It was sort of like having your lottery ticket miss by just one number or getting stuck in traffic only to watch your vacation plane take off down the runway.
With less than a minute left on the clock, Alex Lyon was this close to recording his first career shutout, against the powerful Washington Capitals.
But then the Flyers’ backup-backup goalie had his heart broken when the Capitals, fueled by an extra attacker, scored with just 40 seconds to play to tie the score.
Seemingly in the blink of an eye it was over. Washington scored with exactly one minute to play in overtime and ruined Lyon’s dream night by a 2-1 score.
The only consolation? By failing to win in regulation time, the Capitals lost any hope of winning their sixth straight division title. Instead, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be seeded first when the playoffs begin.
Lyon played perhaps the finest game of his brief NHL career, turning aside 38 of 40 shots and making Scott Laughton’s third period goal stand up until the final clicks.
The 28-year-old Lyon has toiled patiently with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for years, waiting for his shot at the big time.
With the possibility of backup goalie Brian Elliott, a pending unrestricted free agent, either moving on to another team or retiring, there might be an opening here behind Carter Hart.
Or, if Lyon keeps playing the way he has in his last two games – including a sharp win over the Penguins – maybe another team comes calling because Lyon’s contract with the Flyers runs out, too.
“It (the past two games) feels good,’’ he said during a post-game media Zoom call from Capital One Arena in Washington. “Given how the season has gone, not being able to play, it’s nice to string together a few performances to feel good about.
“It took me a little time to find my game. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything crazy. I just feel like I’m playing my game, so it just gives me confidence to keep doing the things I’ve been doing.’’
Lyon kept the Capitals at bay until the last couple minutes when Jake Voracek took a penalty. Although the Caps didn’t score on the power play, they still had an extra skater and got the goal from Lars Eller.
In overtime, Conor Sheary scored off a rush, leaving Lyon more than a little frustrated.
“I mean obviously you always want to get the shutout,’’ Lyon said. “I’ve gotten pretty good to this point in my career without thinking about it too much.
“It’s just super frustrating. As good as you play, you give up a goal in the last 40 seconds, then you give one up in overtime and you lose the game. So there are still learning experiences to be had. If I can just find a way to lock it down for 40 more seconds, maybe just clear my head, I still look at it as a learning experience.’’
The Yale University product has built a solid reputation in the AHL. Perhaps a night like this can move him closer to his dream job in the NHL.
“I feel like I’ve been playing a lot of good hockey down there (Allentown) for a long time now,’’ he said. “It’s always been difficult for me to translate that to the NHL level.
“But I feel like given a little bit of runway here in the past two weeks, I’ve kind of had the confidence to just know I’m going to be back in the net no matter what.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault was impressed with Lyon’s effort.
“He played extremely well,’’ Vigneault said. “Disappointing, I’m sure, for our whole group. We let that one slip away. It would have been another solid win for the young man. Unfortunately we took a penalty there at the end. . .they were six on five and score. But he played a real strong game for us tonight.’’
>No back-to-back win streak goes on
By losing this game, the Flyers finished the season failing to win back-to-back games since March.
Because they complete their season on Monday night (vs. the Devils), the Flyers will end the season with that dubious distinction intact.
“I thought we played well enough to find a win,’’ Laughton said. “You’ve got to be a professional, come to the rink and be ready on Monday.’’
>Laughton excels vs. Caps again
One of the bright spots of the evening was Laughton’s goal. He put a wrist shot under the crossbar for his ninth goal of the season. Five of those have come against the Capitals.
>Avoiding sub-.500 season
The Flyers head into Monday night’s game needing to get the game to an overtime/shootout to avoid a sub-.500 record for only the second time since 1993-94. They last finished under .500 in 2006-07.
Lyon’s 38 saves were a career high. It was the third time in his career that he faced 40 shots in a game. . .Ivan Provorov (25:31) and Travis Sanheim (25:07) each played over 25 minutes, while Cam York played 20:39 for his second consecutive night over 20 minutes to start his career. . .The Flyers were 31-for-50 as a team on faceoffs. Nolan Patrick was 7-for-9, while Claude Giroux was 9-for-13.