Flyers rally to salvage a point in OT loss at Toronto

Travis Konecny

They could have packed it up and headed for the exit after trailing by a 3-1 score with less than six minutes to play.

      But there was no give-up by the Flyers on Thursday night in Toronto. They picked up goals from Garnet Hathaway and Travis Konecny as time was running out and managed to complete regulation time tied at 3-3 to earn a valuable point at Scotiabank Arena.

       Although they couldn’t quite complete the comeback, surrendering an overtime goal to William Nylander just 54 seconds into the tiebreaker, the Flyers had to feel good about their late rally in the 4-3 loss.

       For quite awhile, it looked like Auston Matthews’ natural hat trick in the second period would prove the difference for Toronto.

       Matthews showed why he’s one of the league’s most feared sharpshooters in the second period, recording a natural hat trick in a span of seven minutes, 49 seconds.

      Matthews, who upped his season goal total to 45, went to work at 11:06 of the middle frame. With the Flyers leading, 1-0, Matthews sent a shot past goaltender Samuel Ersson.

      The Maple Leafs went on a power play and Matthews found the range from the right faceoff dot at 14:20. That ended the Flyers’ streak of 12 consecutive kills.

      Finally, Matthews completed the uninterrupted string of three goals by sending a shot from the slot past Ersson’s glove. It was Matthews’ fifth hat trick of the season.

      Hathaway scored with 5:46 to play in the third to close the deficit to one and then Konecny connected with 4:45 left on the clock.

      On the overtime goal, the Flyers were victims of a poorly timed line change.

      “Just a dumb change,” said coach John Tortorella. “But we had some fight, found a way to get a point. It’s the steadiness of the room. They just keep on playing. Would have liked to play a little bit more in the overtime but it doesn’t surprise me how they handled themselves.

      “You throw out seven or eight minutes of that game, I don’t have any problem at all.”

      The Flyers’ league-leading 13th shorthanded goal provided a 1-0 lead at the first intermission.

      Newly-named alternate captain Konecny hit a post and then chased down the deflection along the boards, He forwarded the puck to Scott Laughton. He spotted defenseman Travis Sanheim racing down the slot. Sanheim accepted the pass, dodged goalie Ilya Samsonov and slid the puck home.

      Philadelphia now has produced the most shorthanded goals by the team in 13 years.

      “That’s been our (penalty) kill all year, we try to be aggressive,” Sanheim said in a televised interview during the first intermission. “Create turnovers when we can. Put pressure up the ice. TK gets a nice look. I was trying to jump in case in case it turned into an odd-man (situation). I was fortunate enough to put that one in.”

      Konecny said the Flyers refused to give up even when they fell behind by two with time running out.

      “We spoke in between (the second and third) periods,” Konecny said. “We believed that we were still in the game. We’ve been in that position before. We’ve proven that we’re never going to give up on the games.”

      Hathaway felt the same way.

      “It was a game of momentum,” he said. “It was a big part for our team to come back.”

      Sanheim liked the way his team showed resilience.

      “Good team effort to battle back,” he said. “I’m proud of us getting that point. Some games aren’t going to go our way and we have to find a way to get a point. We stuck with it, stayed patient and found a way to tie it up.”

      >Couturier begins captaincy

      Sean Couturier was named the 20th captain in Flyers’ history on Wednesday and he wore the “C” for the first time in game action on Thursday.

      Coach John Tortorella had not named a captain through all of last season and the better of this campaign but he felt the timing was right to give Couturier the designation.

      “He’s very well respected in the room,” Tortorella said in a televised interview. “TK has brought a different attitude, I feel he deserves part of that group with the letters. That’s not the whole leadership group, there are other people but as far as the letters are concerned, we go with these three.

     “I think it’s time that we added to the leadership group. Sean’s handled himself very well.”

      Couturier is the Flyers’ first captain since Claude Giroux was traded away late in the 2021-22 season.

      “I definitely learned a lot from him,” Couturier said. “I was with him for 10, 11 years. Definitely a great leader. A real competitive guy. Got a chance to be around (former captain) Chris Pronger a little bit too. I’ve been around some good veterans.”

      The Flyers told Couturier at a team meeting before Wednesday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J.

      “I was surprised,” Couturier said. “I was caught a little off-guard, especially at this time of the year. We’ve built something special here. Everyone’s kind of grown together and done a great job of handling ourselves all year. Nothing can really change that at this time of the year.

      “I’m very honored, it’s a prestigious organization. I’ve been here 13 years. I’ve kind of grown into the city, I’m starting to make this place home. I love this city, love this organization. Everyone’s treated me well since I’ve been here. It’s a great honor, I’m just excited to keep building this team and getting right back in the right direction.”

      Couturier might have been named captain a lot sooner if not for a pair of back operations that caused him to miss a season and a half. Plus, the Flyers apparently wanted to see how he would recover this season.

      Sanheim was happy Konecny was named one of the alternate captains.

      “He’s been scoring like that for us all year, so nothing new,” Sanheim said. “As for the letter, it’s been a long time coming. The last two seasons he’s been our best player. On the nights we win, he seems to be the guy leading the charge. I’m proud of him that he’s finally been rewarded for that.”

      >Short shots

      The Flyers’ scratches included Tyson Foerster (lower-body injury), Olle Lycksell (healthy) and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (upper-body injury). Ristolainen is expected to be out approximately three weeks. . .Hathaway ended a 20-game goal drought. . .The Flyers will practice on Friday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. beginning at 2 p.m. in preparation for Saturday night’s Stadium Series game against the New Jersey Devils, 8 p.m. . .Konecny and Matthews are the only two NHL players with at least 20 goals, 20 assists and a plus-15 rating.

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About Wayne Fish 2426 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.