The Philadelphia Flyers and the Florida Panthers square off in a Thursday night showdown. They are a pair of teams battling for a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Both teams will get their first look at a pair of trade deadline acquisitions when they fight for a coveted two points at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers (29-26-7, 65 points) enter the game four points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the last wild card spot. Head coach Dave Hakstol knows the importance of this game, and has adjusted his top two lines for this matchup. Wayne Simmonds joins the top line with Claude Giroux and Jordan Weal. In addition, the second line consists of Valterri Filppula, Brayden Schenn, and Jakub Voracek. This will be Filppula’s first big test with his new squad.
Dave Hakstol was very vocal to the media on Wednesday after practice about the line pairings stating, “I don’t think there should be much spotlight on it. That group of six, they’ve been interchanged and all have played together at one point in time. It’s a good time to make the change for our team.”
Where there is a will there is a way because the Flyers were dominant against the Panthers. From start to finish it was a complete effort. Steve Mason got the nod in net, making his second start in consecutive games. He made 49 saves lifting the Flyers to a 2-1 shootout victory. The win gives the Flyers a much needed two points in the wild card standings, keeping pace with the Leafs for the last playoff spot.
With the playing of God Bless America sung by Lauren Hart, the Flyers got off to an energizing start. They found themselves out shooting the Panthers 2-0, when Jordan Weal took a tripping penalty. The Panthers began the power play just 1:10 into the opening stanza. The Panthers registered two shots on net, but Mason made both saves keeping the game scoreless.
Michael Matheson took the first penalty of the night for the Panthers. At 8:45 in the opening frame, he was called for high sticking. The Flyers managed two shots on net, but Luongo made both saves keeping the game scoreless.
Nick Cousins took the Flyers second penalty of the night. Cousins took a high sticking penalty at 11:10 in the first period. The Flyers penalty killers sealed the passing lanes, and limited the Panthers to just one shot on net for the power play. Mason made the easy save keeping the game 0-0.
The Panthers were careless at 14:32 in the opening period, giving the Flyers a two man advantage. Penalties to Jason Demers and Vincent Trocheck gave the Flyers what seemed to be an early gift. However, the Flyers could not find twine because of stellar goaltending from Luongo. Luongo made four saves on the Flyers power play keeping the game scoreless.
Both teams were left searching for their first goals of the night, when the first period ended. The Flyers outshot the Panthers 12-11, but lost the faceoff margin 77%-23%.
Things went from good to unknown for the Panthers to start the second period. Luongo appeared to sustain a lower body injury in the first period, so Jason Reimer came in relief of him. Reimer did not seem to be fazed by the turn of events, making eight big saves midway through the second period, keeping the score 0-0.
Michael Matheson was careless with his stick at 10:56 in the second period, as he took his second penalty of the night. The Flyers got careless with the puck, as Giroux committed a turn over in the Flyers zone leading to a short handed goal. Aaron Ekblad took a high wrist shot over Mason’s left arm for a 1-0 Panthers lead. The Panthers did not allow a shot on the Flyers power play.
The second period came to a close with the Panthers leading 1-0. The Flyers were outshot by the Panthers 17-13 for the period, and they lost the faceoff margin 69%-31%.
A determined Flyers team entered the third period flying, but had nothing to show through the first ten minutes. They found themselves out shooting the Panthers 8-4 through the first ten minutes.
The Flyers finally struck gold at 10:38 in the third period. Brayden Schenn threaded a pass over to the trade deadline acquisition Valterri Filppula. He slammed the puck past Reimer for his 8th goal of the year, tying the game at 1.
A fast paced third period came to a close with the score tied at 1. The Flyers out shot the Panthers 18-7 for the period, and 44-36 for the game.
What an overtime. It was end to end, with both teams getting quality scoring chances. The overtime ended with the score still tied 1-1. The Flyers outshot the Panthers 50-46 for the game.
The Flyers win, and Flyers win with the “Stone Cold” Steve Mason making 2 of 3 saves in the shootout, earning the Flyers two huge points with a 2-1 victory. Weal and Voracek scored the goals in the shootout for the Flyers.
Mason was nothing short of phenomenal in the win, and the win puts the Flyers just three points back of the Leafs for the last playoff spot. If the Flyers can sustain a complete effort like tonight, then they will have an opportunity to knock off the red hot Washington Capitals on Saturday night at 730 pm. Follow me on Twitter @JameyBaskow for all Flyers updates.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports