PHILADELPHIA – On a night when the Flyers gave up 48 shots to Vegas, all bets were off on a possible Philadelphia victory.
Then along came goaltender Carter Hart to beat the odds.’
Hart was nothing short of sensational against the Golden Knights on Tuesday night, stopping one blast after another on the way to a 2-1 win at the Wells Fargo Center.
The goaltender wound up with a career-high 47 saves, eclipsing his previous high of 41, set earlier this season against this same Vegas team.
After the game, the Flyers made it known they did not play their best game, although Hart certainly did. The performance was one of the best by a Flyer goalie this season.
“It was unbelievable,” said defenseman Justin Braun, who scored one of the two Flyers goals. “Anytime you give up that many shots, grade-As, and you come out with a ‘W,’ it’s probably on your goalie having a great night.”
The past two wins salvaged what could have been a nightmarish homestand. The 3-4-1 mark was somewhat respectable, and the Flyers have Hart to thank for that.
“He was incredible,” Scott Laughton said. “The second period, on the penalty kill there, I thought he was huge. With no stick (knocked or fell out of his hands), he made two or three saves. He was really good for us, made a lot of big saves and created momentum.”
Despite the Flyers’ overall poor record, Hart has managed to keep his goals-against average under 3.00, which is a minor miracle.
In turn, Hart credited the Flyers’ defense with some strong work, particularly when the Flyers’ Ivan Provorov was called for delay of game with 1:45 to play, creating a six-on-four disadvantage for Philadelphia. The Flyers’ position players were diviing everywhere to block shots.
“They were getting sticks on pucks and that was huge,” Hart said. “We know they have a lot of skill. We have to do everything we can to disrupt them. Our group has faced a lot of adversity. It is what it is. You can’t control it. But I think we’ve done a real good job these past couple weeks just sticking to the process, just coming to work everyday and just battling. That’s all you can do — do your best, compete and work as hard as you can.”
Interim head coach Mike Yeo has to be encouraged by the last two efforts but he knows Hart made up for a lot of shortcomings in this one.
“When we play against these good teams, we have to stay strong,” he said. “The details of our game weren’t that sharp. Too many turnovers. He (Hart) was battling tonight. He was a competitor. A well-deserved win for him tonight, no question.”
Thus, the Flyers have won back-to-back games for the first time since defeating Winnipeg and Los Angeles just prior to the NHL All-Star break in early February.
Goals by Braun and Oskar Lindblom provided the Flyers with a 2-0 lead through one period of play.
Hart was at his best in turning away all 14 Vegas shots, several from point-blank range.
Braun connected at 4:44 when his long shot made it past a couple players in front and behind goaltender Robin Lehner. It was a career-high seventh goal of the season for Braun.
Just prior to scoring, Braun blocked a shot with his hand and needed some medical attention. But the goal helped ease the pain.
“He was awesome,” Yeo said. “There’s no way you win when they roll line after line with the skill they have. . .we lean on ‘Brauner’ there in pretty much every situation except the power play. Maybe we should consider that.”
Later, after gathering a nice lead pass from Laughton, Lindblom rushed in behind the Vegas defense, circled behind the net and beat Lehner to the far side, completing the play by banking the puck off the goaltender’s skate with 50.7 seconds left in the period.
“Having confidence helps,” he said. “Tonight I only had one chance and it went in the net.”
At the first intermission, Braun marveled at Hart’s performance.
“He’s playing great,” Braun said. “That last scramble (late in the period), he made that save with his chest. He’s playing good and we have to do a better job coming out of our zone clean and putting a little more pressure on them.”
Vegas needed a power play to finally get a puck past Hart in the second period. The Flyers were whistled for a bad penalty (too many men) and the Knights cashed in with Evgenii Dadonov doing the honors from right in front of the net at 6:26.
Otherwise, the shots kept piling up on Hart and the goalie had to keep sprawling to keep the puck out of harm’s way.
>Lindblom gaining momentum
After scoring no goals in his first 21 games, Lindblom has come on to connect 10 times in the last 35 games.
Lindblom, almost two years removed from his recovery from Ewing’s sarcoma (rare form of bone cancer) acknowledges his game might still be in comeback mode but it’s evident he’s recently played more like he was back in December, 2019 when he led the Flyers in scoring prior to the diagnosis.
“I still have some stuff to work on,” he said after Tuesday morning’s pre-game skate at the Wells Fargo Center. “I can still get stronger. (Otherwise) I feel more confident, getting more points. Compared to last year, I feel way better than last year. I’m getting there.
As for any mention of the young Swede in any trade rumors, Lindblom offered a smile.
“It’s part of the business,” he said. “You just try to push it away and not think about it much.”
And speaking of trade rumors acting as a distraction, interim head coach Mike Yeo said that’s something he’s trying not to let happen with his team.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Yeo of the period up to the March 21 NHL trade deadline. “With the trade deadline coming up we can’t let that be a distraction. It’s just about having that winning attitude. It’s weighing on ‘G’ (Claude Giroux) but there are other guys who know what’s going on. They know it their names are involved. You know most of these guys we’re talking about have families. All you can do is try to be supportive.”
The Flyers entered the game with a record of 7-1-3 when leading after two periods. . .Philadelphia now heads on the road for a two-game trip through Florida (Thursday) and Carolina (Saturday). The Flyers return home Sunday to face Montreal.