The Flyers appeared to be ruining the feel-good atmosphere created by a stirring pregame ceremony Thursday night in which Eric Lindros’ No. 88 was retired.
But after 40 quiet minutes, they erased a 2-0 deficit with an unlikely comeback at the reverberating Wells Fargo Center.
Flyers 3, Maple Leafs 2.
Eighteen seconds into overtime, Sean Couturier scored from the left circle after taking a pass from Travis Konecny, enabling the Flyers to sweep all three games with Toronto this season. It marked the second time in the last 20 years that the Flyers swept the season series from the Maple Leafs.
“The guys stuck together and came back hard in the third,” said Couturier, whose team had been 1-12-2 when trailing after two periods.
Michal Neuvirth, who made 29 saves and played brilliantly, also had an assist on the winning goal.
“He kept us in the game,” right winger Wayne Simmonds said.
Couturier scored his 11th goal in the last 12 games after Neuvirth made a key save on Auston Matthews’ point-blank wrist shot down the other end.
Rookie Nolan Patrick got the Flyers to within 2-1, scoring his first goal in 25 games with 18:27 left in the third. Patrick scored after stripping the puck from Mitch Marner behind the net and whipping a shot past Frederik Andersen.
“That pushed us in the right direction,” coach Dave Hakstol said.
“It’s a huge come-from-behind win,” Patrick said after the Flyers bounced back from a 5-1 loss Tuesday to the New York Rangers. “It was a pretty special night with the Lindros retirement jersey, too. It was a fun night.”
A little over a minute after Patrick’s third goal of the season, Simmonds tied it, finishing off a two-on-one shorthanded rush with Val Filppula. It was just the Flyers’ second shorthanded goal of the season.
With 2:50 left in regulation, Neuvirth made a sensational sprawling save to rob Toronto’s Patrick Marleau and keep the game tied, 2-2.
Neuvirth stopped 29 of 31 shots.
“Neuvy stole the show, in my opinion,” Hakstol said.
Before the game, the arena was louder than at any Flyers game this season as Lindros’ No. 88 was raised to the rafters.
But the crowd was quiet in the first two periods as the Leafs built a 2-0 lead.
Connor Brown, a usual fourth-liner who played on the top line, and Frederik Gauthier scored 28 seconds apart in the second period to give the Leafs a 2-0 edge heading into the third period.
After Shayne Gostisbehere (eight shots) lost the puck at the offensive blue line, Brown scored on a breakaway as his shot trickled through Neuvirth’s legs with 7:03 left in the second. Brown grew up near Scott Laughton and is best friends with the Flyers’ center.
Twenty-eight seconds later, Gauthier scored his first goal in his seven games this season, knocking in a rebound. When Toronto’s William Nylander entered the zone on the left wing before the goal was scored, Gauthier may have been offside in the middle of the ice. Replays were inconclusive, and Hakstol – fearing a penalty if he was wrong – decided not to challenge it.
Neuvirth was supposed to be part of a goalie platoon, but because of injuries and Brian Elliott’s strong play, he hasn’t played much this season. Thursday was just his 10th start, but, based on his strong play lately, he may get more action in the season’s second half.
“Obviously, it was tough giving up two quick goals, but I survived it and regrouped after the second, so I was coming into the third with a clear mind,” Neuvirth said.
The Flyers wore No. 88 patches on their jerseys to salute Lindros. The former center’s number was everywhere — on the boards, on the ice, on banners that hung from the arena’s top level and virtually everywhere in the concourse.
“We’re going to have all the ceremonies and the Leafs are going to want to come in and squash our parade,” Simmonds said before the game. “We’re going to have to play good hockey, especially after the way we played against the Rangers the other night.”