Why the Flyers found a way to rally past woeful Sabres

Carter Hart

PHILADELPHIA – When the Flyers found themselves down two goals to one of the worst teams in hockey, coach Alain Vigneault knew it was time to pull the fire alarm.

In other words, yank starting goaltender Carter Hart and go to his reliever in the bullpen, or “Moose-pen’’ as it were.

Trailing 3-1 after one period to the Buffalo Sabres, losers of seven straight games and playing without star Jack Eichel, Vigneault called in Brian Elliott, who was only coming off a pair of shutouts against the upstate New Yorkers.

Elliott did allow one goal but basically blunted Buffalo’s momentum, as the Flyers rallied from a 4-2 deficit for a 5-4 shootout win on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, ending Philly’s two-game losing streak.

The Flyers needed a goal from Claude Giroux just after a power play ended late in the second period, then a power-play goal from Shayne Gostisbehere with 5:46 to play to send the game to a tiebreaker.

After a scoreless overtime, Sean Couturier and Nolan Patrick connected in the shootout for a 2-0 edge in that competition.

Hart has struggled at times of late and Vigneault didn’t agonize too much over the decision to take him out after 20 minutes.

“I didn’t think he (Hart) was good enough,’’ was Vigneault’s blunt explanation for the goaltender change during a post-game media Zoom call. “At the end of the day, it’s the toughest position in hockey.

“Carter’s a very young goaltender. We all believe in him, we all think he has a tremendous amount of potential. He’s going to learn from this, going to get better. He’s got to battle a little bit harder.’’

When the “battle harder line’’ was brought to Hart’s attention, there wasn’t much he could counter with.

“I just need to find ways to stop more pucks,’’ Hart said. “Not overthink things. Just trust my game, I don’t feel like myself and have to find a way to get back into playing the game that I love and trust in the game that I’ve built.’’

Hart, who gave up a pair of goals to Sam Reinhart from close range in the first period, has been working with his goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh and now it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

“I’m just trying to stop the puck and right now I’m not,’’ Hart said. “Plain and simple. Just need to find a way to get back on track because I’m not playing well. Everyone knows it.’’

Hart said he wasn’t surprised he got yanked.

“No,’’ he said. “Moose came in and did a great job.’’

 

>Gostisbehere feeling it

 

The Gostisbehere goal was a rocket straight out of 2015, a blast which handcuffed goaltender Jonas Johansson.

Four goals in eight games? He credits it with good health. The 2020 season was limited by a pair of knee operations. Now he’s feeling good.

“It was good for us to break through there (on the power play),’’ Gostisbehere said. “I think it was important to tie the game up and come back. We didn’t have the best game out there but good teams find ways to win.’’

Confidence plays into it – a lot.

“It’s pretty obvious I’m healthy,’’ he said. “That’s one of the biggest attributes to that. When you get in the groove, you’re in the groove. I see the plays before I get the puck and I’m making them without hesitation. That’s when you know you have the confidence.’’

 

>Can Patrick shootout goal provide boost?

 

Nolan Patrick hasn’t scored a goal in 15 straight games but he did notch the game-clinching goal in the shootout.

His forehand wrist shot to the upper right-hand corner simply overpowered Johansson.

Can Patrick get a little self-assuredness from a play like that?

“I hope it does give him confidence,’’ Vigneault said. “It was a great move and he’s been working extremely hard.

“My shootout list comes from our goaltending coach: It’s who’s the toughest shooter to go against, who’s feeling it.’’

 

>Shutout streak comes to end

 

The 4:33 that the Flyers kept Buffalo off the board before Reinhart’s first goal enabled them to set a franchise record for the longest shutout streak of a single opponent.

The streak ended at 185:44, which eclipsed the record previously set by the 1983-94 team against the New Jersey Devils (182:42).

 

>Forecheck improving

 

The Flyers’ even-strength play seems to be taking an uptick. That’s reflected in the shot totals as the Flyers have amassed a big advantage since the four-game pandemic pause.

“I think as a line and as a team, five on five is pretty good right now,’’ Couturier said. “We are creating some good looks. We’re controlling the puck a lot and that is what you want.’’

About Wayne Fish 1291 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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