WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Two weeks ago, the reaction would have been different. A lot different.
But this is not the same Flyers team that got off to the worst start in franchise history. This is not the team that was all too willing to wilt when facing adversity. This is not the team that seemingly never had answers when things went awry.
Instead, this is a team that has found an identity. It may not have been the one they anticipated having when they came into the season. It may not be one that Flyers fans are used to seeing. But it’s an identity nonetheless, and it seems to be one worth keeping for the long haul.
The Flyers lost Friday in a shootout, 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets. Their modest three-game winning streak - gone. Their hope of a perfect road trip – gone. Their newfound moxie and belief in themselves – still there, and not going anywhere anytime soon.
“It was a good road trip,” coach Craig Berube said. “We have confidence. Team confidence. We believe we can win games now and play like it.”
And for much of the game Friday, it seemed that was going to be the case. The Jets came out on fire, scored an early power play goal and had the Flyers so hemmed into their end that they didn’t carry the puck across center ice until almost the six-minute mark.
But the Flyers responded.
They scored a quick goal to tie it then a power play goal to take the lead. From there they went into shut down mode
|Steve Mason made 36 saves, but the Flyers still fell in a shootout 3-2. |
and when it was 5-on-5 there wasn’t much room for the Jets to operate and when there was, Steve Mason was once again locked into a zone in goal.
“We came together as a team and started playing the right way and now we have to keep that going next week back at home,” said Scott Hartnell who scored the first goal for the Flyers on a wraparound. It was his third goal in the last four games.
Hartnell also assisted on the power play goal by Wayne Simmonds, which gave the Flyers the lead that they tried to cling to until the bitter end, only to come up short.
Definitely feeling the fatigue of playing three games in four nights in three different road cities, the Flyers came off a good first period and a defensively sound second period only to start to lose their legs in the third.
Mason was at his best in the final stanza though and it looked like he was going to lockdown the win for the Flyers until Steve Downie took a bad hooking penalty and Dustin Byfuglien blasted a slapshot through a screen in front that Mason never saw for his second goal of the game to tie the score 2-2 with just 5:37 to play in the contest.
Those “old Flyers” of a few weeks ago would have just gone into submission at that point. They would have prepared for the inevitable – the winning goal by the opponent. They would have stewed in frustration afterward, cursing their own misfortune.
But Friday was different. Friday was all about proving there is always a little fight left and that giving up that goal to Byfuglien was not a mortal blow, but rather that they weren’t dead yet because it was merely a flesh wound.
Monty Python references aside, the Flyers took the opportunity to survive that goal – and the eventual momentum swing it brought the Jets, and responded in kind with a major push in overtime that saw them fire eight shots on Ondrej Pavelec.
But the Flyers couldn’t solve Pavelec and the game drifted to the dreaded shootout, where they lost for the 44th time in 68 tries in team history.
It went five rounds, and Mason gave them the chance to win outright twice. But both Matt Read and Brayden Schenn came up empty.
Bryan Little scored for the Jets, leaving it up to Kimmo Timonen to keep the game alive, but he couldn’t beat Pavelec either and the game slipped away from the Flyers.
“It sucks losing that point,” said Simmonds. “But overall getting five out of six points, I think we played well… In the past we didn’t have a response. Tonight, we came back right away. They scored in the first and two minutes later (sic) we tied it on a great shift by Hartnell’s line…. We are starting to get our groove back. We did a good job.”
A lot of players were noticeably good for the Flyers throughout. Hartnell had his best game of the season and his game seems to be rounding into shape as he is coming back from an injury that was probably a bit worse than either he or the team let on.
Braydon Coburn was the best defenseman on the ice – and that’s with Byfuglien scoring twice for the Jets. He was all over the rink and the puck found him a lot as he was active offensively as well and nearly willed the Flyers to victory in the overtime with a great individual effort.
Luke Schenn had his best game of the season as well,, delivering nine big hits in more than 16 minutes of action and Adam Hall continued to dominate in the faceoff circle, winning nine of 11 draws, making it 30-for-35 in the last five games .
“Any time you can get five out of six points it’s pretty good,” Mason said. “It would have been great to get the whole six, but moving forward, we’ve put ourself back in a better position, but we still need to find ways to close out hockey games more consistently.”
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