PHILADELPHIA – When the Flyers staggered home from their holiday road trip at 1-4-1 and saw on the schedule they were about to play three of the best teams in the NHL, they could have had their doubts.
Instead, they pulled up their socks, got down to business, beat Washington, gave Tampa Bay all it could handle in a 1-0 loss and then took on Atlantic Division-leading Boston on Monday night.
Trailing 5-2 in the second period, things didn’t look good for the Flyers.
But they rallied with two goals late in the second, got a tying goal from Travis Sanheim (his second of the game) with 7:02 to play in regulation time and won it on Travis Konecny’s shootout goal (the only one in the tiebreaker) for a 6-5 victory at the Wells Fargo Center.
Boston lost its chance to tie the score in the shootout when Brad Marchand overskated the puck at center ice, which is not allowed.
The Bruins are 0-7 in shootouts this season.
This was a character performance for the Flyers, perhaps proving to themselves they are never out of a game, even against a quality opponent like Boston.
“Over the course of the season you’re going to have games where you find yourself in holes,’’ Sanheim said. “You have to find ways to battle back.
“Obviously this stretch is a big one, especially being home for most of it. We want to take advantage of these games. Playing these games that we are, it’s a good test for us. We’re getting excited, getting up for the game each night.’’
Goaltender Carter Hart hadn’t allowed more than three goals on home ice until this match. That mark fell before the game was half-over.
Hart, however, was strong down the stretch of this game and blanked Boston for the final 32 minutes of regulation time, overtime and the shootout.
“These (Washington, Tampa, Boston) are three quality hockey teams,’’ Hart said. “It just shows that we can play with anybody and compete with the best teams in the league.’’
Hart was as surprised as anybody when Marchand messed up on the final attempt of the shootout.
“It’s funny that it happened to him,’’ Hart said. “It’s happened twice to me (first time was last year against Toronto’s John Tavares). When he (Marchand) skated by, we were kind of confused if we won or not. But you could see the puck moved.’’
Sean Couturier said it didn’t hurt to see a proven scorer like Marchand flub his chance.
“Especially a guy like him,’’ Couturier said. “We knew we had a big challenge coming back home. We know we’re a good home team and we wanted to prove it.’’
One of the top highlights of the game for the Flyers was rookie Connor Bunnaman’s first NHL goal, which was the Flyers’ fourth of the game. Fellow rookie Mark Friedman’s shot deflected off goaltender Jaroslav Halak, then off Bunnaman and into the net.
Old Flyer nemesis David Krejci scored twice for the Bruins.
Boston, which entered the game with an NHL-best goal differential of plus-35, jumped to a 2-1 lead in the first period on goals by Anders Bjork (4:15) and Krejci (16:49 during a penalty to Michael Raffl).
The Flyers finally ended a goal drought of 100 minutes, 21 seconds when Kevin Hayes scored at 18:22 during a four-minute high-sticking penalty to Patrice Bergeron.
In the second period, the scoring really picked up as both teams scored three times.
After falling behind by three goals, the Flyers bounced back on goals by Sean Couturier and Bunnaman.
Couturier scored at 13:12 when he took a pass from Jake Voracek and tried to put a move on Halak. However, the puck slid off his stick and slid through the goalie’s pads.
Then came the Bunnaman goal at 14:46 to make it close.
“It’s not exactly how I imagined it but I’ll take it,’’ Bunnaman said. “I’ve been dreaming of this so it felt good.”
Positioning had a lot to do with it. Fighting for a spot in front of the net helped.
“That’s what the coach told me to do so that’s what I’m going to do,’’ Bunnaman said. “Thank goodness it worked out for me this time.”
Coach Alain Vigneault was pleased with the character that the Flyers showed in this comeback.
“Even though we were down by three, I liked our compete level,’’ he said. “I think the opponents (Caps, Lightning, Bruins) spoke for themselves. We knew they were going to be three tough games.
“I liked our game in all three of them.’’
Ivan Provorov had a great chance to win the game at the end of overtime but Halak somehow managed to stick out his pad to make a save as time ran out. . .Flyers are off until Wednesday when they visit the Stanley Cup defending champion Blues in St. Louis. . .Claude Giroux remains No. 1 faceoff man in the NHL with a 60.6 percentage entering Monday’s game.
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