Flyers-Blue Jackets Observations: A 5-Goal First Time in a Long Time
It wasn't a five-goal rally from down 4-0, but the Flyers' third-period performance, scoring five goals in the final 10 minutes of the game, helped change the course in a game that would have had a very different result a year ago.
A year ago, the Flyers would have spent the second period and the early third making a push, then give up an unfortunate goal, take the two-goal deficit and fold.
Not this team. Not on Alain Vigneault's watch.
"I wasn’t here last year, so I can’t comment on that. This year, when I came into the room after the first and the second, we just said that we are going to win this game," Vigneault said. "We were going to find a way. We were the better team and that’s what we did in the third period."
From Columbus' early goal to make it 4-2 in the third, the Flyers scored five unanswered goals. They outshot Columbus, 17-5, in the final period to finish the game with a 46-26 advantage. It was the first time the Flyers had scored five goals in a period since their 6-5 shootout win over Florida on Oct. 16 last season. But it was the first time the Flyers had scored five goals in the third period of a game since Dec. 19, 2013, a 5-4 win where they also erased a 4-2 deficit against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Here are some more observations from the Flyers heroics against the Blue Jackets.
Familiar Columbus Formula
Through the first two periods and into the early part of the third, Columbus followed a traditional formula to get into control of a game on the scoreboard. They were getting a lot of fortunate bounces and they were winning the goaltending battle.
Brian Elliott was not great in his third start in a row, but man, did he have some bounces go against him.
Columbus' first goal by Boone Jenner was a shot from below the goal line that hit Ivan Provorov's stick, bounced off Elliott's back and in. Puck luck.
Columbus' second goal was Pierre-Luc Dubois taking advantage of the Flyers as a penalty expired, leaving them with a player out of the picture for a few seconds after re-entering the ice. Dubois got inside positioning and fired a shot went to far side and beat Elliott.
The third goal was a rebound that Elliott failed to cover and tried to sweep to the corner on to come onto Jenner's stick for the rebound goal.
The fourth goal was a Dean Kukan shot off the end boards that jumped right to Josh Anderson. Nothing Elliott could do about that kind of shot from there.
The four goals weren't all Elliott, but he admitted after the game he personally probably didn't deserve the win, but the team's effort certainly deserved to be rewarded and was.
At the other end of the ice, the Flyers were not cashing in on their chances. Sean Couturier and Matt Niskanen each missed on breakaways. There were net-mouth scrambles where the Flyers were unable to score. Joel Farabee came close to his first NHL goal a couple of times as well with plays at the net. Credit Joonas Korpisalo for keeping the game close and in Columbus' favor for most of the night, but eventually, Columbus was not able to keep the Flyers from finishing.
JVR Heating Up
In the first seven games of the season, James van Riemsdyk didn't have a goal. He didn't even have a point. Now, he has five in the last two games.
van Riemsdyk scored a goal in the final four minutes of the win in Chicago. He had two goals in Saturday's win against Columbus, both by going to the net and getting deflections. His first goal on the power play was just perfect positioning and a great setup by Jake Voracek. His second came off a set face-off play where Voracek drifted to the point at the top of the zone, allowing Provorov to jump into the play on the left side and center where it hit van Riemsdyk and went in.
Vigneault put out a call for the veteran players occupying the top line to start producing. van Riemsdyk has three goals since then. Giroux got on the board in Chicago. Voracek got the first goal of Saturday's game and had three points of his own.
But van Riemsdyk is the player who is actually finishing chances. If he can really start to get into a rhythm, look out.
A Shorthanded Winner
The Flyers had found a way to tie the game and put the result at risk when Couturier took a tripping penalty, his second penalty of the game. For so much of the season, that trio has carried the Flyers. Couturier's penalty was another blemish on a sloppy night for that group.
With 5:57 left in regulation, you had to think this was where Columbus lets the air out of the balloon and deflates both the team and the crowd. The Blue Jackets' power play has not been good at all this season and struggled on Saturday, going 0-for-5. But wouldn't it have been a fitting way for the game to end -- for the Flyers improved penalty kill to allow a goal at the worst possible moment?
Instead, the newest Flyers forward, Kevin Hayes, left his imprint on the game by stealing the pass from Cam Atkinson, darting up the middle of the ice for a breakaway -- while taking what should have been a hooking penalty on Ryan Murray -- and getting his chance. The initial shot was stopped, but Hayes stayed with it and put the rebound in, giving the Flyers the lead with just under six minutes to play.
Hayes has four goals on the season now, which trails only Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom.
The Flyers didn't have a shorthanded goal last season until Dec. 1. This season, it comes just nine games into the season on Oct. 26, and at the most timely point of the game.
Ghost Exorcises Demons
For the first 50 minutes of the night, it was not a good game for Shayne Gostisbehere. He struggled with puck control, had a turnover at the blue line that led directly to a scoring chance and it just seems like Gostisbehere's frustration level rises and confidence falls when sits on the bench, which leads him to try to grip the stick too hard when he's on the ice.
Finally, with 9:08 left in the third, Gostisbehere broke through for his first goal of the season. He got a little help throughout the play. Josh Anderson's stick broke trying to clear the puck out of the crease and Gostisbehere's one-timer hit the skate of Nick Foligno and rose over the shoulder of Korpisalo.
The celebration said it all. Gostisbehere was letting off steam.
Defensively, Gostisbehere has been fine and played relatively minimal minutes compared to others on the roster, his ice time numbers boosted by power-play time. Offensively, though, there are a lot of reasons to be concerned about him. If this can help get him going, it will be welcome.
What also makes the Flyers comeback so impressive is that they did it with just 11 forwards available. Scott Laughton was hit with a dump-in attempt on the hand, and that forced his exit. Alain Vigneault announced after the game that Laughton broke a finger and will miss approximately four weeks.
It's not a good timeline and Laughton has played an all-purpose role that works really well on this team. The Flyers will now have to replace that in some way. In the immediate, they can use Tyler Pitlick for Sunday night's game in New York and can decide what to do from there.