PHILADELPHIA – The Travis Konecny-Kevin Hayes redemption show made for a good story on Thursday night but it wouldn’t have happened without a record goaltending effort from Carter Hart.
Hart came up with a career-high 48-save gem (on 51 shots) in a 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Konecny and Hayes were both benched in the third period of Sunday night’s 3-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks. No doubt they weren’t too happy with that development.
So they took out their displeasure on the Panthers. Konecny set up the Flyers’ first two goals and Hayes did most of the work on a goal by Joel Farabee which turned out to be the game-winner.
Meanwhile, Hart was stopping 19 Florida shots in the first period and 21 in the third.
“I was a little tired but it’s a huge win against a good hockey team,’’ said Hart after the Flyers raised their record to 5-2 and took over the Metropolitan Division lead. “I don’t mind, it’s just take one shot at a time, whether I get 20 shots or 50 shots.’’
Asked if this is as well as he’s played since he joined the NHL for the 2018-19 season, Hart wouldn’t provide that sort of evaluation.
“I’m not getting too ahead, not worrying about the past,’’ he said. “Just taking it day by day.’’
After surviving a shaky first period, the Flyers stormed out in the second period and outscored the Panthers 2-0.
For the first seven games, the Flyers have outscored opponents 8-4 in middle frames.
Thursday night was a perfect example of this positive development.
In the first period, Hart was not quite at his best but he was saving his best for last.
Each time the Flyers fell behind (1-0, 2-1), they bounced back.
Then they took off in the second, getting goals from Zack MacEwen at 10:17 and Farabee just 1:12 later.
MacEwen tipped a Nick Seeler point shot past goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Following that, after Bobrovsky stopped Hayes on a break-in, Hayes chased down the rebound and found Farabee alone in front for a shot over the sprawled goaltender.
Hayes admitted he was looking for a better effort after Sunday night’s debacle.
“We (he and Konecny) didn’t play well in the third period of last game,’’ Hayes said. “I thought our line (including Farabee) came out fast. We go down one, tie it up, go down one, tie it up. That’s the type of team we are, we fight. We all work hard and if you don’t, you don’t play.’’
Konecny looked like he was on a mission as well, providing a fiery forecheck and pressuring some turnovers.
“I wanted to respond the right way,’’ Konecny said. “It wasn’t a good effort from me the previous game. I wanted to make sure I did as much as I could to help the team tonight.’’
Coach John Tortorella said he wasn’t sure if the play of Konecny and Hayes was directly related to his benching them in the San Jose game but regardless, he was satisfied with the outcome.
“I have no qualms with how hard he (Konecny) plays,’’ Tortorella said. “I don’t think I’ll ever question that. How he felt about it, I don’t know. If that’s what it’s about, so be it. I thought he played well, I thought Kevin played well.’’
As for Hart, he liked the effort.
“Hopefully he’s maturing because he made some key saves at key times,’’ Tortorella said. “He’s been pretty steady every start this year. He gives us a chance.’’
Philadelphia, which suffered a 4-3 loss at Florida last week, didn’t look like it was ready to avenge that defeat in the early going.
Gustav Forsling put the Panthers in front with a goal at 3:41. Hart got a piece of Forsling’s shot from the high slot but it trickled into the net.
The Flyers answered at 6:41. Tony DeAngelo converted a nifty Konecny backhand pass at the bottom of the left circle.
Florida took command again at 7:58. Josh Mahura finished off a rebound for another one-goal Panther lead.
However the Flyers came right back a second time. Scott Laughton connected at 15:28 courtesy of another pinpoint pass from Konecny.
All in all, the Flyers hung in there despite a barrage of Florida shots.
Konecny said the Panthers are tough to play against because of their quick transition game.
The Flyers needed that strong second period because the Panthers came out and got a goal from Brandon Montour just 36 seconds into the third period.
>Tippett feels good
Owen Tippett, seeing his first action of the season since suffering a concussion on opening night against New Jersey, had an assist on Farabee’s goal and said he felt fine throughout the match
“It feels great,’’ he said. “You never want to miss any games no matter what it is so to be back out there and getting my legs under me and helping my teammates.’’
>Provorov bounces back
Defenseman Ivan Provorov blocked a Matthew Tkachuk shot, dropped to the ice in pain but seconds later bounced back up and helped break up an odd-man rush.
The Russian played in over 400 straight games before his ironman streak was stopped by COVID, something that really frustrated him.
But he’s been a warrior this year and Tortorella notices the improvement.
“I watched him last year and he was a shell of what he was when he came into this league,’’ Tortorella said. “We didn’t use him on the power play earlier this year just because we wanted to get his five-on-five game going. It didn’t take long for him to let us know he was ready to improve and ready to be the player that he has been. He eats a puck tonight (nine blocks in all). He’s played really well. I just like his swagger.’’