The Philadelphia Flyers dominated the New Jersey Devils throughout the second period of Wednesday night's home opener at the Wells Fargo Center. All they had to show for it, however, was a skinny 1-0 lead on an Ivan Provorov power play goal... and the Flyers would soon find themselves in dire straights.
Below is an account from those on the bench and on the ice of what would become of the save of the game and perhaps the season.
Second Period - 2:31
Sean Couturier attempted to bank the puck high off the glass in the defensive zone, over and past a Devils forechecker and over to a teammate exiting the zone. Unfortunately, Couturier lifted the puck a little too much, and it sailed over the glass at 17:29.
The result - an automatic delay of game minor regardless of intent. The Flyers were shorthanded, 5-on-4.
Still with 2:31 remaining, on the ensuing faceoff, Kevin Hayes played the puck with his hand. A faceoff violation under a rule implemented two seasons ago, a first violation brings about a warning. A second results in an automatic penalty.
The Flyers were now shorthanded, 5-on-3, for a full two minutes.
HAYES: "That's a long two minutes there, for me and Coots."
Flyers goaltender Carter Hart hadn't seen many shots -- either in quantity or quality -- up to that point. Late in the first period, he made a spectacular post-to-post save However, in the second period, only three shots had made it on his net, and all were routine stops. That figured change in a hurry.
At 5-on-4, ever since the second half of last season but especially early this year under new penalty kill coach Mike Yeo, the Flyers have thrived on the penalty kill through active pressure on entry attempts and strong-side pressure within the "D" zone. At 5-on-3, however, this is much harder to do, especially for a full two minutes.
Scott Laughton, himself a regular part of the penalty killing rotation, won the first faceoff of the kill.
Second Period - 2:06
The Flyers got through the first 25 seconds or so without incident. Their luck seemingly ran out 30 seconds into the kill as the PKers could not prevent a pass across to the right side, where the deadly Taylor Hall was ready and waiting.
HART: "I kind of lost the pass in the middle and then saw [Hall] winding up on the side," Hart said.
Any NHL power play regular would be a threat to score from that spot with the amount of shooting room available. This wasn't just any NHL forward, either. It was a Hart Trophy winner (2017-18 season), and his shot was a beauty that was ticketed for the net right off the blade.
Video: NJD@PHI: Hart slides across the crease to stone Hall
Second Period - 2:01
Somehow and some way, Hart got over and got just enough of the puck with a portion of the glove to keep it from going in.
HART: "I had to quickly push over and stick my arm out. Luckily, it hit me."
The Wells Fargo Center crowd erupted. The players on the Flyers bench reacted.
VIGNEAULT: "I don't just feel the bench, I feel it in the whole building. The vibes tonight, it was a great atmosphere. It was something that I want to be part of, players want to be part of. It's uplifting, and it's a lot of fun."
COUTURIER: "It was unbelievable. Especially with me and Hayes in the box there, we we're pretty nervous. 5-on-3 for two minutes and he made some big saves, especially that one. It was 1-0 at that point, really a game changer there."
Second Period - 2:00 through :30
The Flyers penalty killers did a strong job thereafter of taking away passing lanes. Hart stepped up twice more, denying a clear-sighted 34-foot slapper from Nikita Gusev and making a close-in save on longtime Flyer Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers in front took care of the rest.
LAUGHTON: "I have to be honest, it's big balls by everyone. Hartsy made the save of the year already. Everyone is working on the same page. Sometimes you are going to have to kill those off and we had to kill off a shortened one and then another one. It was pretty electric out there."
Moments after the Couturier and Hayes penalties ended, Hart had to make a difficult save on Kyle Palmieri -- a goal for New Jersey right after Philly survived the 5-on-3 would still have a been like a dagger in Philly's heart. Nico Hischier then fired a puck that sailed over the net. The crisis was averted.
Third Period - 19:27 through 19:03
Early in the third period, the Flyers pulled away from New Jersey with a pair of closely spaced goals. Appropriately, they were scored by Hayes (power play) and Couturier (even strength).
HAYES: "The place was buzzing. It was electric in there. It's nice to have my mom and dad and some family and friends here. They are probably more excited than I am about the goal to be honest, but that place was electric tonight."
Video: NJD@PHI: Hayes, Couturier score twice in 24 seconds
The only suspense that remained was whether Hart would notch his first NHL career shutout. He did, making 25 saves in all. The 21-year-old Hart became the youngest Flyers goaltender to record a shutout, breaking the record formerly held by a 22-year-old Dominic Roussel.
KONECNY: "We have a player of the game helmet and I said I should have given it to the whole 5 on 3 crew. Obviously, Hartsy's save is a huge momentum swing for us, but the 5 on 3 was unbelievable for us and I think that is almost bigger than a goal sometimes when you get that momentum and you can come off that."
Video: Hear from Couturier and Hart following win over NJD
HYNES (NJ Devils Head Coach): "He made a big save on Hallsy (Taylor Hall) on Jack (Hughes) pass, but two minutes 5 on 3 gave them a lot of life and it's something that we needed to build momentum the other way and it wasn't there tonight."
VIGNEAULT: "It's not about the quantity of saves so much. It's about the quality of the saves, and the timeliness."
Video: Hear from Flyers coach following win over NJD