PHILADELPHIA – In one of the most action-packed games of this young hockey season, the Flyers’ best was good enough to beat the NHL’s best.
The Flyers scored one minute into overtime on a goal by Sean Couturier to topple the league-leading Vegas Golden Knights, 4-3, in a tense match Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.
The win extended Philadelphia’s winning streak to four games and raised its record to 9-7-1.
This was a game that was going to test an up-and-coming Flyers squad from the get-go. The home team understood it couldn’t afford to make too many mistakes against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Couturier acknowledged the Flyers wanted to get this win to validate their recent success.
“It was a big win against a really good team,” Couturier said. “It was a good test all along the game. That extra point was huge.”
The Golden Knights kept testing the Flyers’ defense with shot after shot but the backliners stood their ground and blocked 26 of them, including six by Nick Seeler.
Doing this against the league kingpin certainly can build some more confidence.
“I think all year we’ve played some really good teams,” said Couturier, mindful of recent wins over Los Angeles and Carolina. “Tough travel but we’ve shown up and made it a battle every night. Right now we’re getting results and they’re paying off.”
After losing to bottom-feeder San Jose last week, the Flyers have rebounded with some real resilience.
“We could have gone south but I thought we responded really well,” Couturier said. “We’ve had a couple really big wins since. We’re trusting into the way we play and try to play that way all the time and we’re getting results.”
Philadelphia took leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in a wild second period but had to settle for a 3-3 tie at the intermission due to some penalty trouble.
Tyson Foerster’s first goal of the season just 59 seconds into the second period put the Flyers in front, 2-0. It came on the power play, the Flyers’ second goal with the man advantage of the game, after going 0 for their last 28.
The Golden Knights scored the next two goals. The first of two William Karlsson goals got Vegas on the board at 4:01. His shot deflected off Nick Seeler past Carter Hart.
With five minutes left in the period, Jonathan Marchessault executed a spin-around move in the lower left circle and beat Hart with a nifty backhander to tie the score.
Just 25 seconds later, Sean Walker’s long shot through a screen found its way into the net but then the Flyers began a parade of penalties. Vegas finally scored during a five-on-three power play with Karlsson sending a hard shot past Hart with just 54.2 seconds left in the period.
The Flyers’ drought on the power play came to an end on an Owen Tippett goal at 15:29 of the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
Tippett was stationed at the right inner hash marks and was in position to grab the rebound of Travis Sanheim’s shot. Tippett wristed the puck past goaltender Logan Thompson to finish off the dry spell.
“We talked about that before the game, we need our power play to be a difference-maker,” Cam Atkinson said. “We have to keep it simple with the puck, do the work and have attack mentally. We got rewarded.”
The Flyers are now 9-1-0 when scoring first, which has accounted for all of their wins this season.
As he did in the Flyers’ win at Carolina on Wednesday night, Hart experienced a sensational first period. In the first few minutes alone, he turned aside quality scoring chances by Ivan Barbashev and Brett Howden.
Hart liked the way his team took on the challenge throughout the game.
“It was a gutsy win,” Hart said, “against a really good club. We blew a point in Vegas (after a 2-0 lead), so to come back today with a really strong effort, we’re not letting them beat us in our home building.
“Everybody was firing on all cylinders tonight. They came out hard for the first 10 minutes and then we found our game and just stuck to it.”
Coach John Tortorella appreciated the way his team played and gave credit to the “closeness” in the locker room.
“The biggest thing that’s happened here in the beginning of the season is I think this group is close,” he said. “It’s a better locker room. I’m not going to jump up and down and say we have all this solved. We’re going to have some struggles as the year goes on but the major step that we made was changing that locker room. I think that helps us and I think we’re going to need that help when we go into losing streaks.”
>Moment of silence for Cechmanek
Before the game, the Flyers held a moment of silence for Roman Cechmanek, the former goaltender who played here for four seasons in the early 2000s and passed away last Sunday in his native Czechia. Cechmanek helped the Flyers put together two 100-point seasons, an Atlantic Division title and formed a tandem with Robert Esche to win the William H. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed in the 2002-03 season. Cechmanek also won two Bobby Clarke Trophies for team MVP and was voted to the 2001 NHL All-Star Game.
Bobby Brink was scratched for a third straight game. . .Former Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov and the Columbus Blue Jackets visit late Sunday afternoon. It’s Provorov’s first appearance in Philadelphia since he was traded by the Flyers last summer. . .Defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Marc Staal remain sidelined as they continue their rehab from injuries. Ristolainen has yet to play this season. . .As expected, Atkinson, Travis Sanheim and Travis Konecny all wore neck protection for the first time. The trio experimented with the device during Tuesday’s practice. They have been spurred to try out the new equipment due to the death of ex-NHL player Adam Johnson from a skate cut in the vulnerable area. . .Garnet Hathaway was cross-checked by Vegas’ Chandler Stephenson in the second period. Hathaway briefly left the playing area for repairs but returned to action. Stephenson received a five-minute major and a game misconduct penalty.