ANAHEIM – As bounce-back games go, this was about as big as they get.
After a 6-1 humiliation at San Jose on Saturday night, the Flyers needed a win in a major way.
And that’s exactly what they received in Sunday night’s game against the Ducks.
Kevin Hayes’ goal with 1:07 to play in overtime gave the Flyers a hard-earned 2-1 victory at the Honda Center.
Jake Voracek started the play with a pinpoint pass from the Flyers’ zone.
Hayes cruised in on a breakaway and beat goaltender John Gibson on a fancy double-deke move.
“We talked yesterday, that wasn’t the right way to play,’’ Hayes said of the San Jose effort. “Less than 24 hours, you have a chance to turn the attitude around.
“We had won four (in a row before San Jose). . .we came in here and we knew this was kind of a must win. We’ve been struggling on the road (9-10-1) and the way we lost last night didn’t help. I thought tonight, starting with ‘Moose’ (goaltender Brian Elliott), we played a good game all around, a full 64 (minutes).’’
The Hayes goal looked like something out of the Eagles’ playbook, with Carson Wentz telling his receiver to go long.
“They changed (lines),’’ Hayes explained. “I figured I could cheat a little bit. Jake made a great pass. I went backhand to forehand and it just went in.’’
After a slow start, Hayes now has 12 goals tying him with another slow starter, James van Riemsdyk, for the team lead.
Unlike the game against the Sharks, the Flyers played a much tighter checking style against the Ducks.
Redemption was a common theme in the post-game room.
“The guys brought their ‘A’ stuff and really competed hard,’’ Matt Niskanen said. “The guys got rewarded with the big OT win. It feels good.
“Better structure (tonight). When you have numbers and you’re in the right position, you have to be assertive. . .strong on your checks, have a good stick, clog it up when you can, create turnovers.’’
Clearly the Flyers weren’t happy with the San Jose effort.
“We were just way more determined tonight,’’ Niskanen said. “Last night I think we were just still on vacation the first two periods.’’
Added Sean Couturier: “We battled hard, we skated better, competed more. We got rewarded with that extra point.’’
The Flyers didn’t get off to an auspicious start, surrendering a goal just 35 seconds into the match.
Defenseman Eric Gudbranson did the honors. His point shot made its way through a few players before handcuffing Elliott.
The Flyers countered with a goal from Couturier at the 9:45 mark.
Couturier was in position to put back a rebound, by way of an entry from Voracek. Couturier poked the puck between the pads of Gibson for his eighth goal in the last seven games against Anaheim.
That goal seemed to settle things down for the Flyers.
The second period featured more tight checking. The Flyers held the Ducks without a shot for nearly the first 12 minutes of the period.
The Flyers entered the game sporting a record of just 2-12-3 in their previous four holiday week (and beyond)) trips.
Elliott made his 16th career start vs. the Ducks. He was just 3-8-3 going into this contest, with a 3.22 goals-against average and .880 save percentage.
“We’ve talked a lot about being better on the road,’’ Elliott said. “This is a big start for us, to get two points. It gives us some pretty good hope for the rest of the trip.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault also liked the way his team responded, especially after such a quick turnaround from the Sharks game.
“That’s a lot more like it,’’ Vigneault said. “We gave up that early goal but just kept playing. I liked our battle level, our compete level in the one-on-ones.
“For us to play back-to-back, travel, come in here the way we had played last night, it was a great response. This is a big win for us.’’