By Connor Thomas
The Flyers, in the middle of a rough stretch during which they had dropped 4 of their last 5 games, needed a win last night in a bad way. Before some fans were even in their seats at Madison Square Garden (how great is it to be able to use that quip again??), Philadelphia had already jumped the New York Rangers with 2 early 1st period goals. Not even 4 minutes into the contest, Joel Farabee found a loose puck on the right boards that had evaded the Rangers defensemen, and turned a 2 on 1 into a beautiful dish to James van Riemsdyk who was able to slip it past Keith Kinkaid in net. 2 minutes later, off an offensive zone faceoff win for the Flyers, Ivan Provorov ripped a snipe that Kinkaid never really saw that found the back of the net as well. With a quick 2-0 lead, it seemed like Alain Vigneault’s side was well on their way to a much needed victory. The next 20-some minutes of game time was rather uneventful, with a couple of opportunities for each side that ultimately resulted in no change on the scoreboard. The 1st period and half of the 2nd saw the score hang at 2-0 for the orange and the black, but with 8 minutes gone in the 2nd, Artemi Panarin had a nifty back and forth with Ryan Strome that gave a one timer chance to the former. Panarin does not miss those looks often, and he didn’t in this instance, beating Carter Hart glove side.
If that goal didn’t come off a clean enough look for New York, the goal that came 2 and a half minutes later certainly did. Brendan Smith corralled a loose puck in the Rangers’ defensive zone and had no issue connecting an outlet pass to a streaking Panarin, already behind the entire Flyers’ defense. Panarin and Colin Blackwell found themselves 2 on 0, and it only took one more tape to tape pass to allow Blackwell to beat Hart to the back side of the net. While the Flyers’ young net minder has not had his best season, he was certainly hung out to dry by his defensemen last night in the Garden. Philly’s lead had already evaporated, but the Rangers were not done in the period. With less than 5 minutes remaining in the 2nd, Julian Gauthier blew by Shayne Gostisbehere like he was standing still, resulting in a free shot from point blank range that Hart was unable to keep out. Just like that, the Flyers’ 2-0 lead had turned into a 2-3 deficit. Luckily for Philly, they got a break just before the end of the period, when Gauthier followed up his goal with a slip of the stick that caught Travis Konecny squarely in the schnoz. The high sticking penalty created a power play that only lasted 8 seconds, as Joel Farabee got a clean look and beat Kinkaid top shelf to even the score once again. The flood gates were officially open on both ends, and the start of the 3rd period saw more scoring on both sides of the ice. The first goal of the period was New York’s, specifically center Kevin Rooney’s, who was unchecked in front of the goal. He did not feel as much as breath from the Flyers’ defensemen. Rooney beat Hart low to the glove side, and the Rangers once again had a lead.
A few minutes later, Gauthier, who had already cost New York once on the night, again lost track of his stick, this time catching Claude Giroux in the face. The bloody nose that resulted led to a 4 minute double minor, and who else but Giroux would take advantage. Jake Voracek truly made the play happen, with a dazzling pass through traffic to the back post that Giroux barely had to move his stick to direct into the net. The rest of the 3rd period was a deadlock at 4 goals apiece, until Kevin Hayes was able to capitalize on a man advantage with a mere 3 minutes remaining. Or so we thought. A winding set up on the power play that allowed Hayes to sneak one past a disoriented Kinkaid, but after a coach’s challenge, it was determined that the play was actually offside. With the goal nullified, the final 3 minutes expired without a game winner, and it was time for overtime hockey. Kinkaid, who had already had a rough night for the Rangers, finally made the nail in the coffin mistake in the extra period. He came way out of net to play a cleared puck, and his pass to the neutral zone was picked off by a streaking Voracek. He skated in, deked right, and slid Kinkaid nearly into the first row of seats as he cut back and all but walked the puck into the wide open net for the game-winner. The 5-4 OT win was much needed for the Flyers, as they moved to 14-9-3 on the year. These two squads will face off again on Wednesday night as the 11-12-4 Rangers look to take their revenge.