PHILADELPHIA – This time a year ago, a two-goal deficit for the Flyers might as well have been 10 with less than half a period to play.
But that was then and this is now.
On Saturday night, the Flyers erupted for five unanswered goals in the last 9:08 to rock the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 7-4 win at the Wells Fargo Center.
A Kevin Hayes shorthanded breakaway goal with 5:36 to play broke a 4-4 tie and sent the Flyers to an unlikely third straight victory.
The Flyers got goals from Shayne Gostisbehere, James van Riemsdyk (his second of the game) and finally the shorthanded goal from Hayes.
Michael Raffl added an empty-net goal with 1:39 to play and Travis Konecny also hit an empty net in the final seconds.
It was the first time the Flyers had scored five goals in the third period in nearly six years.
Columbus got a pair of goals from Boone Jenner and took that two-goal lead late into the third period.
But then the Flyers showed some grit.
Gostisbehere scored when his shot was deflected past goalie Joonas Korpisalo. Then van Riemsdyk scored from close range off an Ivan Provorov pass. Hayes connected for the clincher.
A momentum-building victory to say the least.
Hayes wasn’t here last season but he knows that this kind of win can do a lot for a team’s confidence.
“Five goals in nine minutes? That’s just sticking to it, I guess,’’ Hayes said. “We stuck to our structure.’’
Van Riemsdyk finished with two goals, three points and a plus-2.
He was asked if the Flyers could have staged this kind of rally in the last season or two.
“It’s a new season, it’s hard to say,’’ JVR said. “We’ve had that firepower in the last few years and shown we’re capable of coming back. I think last year we chased too many games (the Flyers were down 2-0 a whopping 32 times and won only four of them).
“But it’s nice to see that (Saturday night) we were determined, we stuck with it.’’
Claude Giroux was a plus-4 and seemed to be in the right places at the right time.
“We felt like we were playing the right way,’’ said Giroux. “We just felt that if we kept playing the right way we were going to come back and tie it up. The guys were real positive.’’
Moments after the Flyers tied the score last in the second period on a power-play goal by van Riemsdyk, the Jackets responded with Jenner’s second goal.
Flyers goalie Brian Elliott twice failed to secure rebounds of shots and that goal proved the Flyers’ undoing.
The Flyers jumped to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Jake Voracek at 14:51 of the first. Van Riemsdyk dug the puck out of the corner and Voracek’s shot hit Korpisalo and somehow trickled through his pads.
The Blue Jackets quickly bounced back on Jenner’s first goal. Sonny Milano set up the goal with a nice pass from behind the net. Jenner, shooting from just along the end line, managed to squeeze a shot between the post and Elliott’s right shoulder.
Columbus took its first lead at 2:28 of the second period when Pierre-Luc DuBois was allowed to walk out of the right corner and flip a shot beyond Elliott’s reach.
In the third period, Josh Anderson scored at 2:15 when he took the rebound of Dean Kukan’s shot off the end boards and beat Elliott to the near post.
But the Flyers got one goal back from Gostisbehere with 9:08 to close the score to 4-3.
Elliott was not as sharp as he had been in previous wins over Vegas and Chicago.
But his teammates bailed him out.
“The guys stuck with it,’’ he said. “I don’t know if I deserve that win that much but the guys pulled it out for me.’’
Added coach Alain Vigneault: “I think we deserved to win this game. We were the better team. As a group, we showed a lot of perseverance, we showed a lot of character. We didn’t bother with the score. We just kept coming.’’
The Flyers outshot the Blue Jackets, 46-26, including 17-5 in the third period.
>Laughton suffers broken finger, out a month
Scott Laughton left the game in the second period with what was later diagnosed as a broken finger. He’s expected to be out a month. . . .The Flyers had two breakaway chances (Sean Couturier, Matt Niskanen) in the second period but could not convert either. . .The Flyers visit the New York Islanders on Sunday. The Isles have won six games in a row.