Shorthanded goals can change the momentum of a game and it certainly did for the Flyers on Thursday night in Tempe, Arizona.
Travis Konecny scored the Flyers’ NHL-leading seventh shorthanded goal early in the second period for a 3-1 lead and the Flyers went on to a third straight win, a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes at Mullett Arena.
Konecny’s second goal of the game and 14th overall of the season changed the momentum of the game. The Coyotes had scored late in the first period and appeared to be making a charge early in the second.
But with the Flyers down a man, Konecny took a pass from defenseman Nick Seeler, rushed in alone from the red line and beat goaltender Connor Ingram at 4:38. Konecny is among the NHL leaders in shorthanded goals with three.
The Flyers improved their record to 14-10-2 and moved past Carolina into second place in the Metropolitan Division.
That said, coach John Tortorella was not all that impressed with his team’s performance.
“I think we have to learn from these types of games,” Tortorella said. “It was an ugly hockey game for both clubs.”
The coach did acknowledge the importance of Konecny’s shorthanded goal although he was quick to point out Konecny’s error led to Arizona’s only goal.
Is it a luxury to have a penalty kill that can change the momentum of a game?
“It was an important goal,” Tortorella said of Konecny’s second goal. “It’s just been that way this year. I think the aggression of the PK, when they’re all moving together, have given us some great momentum in games. It’s a big goal for us tonight.”
Goals by Konecny and Joel Farabee helped the Flyers build a first-period lead. Arizona did get one back just after a Coyotes power play ended and so it was 2-1 Flyers at the first intermission.
Konecny kicked off the scoring when he connected on a one-timer off a Sean Couturier right-circle faceoff win. It was the first time the Flyers scored first in seven games.
Farabee added to the early total when he finished off a nice rush by Cam Atkinson at 13:18 for his ninth goal. That was Farabee’s first goal in the past seven games.
Arizona got on the board just after a power play ended at 17:33. Lawson Crouse put a shot past Carter Hart, who put together his second straight strong performance after Monday night’s shootout win against Pittsburgh
At the first intermission, Konecny said he thought the Flyers were a little “flat” at the opening segment of the initial 20 minutes.
“A little bit of a roller coaster,” Konecny said. “But we got back to our pace. Overall it was OK.”
The Flyers are 10-1 when leading after two periods.
Couturier, who turned 31 on Thursday, liked the way the Flyers played strong defense after getting the two-goal lead.
Speaking at the second intermission, he acknowledged his team had to continue to watch out for Arizona’s long pass game.
“We’ve been opportunistic,” he said. “I think we have to tighten up a little bit defensively. We’re giving up some weird odd-man rushes, maybe be a little more disciplined. We’re in control of this game, we just have to finish it off.
“They have a lot of skill. They like to go on the rush and get their defensemen involved. We have to make sure we backcheck hard and make sure we don’t get beat up the ice.”
After the game, Couturier reiterated his praise of the Flyers’ strong defensive game.
In the third, defenseman Cam York made a “Shayne Gostisbehere” deke move at the point, raced in and scored at 1:47 for a 4-1 lead.
The Flyers improved their road record to 8-4-1. They have won six of their last seven away from home.
Coming between a pair of games against Pittsburgh and another upcoming game against Colorado, this could have been a trap game. The Flyers didn’t fall for it.
“It can be a trap game sometimes,” York said. “But I thought we managed it well. We’re playing some good hockey right now.”
The Flyers entered the game having moved up to sixth in the NHL on the penalty kill. They were No. 1 over the past month at an eye-opening 94 percent. . .Olle Lycksell, who had been called up from the Phantoms, filled in for Ryan Poehling, who is ill. . .The Flyers have given up three goals or less in 10 straight road games, the longest stretch for Philly in 18 years. . .Defenseman Egor Zamula returned to the lineup after sitting out two games; Marc Staal was a healthy scratch. . .The Flyers’ next stop is Denver on Saturday night to play the Colorado Avalanche. . .Philadelphia goes to 11-1 when scoring the first goal of the game. . .Hart recorded career win No. 92, tying him with Bob Froese and Roman Cechmanek for fifth on the Flyers’ all-time list. . .Nick Delauriers picked up an assist on the York goal for career point No. 100. . .Flyers came into the game third-best in the NHL on the road for goals-against average at 2.50.