The Flyers rallied from a two-goal deficit to pick up a valuable and hard-earned point in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center.
The reason this is so notable is because as recently as two weeks ago, or for most of the first two months of the season for that matter, the comeback would have had a slim chance of happening. If the Flyers had dug themselves into a 3-1 hole in the second period in October or November, they probably would have shriveled up, tucked their tails between their legs and gone into hibernation mode toward an inevitable loss.
However the recharged Flyers, who have earned nine points in their last six games to creep back into the Eastern Conference playoff race, showed some grit and character. They refused to wilt, peppered Islanders netminder Jaroslav Halak with 46 shots and rebounded to tie the game at 3-all in the third before falling in the shootout.
Despite the loss, the effort left the Flyers rather upbeat in the locker room following the game.
“From start to finish I thought we were the better team,” said Wayne Simmonds, who had a goal disallowed in the third period after it was determined he kicked it in. “We didn’t come out with the two points but sometimes that happens.”
The Flyers could have buckled after Frans Nielsen put the Islanders in front 3-1 just 74 seconds into the second period. Following the goal, which came on the Islanders’ 10th shot, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol replaced starter Steve Mason with backup Michal Neuvirth.
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The move seemed to energize the Flyers, who dominated the rest of the period of most of the third and overtime. They outshot the Islanders, 31-16, following the third goal.
“I think that was the reason that our coach changed the goalie,” said Neuvirth. “To give our team some life.”
The game was something the team can build on and possibly use as a turning point in the season.
“This allowed us to see the big picture,” said Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who scored a short-handed goal to make it 1-1 in the first period.
The Flyers are going to need to duplicate the performance in a challenging back-to-back trip Thursday and Friday to St. Louis and Dallas. The Blues are in second place in the Central Division with 36 points, while the Stars – 7-1-2 in their last 10 games - lead the NHL in points with 44.
“I think we were playing the right way and we got every line playing well,” Captain Claude Giroux said. “We’ve got to keep grinding like that. When you play the way we played, you’re going to be more successful and you’re going to win more games.”