When the NHL schedule came out this season, 20 teams were slated to have a road trip that would have to run the California gauntlet.
Consecutive games in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose, in any order, is a daunting part of the schedule considering how good the West Coast teams are this season, especially at home.
Of those 20 teams who have to make that sojourn to the left coast, there was only one who was fortunate enough to head home with a winning record prior to Monday.
Now, it’s two.
The Flyers used another third period comeback to defeat the San Jose Sharks 5-2 Monday to join the New Jersey Devils as the only two teams to get two wins on the same trip in California this season.
The comeback was the 10th of the season, which is a franchise record.
However, while other comebacks were dramatic because the play prior to the third period was a little hairy, this time, you could almost sense the comeback was going to happen.
That’s because the Flyers played a good, not great first period, but trailed 2-1. They followed it up with a sensational second period, one where they dominated puck possession, kept the Sharks on their heels for almost the entire 20 minutes and really pressed and pressed to tie the score.
They couldn’t, but it was definitely a momentum sustainer and from there the third period exploded into jaw-dropping offense.
Matt Read scored 1:11 into the period. Michael Raffl followed up 1:18 later to give the Flyers the lead. And before the Sharks could even ask, “What happened,” Claude Giroux scored 1:27 after Raffl, and as Jim Jackson so eloquently said on the television broadcast, “Boom, Boom, Boom,” the Flyers were ahead by two goals.
Giroux, who has been one of the top scorers in the NHL since mid-November, continued to stay red hot, and finished with three points against San Jose.
He finished with two goals and three assists for five points on the trip and now has seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 17 games since the calendar flipped to 2014 with six multiple-point games.
Scott Hartnell quietly had another strong outing, playing his best stretch of sustained hockey since his All-Star campaign in 2011-12.
He is averaging a point per-game for the past six weeks with eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points in the past 24 games.
But it wasn’t just Giroux and Hartnell.
Matt Read had a great game, as did Sean Couturier as they not only provided a goal, but along with Steve Downie shut down the Sharks top line.
Michael Raffl continued to be incredibly reliable, now playing fourth line center and he scored another goal.
His 17 points are tied for 24th in the NHL among rookies, but he only averages more ice time than four of those players ahead of him – and his time is coming on the fourth line and on the penalty kill, which is making his contributions more impressive.
Speaking of impressive, this was the best defensive game the Flyers have played as a team in some time and kudos need to be handed out to all six defensemen, but especially to Luke Schenn, Erik Gustafsson and Andrej Meszaros, three guys who have spent time as healthy scratches this season who are all playing their best hockey of late.
Technically the Flyers (28-23-6, 62 points) didn’t move back into a playoff spot because both Columbus and Detroit have a game in-hand on them, but they are tied in points with the Jackets for third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the second place New York Rangers, and tied with both Columbus and Detroit for the final wild card spot and only two points behind Montreal for the top wild card spot.
NOTES: The Flyers beat the Sharks for the first time since December 21, 2000, snapping a 13-game winless streak against the club, and won in San Jose for the first time since November 5, 1999, which snapped a seven-game winless streak there… The Flyers scored a power play goal (Mark Streit) for the seventh consecutive game. They’ve tallied a power play goal in 13 of the last 16 games and are 25 percent (14-for-56) in that stretch… The Flyers held the Sharks to just 22 shots. San Jose led the NHL in shots per game with an average of 35.2 shots per night heading into the game…The Flyers now have 64 third period goals on the season, which is tied with Chicago for second-most in the NHL and is just two behind league-leading Boston. They have scored 41.6 percent of their goals (64 of 154) in the third period this season… The Flyers forced 27 San Jose giveaways, which is the most they’ve squeezed out of an opponent this season. The previous high was 20 forced at Ottawa on Nov. 12… Steve Mason went 2-1 on the road trip with a 2.02 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanFilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers