PHILADELPHIA – Time has been running out on the Flyers’ portion of James van Riemsdyk’s professional hockey career ever since he wasn’t moved at the March 3 NHL trade deadline.
The New Jersey native, scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, has played the good soldier as the Flyers stumbled to the finish line and on Tuesday night he was rewarded for that professionalism by scoring his 300th NHL goal in a 4-3 overtime win over Columbus at the Wells Fargo Center.
Owen Tippett scored with 15.5 seconds left in overtime for the victory.
It was the Flyers’ home finale and evened their record at the WFC at 18-18-5. The victory snapped the Flyers’ seven-game (0-6-1) winless streak. So it was rather fitting for JVR to get the milestone goal while the opportunity presented itself.
The Flyers complete their season on Thursday night in Chicago.
A pretty loud cheer went up from a rather sparse crowd when van Riemsdyk put the puck in the net at 15:33 of the first period to tie the score at 2-2.
It was the 146th goal of his eight-year career in Philadelphia. He has posted an additional 154 in six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Van Riemsdyk, 33, was selected second overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The left wing has been a consistent offensive force throughout his career, posting seven seasons of at least 20 goals.
“Yeah, it’s definitely nice to get those milestone numbers like that and obviously I think it just means you’ve been playing a long time but certainly one that I was aware of,” van Riemsdyk said during the first intermission.
Flyers fans had to be pleased with JVR getting the milestone goal in a black and orange uniform.
“I wasn’t really thinking too much about it but before the season, (team official) Dean Lombardi pulled me aside and made me aware of where I stacked up in my career so far,” van Riemsdyk said. “I was pretty aware of it even before the season started but definitely a nice one to get.”
Tippett scored on a nifty break-in as time was running out. Although he was the game-decider in this match, Tippett was the first to tip his hat to JVR’s career accomplishments.
“He was one of those guys I grew up watching in Toronto,” said Tippett, a Peterborough, Ontario native. “To reach a milestone like that is pretty special. He’s been a great guy all year and the guys love him in here.”
Van Riemsdyk finished off an assist from Ivan Provorov and then Scott Laughton quickly reached into the Columbus net and retrieved the memento.
Getting the big goal in Philadelphia made the accomplishment even more meaningful.
“Getting it in Philly and in a winning effort is always special, too,” JVR said. “Definitely cool and a nice reception from the fans, also.
“Scott was quick to get that puck. It’s something I’ll look back on fondly when my career is over.’’
Van Riemsdyk’s dad and mom usually attend all home games because it’s only about an hour-plus drive from Middletown, N.J. Mrs. Van Riemsdyk wasn’t feeling well and stayed home but Mr. Van Riemsdyk was in attendance.
“My dad was here and that was special,” JVR said. “You get to certain milestones and things like that, you really appreciate the support you have to get there. So it’s exciting to get it before the end of the season.”
Assistant coach Rocky Thompson was put in charge of the bench by head coach John Tortorella.
Thompson said JVR represents the ultimate in professionalism.
“He’s an awesome pro,” Thompson said. “Three hundred goals is a very impressive feat. He’s a pleasure to work with, a consummate professional. We were all happy for him as you could see on the bench.”
According to Thompson, van Riemsdyk has been instrumental in the development of several young players, most notably Tippett and Morgan Frost.
“The communication on the bench, the encouragement with the guys, those are the types of things when you’re a younger player, it gives you a little bit of a confidence,” Thompson said. “It’s so helpful. You could see Frosty and Tipp start to elevate their game. ‘Riemer’ was a big part of that.”
Columbus jumped to a 2-0 lead on goals from Liam Foudy at 9:47 and Trey Fix-Wolansky at 12:43. Goalie Carter Hart did not receive a whole lot of support in the early going.
However, the Flyers came roaring back. Joel Farabee notched his 15th goal of the season off a Travis Konecny assist at 14:59 and JVR struck a mere 34 seconds later.
Just 47 seconds into second period, Tippett rushed down the left side and sent a rising shot past goalie Michael Hutchinson.
The Blue Jackets tied the score at 3-3 on a power play at 5:50 of the third period. Sean Kuraly tipped in a point shot.
The Flyers wrap up their season against the Blackhawks, then the team plans to hold exit interviews on Friday. Interim general manager Daniel Briere is scheduled to address the media on Monday. . .With the results of Tuesday night action, the Flyers are locked into the seventh spot in the upcoming NHL draft lottery.