Flyers rally to win in second straight shootout
VANCOUVER - Stretching with one skate straddling the red line in warmups, Canucks winger Tom Sestito peered across the paint to see how his former teammates were faring.
That’s when Kimmo Timonen circled past Sestito and pointed at the Flyers’ crest on his jersey and smiled – as if to say, “You miss this?”
So, when Sestito kicked a long Dan Hamhuis rebound to his stick and pounded it into the back of the net to give Vancouver it’s first goal of the game last night, he immediately reached for his Canucks logo and raised it to the delight of 18,910 raucous fans at Rogers Arena.
“I’m a Canuck now,” Sestito said with a laugh postgame. “I don’t score many, so I’ve got to ‘celly’ hard.”
The Flyers got the last laugh.
Behind the saving grace of Steve Mason and late heroics of Brayden Schenn, the Flyers somehow skated off with a 4-3 shootout win despite giving up a season-high 44 shots on goal. It was the first time the Flyers had allowed more than 30 shots since Dec. 9, a span of nine games.
“I actually enjoyed it,” said Mason, after a season-high 41 saves and three more in the shootout. “It was nice to get into the game and feel like you’re doing something out there.”
Vinny Lecavalier scored for the Flyers in the shootout. Mason stopped all three shots from the Canucks – Mike Santorelli, Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin.
With their second consecutive win in a shootout – the first time that’s happened since 2006 – the Flyers survived perhaps their toughest test of their daunting, five-game western trip, which still includes stops in Calgary, Colorado and Phoenix.
His team trailing, 3-2, in the final minutes, Craig Berube yanked Mason for the extra attacker, and Mason could do little more than put his head down. Minutes earlier, he’d allowed a fluky go-ahead goal that bounced off his glove.
“I was looking down, I try not to watch those last minutes,” Mason said. “It’s obviously tense moments. It was an unfortunate goal to give up there.”
Instead, he heard his teammates cheering when Brayden Schenn flipped the game on its head with 46.8 seconds left. It was Schenn’s first goal in 17 games. The goal provided the Flyers their their second third-period comeback of this road trip.
“I think at the start of the year, we would get really frustrated with our play if we were up two goals and they scored one, we’d get frustrated right away and kind of press the panic button,” Claude Giroux said. “I think everybody’s relaxing more, everyone’s doing their job.”
Considering their opponent and venue, last night was perhaps the Flyers’ most impressive of them all – and Mason’s best game of the season. He turned aside nearly every overwhelming bullet from twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and his teammates picked him up.
“I heard the boys cheering,” Mason said. “It’s nice to see the boys battle like that.”
On two different occasions – toward the end of the second and third periods – the Flyers looked all but out of the game. Before Schenn’s point-saving late tally, the Flyers trailing 2-1 in the waning minutes of the second period when Michael Raffl sprung Giroux on a semi-breakaway.
Eluding two Canucks defenders while he was being hooked and slashed, Giroux somehow jammed the puck through the five-hole of Vancouver goaltender Eddie Lack to knot the game for the Flyers with 1:08 remaining in the third period.
“I don’t remember much besides going to the net and trying to put the puck on net,” Giroux said.
Amazingly, the game-tying goal wasn’t even Giroux’s nicest of the month of December, since it didn’t top his backhand shelving of Blue Jackets goaltender Curtis McIlhenney back on Dec. 20.
The Flyers are now 9-0-1 when Giroux scores a goal in a game this season.
Earlier in the game, Giroux assisted on Mark Streit’s opening tally to extend his points streak to a career-high nine games. On the ice where Canada captured the Olympics’ last gold medal, Giroux furthered his case for Team Canada’s Sochi roster with his 17th point (six goals and 11 assists) in these nine games.
Mason said he felt the Flyers battled harder for him after the weak go-ahead goal; Giroux said it was Mason’s impressive showing that made them want to do it in the first place.
“He was unbelievable, just the saves he was making,” Giroux said. “He’s our hardest working guy. So when the goalie is your hardest working guy, the players are obviously going to follow.”
Wayne Simmonds saw streak of consecutive games with multiple goals come to an end at three. To put his magic in perspective, Sidney Crosby has only posted multiple goals in three straight games once – and Alex Ovechkin has never done it in his career. Simmonds would have set a Flyers record with at least two goals against the Canucks ... John Tortorella is 35-15-1 in his last 51 games coached against the Flyers ... Jake Voracek’s career-high nine-game point streak came to an end.
“Came down with a mild case of the #emeryflu for tonight’s game. #prevention #precaution #preservation.” - Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo (@strombone1) on Twitter yesterday. Luongo missed the game with a lower-body injury. After Ray Emery’s pummeling of Washington goaltender Braden Holtby back on Nov. 1, Luongo tweeted: “Just an FYI. If Ray Emery ever skates down the ice and tries to fight me, I’m getting the (bleep) out of dodge!!!” He wasn’t lying.