even though the chances are really slim, I think it’s important for us to show the effort and the consistency that we want to have,’’ said Radko Gudas.
For Couturier, it’s all about playing every night like there’s something to play for.
“Whatever the situation is, I think everyone has pride in here,’’ Couturier said. “Whatever happens down the stretch, we need to finish strong, push all in the same direction, not get off on separate pages.’’
Hart was brilliant in the overtime and shootout, where he turned aside such big names as William Nylander, Austin Matthews and Mitchell Marner.
“The first shooter, Tyler Ennis, was one of my good buddies from back home (Edmonton area),’’ a smiling Hart said. “I’ve been skating with him since I was about 16 so I kind of know his tendencies.’’
To Hart’s good fortune, superstar John Tavares had the puck slide off his stick in the shootout and never got a shot off.
“Luckily I didn’t have to stop Tavares,’’ Hart said. “He’s a very good player.’’
As for the pride element of not losing on home ice in a potential elimination situation, Hart insisted it shouldn’t matter what’s at stake: Every night should be an all-out effort.
“Honestly, from here on out, it doesn’t matter whether we’re eliminated or not,’’ he said. “There’s also pride. Playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, there’s a lot of history, a lot of pride to play for. I know this group will never give up.’’
Added Konecny: “That (the lengthy uphill climb) is the way we’ve been looking at games for a while now. There wasn’t anything said about that. We just know what’s at stake every game now.’’
After that early rough start, the Flyers came roaring out for the middle frame and got goals from Konecny, Gudas and Couturier.
Konecny scored at 3:39, zipping a right-circle wrist shot past goaltender Frederik Andersen.
Gudas made it 2-2 at 8:15 when his long floater fluttered past Andersen.
And then Couturier deflected Travis Sanheim’s shot into the net at 15:46. It was Couturier’s 32nd goal, a new career high.
Toronto got off to its quick getaway when they picked up goals from Connor Brown (5:03) and Nazem Kadri (12:02) on shots past starting goalie Carter Hart.
The Flyers didn’t have much energy in that first period.
“There were just some mistakes that we needed to clear up,’’ Konecny said. “I think we bounced back pretty well in the second.’’
Konecny said the Flyers’ offense took advantage of the Toronto defense dropping back a bit.
“They kind of sit back,’’ he said. “We were using their speed against them.’’
Toronto tied it at 3-3 at 1:43 of the third when Matthews scored an unassisted goal.
But Ryan Hartman scored from close-range off a pass from Scott Laughton at the nine-minute mark.
The Leafs tied it again on a goal by Nylander at 11:33.
Defenseman Sam Morin made his season debut after missing nearly nine months recovering from ACL surgery. The Flyers used seven defenseman to help conserve his ice time. “It was fun getting back into it,’’ said Morin, who took only nine shifts and played just 8:09. “The pace was great and I was following it pretty good. I was a little bit nervous at the beginning but I think the more the game was going, the better I was.’’. . .Jake Voracek played his 600th game as a Flyer.