If the Flyers go on to do great things this year, they might point to Thursday night’s “The Time-out’’ and “The Comeback’’ as turning points in their season.
When it comes to character victories, they don’t come any bigger than this.
After allowing three goals in a span of just 1:11 only 3:57 into the game, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault called the badly needed time-out.
He reminded his players there were still 56 minutes to play.
And what a 56 minutes they turned out to be.
Captain Claude Giroux led his regrouped team with two goals and an assist, the last marker with just 2:08 to play, and the Flyers went on to a dramatic 4-3 triumph at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
It was the Flyers’ first comeback win of the season and first successful rally from a three-goal deficit since Oct. 25, 2016.
After the Flyers surrendered the third goal of the Penguins’ early burst, Sean Couturier smashed his stick into pieces off the crossbar of the Philadelphia net.
That’s when Vigneault, who usually doesn’t call time-outs early in the game, decided to do so to try to change the momentum.
Let’s go into the huddle:
“It was pretty simple,’’ Vigneault said. “I just told them to take a deep breath, there’s still a lot of time left on the ice. Play the right way, a shift at a time.
“And that’s what we did. We went out and played the right way, were able to dig ourselves out of the hole we put ourselves into. Won a big game for us, a big character win.’’
Couturier perhaps needed a quick breather to gather himself.
“I think it (time-out) was just to calm everyone down,’’ he said. “Refocus and make sure we got back to good habits. No panic. Everything was under control and we responded really well.’’
Couturier started the comeback with a goal after the break.
These are the types of those character efforts which can set a tone for the season. If the Flyers had lost this game, it would have moved the Penguins ahead of Philadelphia in the standings and made it real tough for the third game of this series on Saturday afternoon.
Vigneault acknowledged this type of performance can give a team long-lasting confidence in itself.
“I do think there are some moments in a regular season where a team has a gut-check,’’ Vigneault said. “We had lost that first game two days ago (5-2). For us, this was an important game. Like a mini-playoff series. To start off the way we did was definitely not the way we had talked about.
“Our guys stayed positive. We knew the right way, did the right things, battled back. To come back against the Penguins, they’re one of the strongest teams, is very good for us.’’
Giroux agreed with his coach about the importance of this game to the season.
“I think so,’’ Giroux said. “In a short season like this, you look at the standings, a lot of teams are pretty tight. For us to make the playoffs, we need to win games like tonight. I think the way we answered tonight, I think it’s our first comeback win this year.
“It’s good to know we can do it and that’s how we have to respond in the future.’’
Goaltender Brian Elliott held the fort after that initial blitz, blanking the Penguins (who got star player Sidney Crosby back from COVID-19 protocol) for the final 56 minutes and raising his season record to 6-1-0.
>Giroux line excels
Giroux was moved from left wing to a center spot between Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel after winger Joel Farabee was placed in COVID-19 protocol shortly after the start of the morning skate.
It didn’t take long for that line to find some chemistry.
“I thought he (Giroux) played extremely well tonight,’’ Vigneault said. “He was good in our end when it was time to defend, he was good on the forecheck. That line had some good jump.
“I won’t tell you what my lines were originally this morning. Came here and suddenly found out Joel is on the COVID protocol. There was not one line I had drawn up last night that was the same after this morning.’’
Giroux scored his 45th career game-winning goal.
“He gets two big goals for us,’’ said Scott Laughton, who had a Giroux shot deflect off him for the tying goal in the third period. “He takes big faceoffs (third-best in NHL), kills penalties. . .does a lot for our group. I’m happy to see him get rewarded with two tonight.’’
>Friedman scores, then gets banged up
Ex-Flyer Mark Friedman, claimed off waivers recently, had quite a night. He scored in that three-goal blitz, then wound up on the short end of not one but two collisions with the Flyers’ Nolan Patrick.
“Hits are part of this game,’’ Vigneault said. “Unfortunately for Mark, he got hurt on that play.’’
Patrick said the collisions are prevalent in rivalry series.
“Yeah, I think when you have a series and you see a team that many times in a row, it’s bound to happen,’’ he said. “A lot of guys stepped up with the physical play.’’
>Never quit attitude pays off
The Flyers could easily have packed it in after it was 3-0 but, as mentioned, there was determination on the bench.
“We weren’t playing that bad,’’ Giroux insisted. “When they got that third goal, we started playing the way we wanted to. We had our chances and when we got them they went in.’’
>Elliott comes through in clutch
The Flyers admitted they left Elliott out to dry in the early going. But he stood his ground.
“Some of their goals, it was us not playing well in front of him,’’ Giroux said. “He (Elliott) gave us a chance to win. Made some big stops for us.’’. . .Per NHL Stats, this is the first time the Flyers have ever given up three goals in the first four minutes of a game and come back to win. Also, this is the fourth time the Flyers have rallied from a 3-0 deficit to the Penguins and won. The other times were once in 1969 and twice in 1980.