PHILADELPHIA – It’s the 60th time they have faced future Hall of Fame goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and, for the Flyers, it remains as exciting as ever.
Perfect example: Monday night’s game at the Wells Fargo Center.
Lundqvist, undoubtedly the greatest goalie in New York Rangers history, and Carter Hart – who might one day wear that label for the Flyers – matched each other save for save.
At least until the third period, when the Flyers broke loose for four unanswered goals.
When it was over, the Flyers had a hard-earned 5-1 win at the Wells Fargo Center courtesy of two-goal nights from Kevin Hayes and Travis Sanheim.
The first of the two Hayes goals broke a 1-1 tie at 7:31 of the third period. The victory extended the Flyers’ winning streak to four games heading into the holiday break.
Hayes, an ex-Ranger, finished off a tic-tac-toe play with James van Riemsdyk and Joel Farabee, with the latter setting up Hayes in the slot for a rising shot past Lundqvist’s glove.
It’s the first time the Flyers have ever defeated Lundqvist five straight times in his illustrious career.
With the win, the Flyers climbed over Carolina and Pittsburgh into third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Obviously, beating his old team had a little special extra meaning for Hayes, right?
“I mean I played there for five years,’’ Hayes said. “If it were a little earlier in the year, it would probably be a little different. But we’re almost 40 games in. This is my team here, it’s nice to get the win. I’m sure I’ll text those guys after but that stuff doesn’t matter.’’
The Flyers managed to tie the score at 1-1 with just 1.7 seconds left in the second period.
Sanheim scored the first of his two goals by taking control of the puck along the boards and, perhaps sensing time was running out in the period, got off one last shot.
Meanwhile, Travis Konecny was stationed at the right post, possibly serving as a distraction. Sanheim’s shot somehow found its way under Lundqvist’s pad, leaving the goalie shaking his head.
From a statistical standpoint, it was an important goal.
Going into the game, the Flyers were just 1-11-2 when trailing after two periods. But they were 19-0-3 when either leading or tied after two periods.
“It’s a tough league to come back,’’ coach Alain Vigneault said. “And if you look at the numbers, I would say 90 percent of the teams aren’t coming back (from a second intermission deficit).
“That goal at the end of the second period – momentum-wise, energy-wise gave us a boost. It probably hurt them (the Rangers) a bit. We came out in the third and found a way to win that game.’’
Sanheim knew the clock was running out when he made his move, which turned out to be important.
“It was nice to break through,’’ Sanheim said. “I knew there wasn’t much time left. I didn’t know there was only one second left. I guess it was a good thing I shot it.’’
Sanheim also scored an insurance goal with 4:11 to play. Hayes added his second with 2:45 left on the clock. Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored in the final minute. It was Aube-Kubel’s first NHL goal and it came on the power play, no less.
It was a memorable moment for Aube-Kubel, who has spent parts of five seasons with the Phantoms.
“Good thing we had the lead by three goals there because I don’t think I would have been on the ice with the power play,’’ Aube-Kubel cracked. “I think the coach has confidence in me. The guys were saying in the locker room, ‘who’s that goalie you scored on?’ That’s a goalie I grew up watching, so it’s great to score on him.’’
Earlier in the first period, the Rangers took a 1-0 lead on a shorthanded goal by Jesper Fast.
Hart made a save on defenseman Brady Shjei but the puck found its way to Fast in front for a point-blank shot in the net at 6:44. It was just the third shorthanded goal the Flyers have given up in their first 37 games.
The Flyers managed to kill off more than a minute of five-on-three New York power play in the first period. They held the Rangers to just one shot during the five-on-three and the remaining five-on-four situation.
Hart continues to dominate at home. He’s lost only once (11-1-2) in regulation time at the WFC this season.
“We did a good job at the net-front tonight, boxing guys out,’’ Hart said. “We tied up sticks, which makes my job easier.’’
For van Riemsdyk, the Ranger game was his 299th as a Flyer. . .The Flyers are off until Saturday when they start a six-game road trip in San Jose. They also make stops in Anaheim, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Arizona and Carolina. . .Ivan Provorov shook off a case of the flu to play in his 283rd consecutive game (he’s never missed a game in his career). He played 23 minutes, which is down a bit from his usual 24:47 average. “I came in, I felt a lot better than I did last night,’’ Provorov said. “It was tough at first but the more I was on the ice, the better I felt.’’. . .Sanheim also had an assist for his first career three-point game.