If the Flyers end up qualifying for the playoffs, and then making a deep run, they might look back at Saturday’s far-from-perfect but efficient 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets as the game that saved their season.
The win halted a five-game losing streak that had dropped them to third place from first in the Metropolitan Division and nearly eroded the comfortable cushion they had created in securing a postseason berth. It also came less than 48 hours after a crushing 3-2 loss to the Bruins when the Flyers surrendered the go-ahead goal with 22 seconds to play.
Another loss would have left the Flyers just four points out of a playoff spot and, with confidence waning and a tough schedule ahead, could have sent them on a downward spiral they never recovered from.
Instead, they lifted the proverbial monkey off their back, can take a quick breather and shift their focus to getting the season back on track for the final 13 games.
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“It’s a tough way to lose that late in the game like that [in Boston] but you certainly don’t want to let games pile up the wrong way against you, especially at this time in the year the way our race is going,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said following Saturday’s win. “So for us to be able to come in and have a nice complete game, I thought it was really big.”
The team held a meeting after the breakdown in Boston. The players discussed how they played well despite the result, took a big step in the right direction with returning to their style of play and that they needed to stay the course.
“It was we had a tough stretch and we couldn’t find ways to win,” captain Claude Giroux said. “[Winnipeg] was a good test for us. They are a pretty good team and I think we played a responsible game.”
Although they ended the skid, their work is far from over.
The Flyers host the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who just set the NHL record for most road wins by a first-year team, on Monday. From there is a huge home matchup against Columbus. Heading into Sunday night’s games, the Blue Jackets had won seven of their last 10 games, held the final wild card spot and were just four points behind the Flyers.
The Flyers trail the Metro-leading Capitals by two points and the second-place Penguins by a point. However, they hold just a three-point edge over the New Jersey Devils for the first wild card spot with the Blue Jackets also looming.
“We needed the two points,” coach Dave Hakstol said Saturday. “Just looking at the standings we needed it. It was a good win.”
And one that may be remembered as having saved their season.