PHILADELPHIA – If Alex Lyon is using this emergency call-up from the Phantoms to prove he’s an NHL-worthy goaltender, he did nothing to hurt his cause on Saturday night.
Filling in for the injured Carter Hart (lower abdominal strain), Lyon was sensational against a speedy, skilled Colorado Avalanche squad.
He made a bevy of difficult saves, especially in the Flyers’ rocky first period, and eventually held on for a 6-3 win at the Wells Fargo Center.
Joel Farabee scored a pair of goals – including the game-winner at 7:32 of the third period — and ran his point streak to a season-high five games.
Sean Couturier set up both goals.
Kevin Hayes scored a shorthanded goal with 3:27 to play to give the Flyers a two-goal cushion. Hayes also had a pair of goals for the game. Scott Laughton added an empty-netter with 45 seconds to play.
With the win, the Flyers moved ahead of idle Carolina and even with Columbus (which lost to Buffalo in OT) in the Metropolitan Division standings.
Matt Niskanen said he “loves it’’ when a young player like Lyon gets called up and is given a chance to prove himself at the highest level.
“Heck yeah,’’ Niskanen said. “I love that stuff. When a guy’s given an opportunity to play in the NHL and have some success. . .the guy works his butt off, has had a great attitude since he’s been here. It’s awesome to see a guy like that get a win.’’
Lyon, a Yale graduate, is 27 and still toiling in the minors, so obviously he continues to have a passion for the game.
This game against one of the NHL’s talented rosters shows what he’s capable of in a tough situation.
“This is extremely personally gratifying,’’ he said. “I think I’ve learned to this point in my career, from being around these guys, they’re so even-keeled. So the challenge for me in the next 24 hours is to come down to earth.
“It (making the jump to the NHL) is such a mental battle. The physical side of the game is not the challenging aspect for a goalie coming from the American League to the NHL, it’s the mental side.
“I think it’s on each man. If somebody doesn’t have confidence, everybody knows it. It’s no secret. I try to just exude confidence, have belief in myself. I’ve played a million different games. It’s easy here. We have a really good group of guys.’’
Goals by Niskanen and Hayes gave the Flyers a valuable 2-0 lead through one period.
Niskanen scored at 13:45 when his point shot eluded goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
Hayes doubled the lead with just under five seconds left in the period. With the Flyers on a four-minute power play (Nathan MacKinnon double-minor for high-sticking Niskanen), James van Riemsdyk took a Travis Konecny entry and dished to Hayes for a quick redirect.
In the second period, the Avalanche quickly responded.
Lyon appeared to be partially screened as Valeri Nichushkin’s shot sailed past the netminder’s glove at 2:01.
Farabee got that one back at 3:05 as he raced past defenseman Cale Makar’s check and finished off a perfect set-up from Couturier.
The Avalanche cut the lead to a single goal once again at 4:16. With Nicolas Aube-Kubel off for hooking, Mikko Rantanen took control in the right circle and beat Lyon with a rising shot.
Hayes credited Lyon for keeping the Flyers in front in the first period. Colorado hadn’t played in about 10 days but didn’t show much in the way of rust.
“We were up 2-0 because of our goalie,’’ Hayes said. “He was lights-out there. We left him out to dry. That’s not the right way to play at all. They jammed it right down our throats the whole period. Luckily, we got a four-minute power play and scored at the end. Other than that they stuck it to us.’’
In the third period, Farabee scored again to give the Flyers a 4-2 lead but the Avalanche scored one more goal to make it close.
The Flyers are 18-0-2 when leading after two periods while Colorado is 0-11-1 when trailing after two.
Farabee is really hitting his stride at the right time. He’s clicking with Couturier.
“On that second goal, I don’t know how he found me,’’ Farabee said. “If we keep going like this, we’re going to be happy in the end.’’
Hayes has been impressed with Lyon’s play.
“He’s been great,’’ Hayes said. “It was 2-0 after one. It could have been 6- or 7-2 (Colorado). He was probably the only one ready to start the game. Kudos to him.’’
Added van Riemsdyk: “He was awesome. We had some breakdowns in the first and stood tall there and gave us a chance to win. He did an awesome job tonight.’’