PHILADELPHIA – This looked a lot more like the Carter Hart of last season.
It’s been a season of ups and downs for the Flyers’ 21-year-old goaltender but Tuesday night was definitely an up.
He was close to his 2018-19 best in a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center.
It marked just the second time Hart has managed to put two wins together since the opening week of the season back in early October.
Hart made several exceptional saves during the contest and his rebound control was much better than it’s been in recent outings. He finished stopping 33 of 34 shots.
A goal by Travis Konecny at 1:12 of the third period broke a 1-1 tie and sent the Flyers to the win, improving their season record to 7-5-2.
Konecny scored after Matt Niskanen’s point shot disappeared into a scrum of players in front of the Carolina net. Konecny took control at the left hash marks and fired it into the net for his seventh goal of the season, tying Oskar Lindblom for the team lead.
For Hart, it was simply a matter of going back to the basics.
“I was trying not to overthink things,’’ he said. “In practice, it was time to focus on things and worry about the little details. When it’s game time, it’s just time to play.
“I think I was just getting back to what I was doing last year. I made sure I made the most of every practice I had.’’
Hart had struggled in late October. After starting 2-0, he went 0-3-1 in his next four starts. Since then, he’s slowly rebounded.
“It’s a long season,’’ he pointed out. “You’re playing almost every second night. In this business, you get another chance, whether you win or lose, in a night or two nights to write a new chapter.’’
Throughout the Flyers’ post-game room, the talk was about Hart and how he kept his team in it, especially in the first period when the Hurricanes came out flying.
Defenseman Justin Braun was confident Hart would come out of his recent funk.
“He’s a true pro at this age,’’ Braun said. “He comes to the rink, he’s focused every day, he’s not coming in dragging. . .it looks he got some sleep the night before. He comes to the rink ready to work and that’s tough for a young guy but he does it.’’
Joel Farabee, who scored an insurance goal late in the third period, believes the Flyers fed off of Hart’s sharpness.
“I thought he played unbelievable tonight,’’ Farabee said. “He was definitely a big reason why we got the win. Just having that confidence as a team is really good. When they get their chances, you know he’s in your corner and he’s going to bail you out.’’
A power-play goal by Sean Couturier at 3:30 of the first period gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
Couturier tipped a Niskanen point shot past ex-Flyers goalie Petr Mrazek. It was the Flyers’ 13th power-play goal of the season and seven of them have come from the second PP unit.
Carolina tied the score at 6:17 of the second period when Philadelphia’s netfront coverage broke down a bit. Lucas Wallmark was left open just enough to guide in a pass from Trevor van Riemsdyk, younger brother of the Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk.
Farabee scored with 7:01 to play, firing home the rebound of his own rush to the net. Farabee connected for the second time in three games after getting his first NHL goal last Friday at New Jersey.
Claude Giroux completed the scoring with a breakaway goal with 2:22 to play.
Coach Alain Vigneault believes Hart was the main reason for this win.
“There’s no doubt in the first 10 minutes, Carter gave us a chance to start playing and execute,’’ Vigneault said. “He played a real sound game. You could tell he was in control.’’
Players were saying Hart is a stand-up guy who blames himself if it’s deserved.
“I think anytime a player takes accountability for his performance and goes about ways of fixing his performance, as a teammate and a coach, you have to have confidence in him,’’ Vigneault said. “He knew he could be a lot better. He had a plan as far as what he needed to do to get his game back on track and there’s no doubt his game is back on track.’’
“He (Hart) was great tonight,’’ Couturier said. “Made some big saves early, kept us in the game. He’s the ‘Hartsy’ that we know who he is.’’
The Flyers improved their home record to 5-1-1. . .Chris Stewart and defenseman Robert Hagg were healthy scratches. . .The Flyers continue to lead the NHL in fewest shots allowed (27.9). They are second in shots taken (35.0).