It’s not how you start in most NHL games, it’s how you finish.
The Flyers gave a clinic on this contention in their two-game series with the New Jersey Devils.
After scoring three times in the third period to win Tuesday night’s game at the Prudential Center, the Flyers came up with two more in the last 20 minutes on Thursday night for a 3-1 win to complete the two-game set.
The Flyers now lead the league with 15 third-period goals.
That late rally was needed by the Flyers because they weren’t very good in the first two periods, getting outshot, 24-8, and badly outchanced.
Michael Raffl and Claude Giroux scored goals in the final frame as the Flyers (5-2-1) completed their four-game stretch away from home with a 2-1-1 mark.
Goaltender Carter Hart, who entered the game with an unbecoming 4.18 goals-against average, bounced back with perhaps his best game of the season.
Hart, who was frustrated in a 6-1 loss at Boston on Saturday night, returned to form to stop 33 of 34 New Jersey shots.
Coach Alain Vigneault said it was a good thing Hart was on his game because the rest of his team certainly wasn’t in the first two periods.
“They say never critique a win,’’ Vigneault said during a post-game media Zoom call. “I think a couple guys’ performances in the first two periods were very disappointing.’’
Vigneault was referring to the top two lines centered by Kevin Hayes and Nolan Patrick.
“Carter Hart and our ‘D’ battled hard tonight,’’ Vigneault said. “I liked Scott Laughton’s and (Connor) Bunnaman’s lines tonight.
“He (Hart) played extremely well tonight. For a couple periods there we had a couple lines that weren’t effective. When we had some breakdowns in the first two periods, Carter was a big part of us getting this win tonight.’’
Hart downplayed the notion he had something to prove after the debacle in Boston, which ended with him trashing his stick over the crossbar of his net.
“It’s just another game, you prepare the same,’’ Hart maintained. “But definitely it feels good to come back. Tonight we had a great third period to put us ahead there.’’
The Flyers took a 3-1 lead at 6:26 when Giroux scored his first goal of the season by tipping in an Erik Gustafsson shot.
Giroux acknowledged Hart’s stellar performance.
“Our first two periods weren’t our best,’’ Giroux said. “Probably our worst. He (Hart) kept us in the game. In the third I think we played better. He saved us in the first and second.
Raffl’s goal at 2:10 broke a 1-1 tie. Raffl was situated right in front of the net when Connor Bunnaman’s shot clicked off the left post and slid along the goal line. Raffl tapped the puck the final foot for his second goal of the season.
Like Hart, the Bunnaman-Raffl-Aube-Kubel line played a prominent role in the win. Vigneault had the unit out for the puck drop in the third period and the line took three shifts by the fourth minute.
That’s showing a lot of trust.
“It gives you a boost for sure,’’ Raffl said. “You try to go in and take the game over. At least be stronger on the forecheck, be harder on pucks. But we were also part of those first two periods and ‘Hartsy’ bailed us out.’’
Defenseman Nate Prosser, playing in his first game as Flyer, scored on his first shot in a Philadelphia uniform in the first period.
On the play, Hayes won a faceoff and drew back to Gustafsson, who shot on net. Prosser raced in and pushed in the rebound of Scott Wedegwood’s stop at 9:23 to tie the score at 1-1.
Prosser was asked if it was difficult getting back into action after not having played a game since last March.
“You know, it’s hockey at the end of the day,’’ the Minnesota native said. “I’ve been playing it for 32 years of my life. I just needed to get in the flow of it, get the first few shifts out of the way and I kind of found my way.’’
Hart was impressed how well Prosser fit into the game plan after sitting out for so long.
“For him not playing a game that long. . .to be out there and to not look out of rhythm at all, he was solid, calm, poised with the puck,’’ Hart said. “A lot of big blocks – that one in the third period, and then to score a goal, we’re all so happy.’’
New Jersey took an early lead on a goal by Damon Severson at 7:11. During a rare double line change, Severson found himself open in the right circle. His shot from the faceoff dot beat Hart far side just inside the post.
The Flyers return home to face the New York Islanders in a two-game back-to-back set beginning Saturday. . .Thursday night’s win was the Flyers’ fourth straight at the Devils’ home rink. The last time they won four in a row in N.J. was Dec. 10, 1983 to Oct. 27, 1984.