Another excruciating come-from-ahead loss was almost in the books when the Flyers pulled off their own version of an Easter Sunday miracle. Down two goals with less than eight minutes to play to the Washington Capitals, they rallied for the second time in three games to send it into overtime in the final half minute.
Only this time they did that one better than losing in a shootout, as Ruslan Fedotenko scored the 5-4 game winner 1:34 into the extra session to win it and cap a critical perfect weekend. Coupled with Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Bruins in what might have been their most impressive win of the season—considering they were without three of their top four defensemen—suddenly the Flyers have crawled within two points of the idle Rangers for the East’s final playoff spot.
So much for them being a team one skate out of the grave.
"Every point is crucial,’’ said Fedotenko, who snapped Kimmo Timonen’s pass past Braden Holtby to win it, after Timonen got the equalizer with just 10 seconds left in regulation. "There are a lot of teams fighting for the playoffs. What we did today and yesterday was great, but now it’s over and we have to focus on the next game.’’
Perhaps, but what this weekend showed is that no matter how much adversity they face, the Flyers won’t count themselves out.
"We don’t care what people say,’’ said Zac Rinaldo, who set up Max Talbot to tie it 1-1 in the first, before Talbot became the latest Flyer to go down when he was taken into the boards by Mike Green. "We don’t pay attention. We just do our thing, We proved that yesterday and tonight.’’
Tied 2-2 and with the Caps on a four-minute power play early in the third, an uncharacteristic Claude Giroux giveaway in his own zone led to a Marcus Johansson goal. Just 26 seconds later Alex Ovechkin’s blast made it 4-2 and the Flyers, who were up 2-1 until late in the second, seemed doomed.
But Giroux got one back on the power play at 12:48 and their persistence paid off when Timonen beat the clock—his third of a career-high tying four points on the night. When Fedotenko connected in OT, suddenly the Flyers had leapfrogged Tampa Bay and Buffalo into 12th in the NHL's Eastern Conference with 33 points. They’re hot on the trail of the Rangers and Islanders (35) as well as Carolina and the Caps (34) and not that far behind the 7th place Devils (39).
"Right now it seems like it’s all about the points,’’ said Peter Laviolette, whose team is off until Wednesday when the 22-7-5 Canadiens come to town. "When you go through a couple games like we did against the Rangers and the Islanders and you're not getting the points, it makes things difficult. I really like the fact that the last couple of games we just keep marching forward and looking for points. Tonight, under the circumstances of what happened through the course of that game, we were resilient. There were many weird things in that game.’’
But in a bottom line business, the bottom line is the Flyers somehow got it done.
"We have to enjoy this, but then we have to move on,’’ said Timonen, playing on a revamped defense with Phantoms call-up Oliver Lauridsen and just-acquired Kent Huskins. "Yesterday’s was a tough game and today we battled hard. Hopefully we can get some rest tomorrow and then move on Wednesday.’’
If nothing else, they seemed looser for a change.
"It seems like we having fun on the ice and not holding the sticks so tight,’’ said goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, starting for the 33rd time in 35 games. "It’s more look like loose, relaxed and some things start going our way.’’
Of course there’s still much more work to be done. But having been left for all but dead just a few nights ago, suddenly the Flyers seem very much alive.
The trick now is to stay there.