The Flyers’ passing was sloppy in the first two periods of Wednesday’s wildness at the Wells Fargo Center. So was their defense. And they could not contain Detroit’s speed, which had countless odd-man rushes.
But in the end, they had enough left in their tank as they controlled the third period and rallied past a Detroit team that played the previous night and looked fatigued.
Flyers 4, Red Wings 3.
Sean Couturier, whose line was dominating all night, scored on his own rebound with 14 minutes, 3 seconds left to snap a 3-3 tie. Claude Giroux (three assists) and Wayne Simmonds (goal, assist) also keyed the Flyers’ seventh win in their last eight games.
It gave Couturier 16 goals, a career high — and the Flyers have played just 34 games.
The comeback victory moved the Flyers to within two points of a wild-card spot. They were nine points out when they suffered their 10th straight loss Dec. 2.
The Flyers had a 10-4 shots advantage in the final period.
“They were playing back to back and we knew if we kept pushing, they would get tired– and that’s what happened,” rookie defenseman Robert Hagg said.
“We have a resilient group in here…and we turned it up in the third period and it was a pretty good shutdown period for us,” winger Dale Weise said.
Hagg’s first NHL goal tied the score at 3 with 6:20 left in the second, firing a slap shot past Jimmy Howard as he was screened by Simmonds and Couturier.
“I had a few chances earlier this season, so to see that one go in feels pretty damn good,” said Hagg, who blocked a shot with less than four minutes to go in regulation to prevent a Detroit scoring threat.
The Flyers (15-12-7) have shown much more discipline in the last two weeks and have made fewer trips to the penalty box. And when they have been guilty of infractions, their penalty killing has been superb.
Detroit (13-14-7), which lost the services of injured fourth-line center Luke Glendening early in the game, scored a pair of power-play goals on their first three chances to erase a 1-0 deficit and take a 2-1 lead. Martin Frk and Mike Green and scored for Detroit while Giroux (slashing) and Jordan Weal (double-minor for high sticking) were in the penalty box, respectively.
Green’s goal, a point drive with 6-foot-5, 225-pound Anthony Mantha screening goalie Brian Elliott, gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead with 14:10 to go in the second.
Five minutes later, the Flyers answered with a power-play goal of their own as Simmonds tapped in a perfect feed from Jake Voracek, who collected his NHL-leading 34th assist.
But Detroit, which registered a 6-3 win over the goalie-challenged Islanders in Brooklyn on Tuesday, regained the lead on Gustav Nyquist’s close-range wrist shot with 8:31 left in the second. Defensemen Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald were scrambling and could never get into position during the sequence, which started with another odd-man rush by the Red Wings.
“We played one complete period tonight, and that was the third period,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “The first two periods we were too sporadic. Playing against a team that played (Tuesday)), I don’t think we made it quite hard enough on them from some of the easy transition (plays) they had for opportunities. But the players flipped that switch in the third period.”
Provorov, the Flyers’ top defenseman, injured his left hand blocking a shot earlier in the second period and left the ice in considerable pain, but he returned a short time later.
In a first period that ended tied at 1-all, the Red Wings dominated the first part of the session, the Flyers the second part.
The Flyers’ third line gave them a 1-0 lead. Center Nolan Patrick, who had one of his stronger games, won a faceoff from Darren Helm, and Radko Gudas’ point drive caromed off the backboards behind the net, where Weise beat Jonathan Ericsson to the puck and scored on a wraparound against the slow-to-react Howard.
“It was a pretty good bounce off the wall, and I think I banked it off his far leg,” Weise said after giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 4:41 left in the first.
Detroit took advantage of Giroux’s slashing penalty with 66 seconds left in the first.
With just 1.3 seconds remaining in the period, Dylan Larkin’s pass bounced past MacDonald to Frk, who beat Elliott to the short side, knotting the score.
Elliott was making his ninth straight start and 18th in the last 19 games. He showed signs of fatigue as the Flyers’ six-game winning streak was snapped Monday by Los Angeles, 4-1.
“That’s not a question for me; that’s a question for the coach,” Elliot said when asked after Monday’s game if he would like a night off. “Like I said, I will take the opportunity [to play] any time I get it.”
But with Michal Neuvirth injured, the Flyers have been reluctant to use rookie Alex Lyon. Neuvirth might return and play Friday in Buffalo.