Captain Claude Giroux made good on his promise back in November, guaranteeing the Flyers would make the playoffs.
This, after a horrific 1-7 start to the season, and the firing of then head coach Peter Laviolette.
Needing four points to stave off the wild cards, the Flyers snagged two of them against the Sabres, and needed only two more. Enter the Florida Panthers. Utilizing what appeared to be an army of goaltenders, the Cats were forced to put Dan Ellis in net last evening since their starting goalie, the now returned former Panther goalie Roberto Luongo couldn’t play due to the ever popular “upper body injury”, making Ellis the emergency starter.
Fresh off a win to overcome a four game losing streak, the Flyers seemed amped and ready to take advantage of the opportunity to cash in on a playoff ticket, and this game would indeed be the clincher required, as fans saw a four goal second period from Philly to keep the Panthers at bay and proceed to snag the much needed W.
Both clubs went back and forth through the first but ultimately finished scoreless after the frame, although the Flyers had amply chances to put points on the board after collecting a 4 minute power play and even getting a two man advantage during it. Sadly they couldn’t create a score out of this, but it wouldn’t matter once the second period began.
Vincent Lecavalier, who has been in Craig Berube’s doghouse these days, put the first point up, and from that point on, the Flyers never looked back. Claude Giroux, scuffling through a goal-less streak, would tally two for himself a few minutes later, giving Philly a seeming command of the game. Sean Couturier would then erase his own goal scoring issues with a beautiful snipe late in the period, and the final bell would deliver a 4-0 Flyers lead, this despite giving the Panthers 24 shots on goal through two.
The third period, once the highlight of a Flyers game this year, has now become the bane of it, and this one put this issue on display as well. Holding a decisive 4-0 lead, the Flyers were flat out-hustled in the third period. Giving up a whopping 16-3 shots on goal disparity, and letting Mason get rag-dolled in his net would not be what this team wants to see so close to the playoffs. Mason did do an amazing job even if surrendering two goals, making a few incredible saves to keep the Panthers from actually getting things even.
Young gun Tye McGinn would answer back on two Panther goals with one of his own to up the score 5-2, but the third clearly belonged to Florida. This is an issue that must be addressed if the Flyers are to have any success in the postseason, especially if they land the Rangers, which looks to be the case. New York has had Philly’s number all year, even more so in New York, where the Flyers just can’t buy a win. They’ll need to play stronger third periods again in hopes that they are needed to climb out of any holes in the frame during playoff games.
The rest of the season doesn’t look too tough on Philly, with three games remaining they will play Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Carolina. Pittsburgh will most assuredly be the toughest challenge, but the Flyers have a shot at winning all three if they continue to play hard. They should, as it looks like they have recovered from the losing streak and are ready to go on another winning one again.
*photo courtesy of NHL.com