Flyers erupt in third period to stun Sharks
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Craig Berube did not go to Stanford. But it didn’t take a degree in computer science to code a program that would produce a win in Silicon Valley against one of the NHL’s best teams.
Armed with two important facts - that the Sharks led the NHL in both shots on goal and shot differential - Berube devised a plan and put his team to work.
Through two periods, the Flyers held the NHL’s shots leader, with an average of 35.2 shots per game, to just 8 shots at even-strength.
Through two periods, the Flyers kept Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton largely at bay - with the Sharks’ only real scoring chances came on the power play. Their defense was ferocious, a complete team effort with forwards using active sticks in the defensive zone to break up passing plays. And the Flyers were doing it at SAP Center, where the Sharks were a sparkling 20-3-3 this season.
Yet, after 40 minutes of play, the Flyers had nothing to show for their solid effort. In fact, they trailed, 2-1, at the second intermission.
The message, then, between periods was to stay the course.
“It was a tough couple periods, but the guys kept working,” Steve Mason said. “It was one of those games where you knew it was just a matter of time before they found the back of the net.”
It didn’t take long for the Flyers to be rewarded.
Matt Read, Michael Raffl and Claude Giroux all scored within 2 minutes and 45 seconds of each other to lift the Flyers to a clutch, 5-2 win over San Jose. Those three goals chased starter Antti Niemi, who topped the Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup final, from the game in the opening minutes of the third period.
Both Giroux and Raffl said it was the Flyers’ all-around performance of the season.
“We learned how to play defensively,” Read said. “When you play good teams like San Jose, they’re big and strong. You’ve got to take control in the defense zone. That’s where we won this game tonight.”
Last night was the Flyers’ first win over San Jose since Dec. 21, 2000 - snapping a run of 13 consecutive losses. It was also the Flyers’ first win in the Bay Area since Nov. 5, 1999.
With the win, the Flyers set a franchise record for most third period comebacks in a season (10), surpassing the mark set by the 1996-97 Stanley Cup finalists. The Flyers now have 64 goals in the third period the season, second only to Boston.
“We broke the cardinal rule,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “When you get outworked and outnumbered all over the rink, you’re going to lose. It’s as simple as that. I thought they were harder in all facets of the game - the goaltender, the blue line, 5-on-5, special teams. They were just the better team.”
More impressive was the fact that the Flyers became the first NHL team in 11 tries this season to win twice in regulation on a three-game swing through California’s three stops. New Jersey (2-1-0) was the only other team to win twice on the same trip, but they needed overtime in both games.
“I thought all three games, the Flyers showed up and did a good job,” Berube said. ““I think it boiled down to being competitive. When you come out West against these three big teams, if you don’t skate and you’re not competitive, you’re probably going to lose.”
The Flyers were most competitive in the defensive zone. Not only did three defensemen who have been healthy scratches this season - Erik Gustafsson, Andrej Meszaros and Luke Schenn - all turn in solid games, they got a lot of help from forwards.
By his count, Berube said the Flyers didn’t give up a single odd-man rush.
Using active sticks, the Flyers forced 27 Sharks giveaways, more than they’ve squeezed out of any opponent all season. The previous high was 20 against Ottawa on Nov. 12. Assistant coach Ian Laperriere has been preaching to break up more plays with sticks.
“It’s just common sense. You make yourself bigger,” Laperriere said. “You can discourage a play that would be there when you have your stick in the air. You’re telling them on the bench what to do, but when you get the two points, that makes them a believer. Sometimes you will do it and not get rewarded. It was all positive. It was bang-on.”
Even after the third period explosion, they never let up defensively. San Jose did not register an even-strength shot through the first 8 minutes of the period. Overall, the Flyers held the Sharks to just 22 shots, nearly 40 percent below their season average.
“A game like this could have gone either way,” Laperriere said. “Teams come here at the end of a road trip and they just want to get home. It shows how much character is in this room. I thought we played maybe our best 60-minute game of the season.”
Wayne Simmonds was originally credited with his 19th goal of the season in the first period, before asking the official scorers to check the replays. Simmonds did not believe he touched Mark Streit’s point shot - and the goal was changed back to Streit with Simmonds’ honesty. It would have been Simmonds’ 28th point in 24 games ... The Flyers scored a power play goal for the 7th consecutive game. The power play is 14-for-56 (25 percent) in the last 16 games ... Michael Raffl now has 3 points in his last 4 games, a considerable feat given how much time he’s spent on the fourth line.
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