PITTSBURGH — The Flyers used a late rally, again, to jolt their good pals from Pittsburgh on Sunday night, 2-1, at PPG Paints Arena.
Here are some observations from the much-needed overtime win:
Sidney Crosby is a verified Flyers killer, so it was odd to see him make a mistake that led to a dramatic win by the Orange and Black.
With the final seconds of overtime disappearing, Crosby tried to strip the puck from Sean Couturier in the neutral zone. Instead, Couturier skated around Crosby to create a two-on-one.
From the right circle, the center then beat Matt Murray to the stick side with 3.4 seconds remaining, pushing the Flyers to within six points of a wild-card spot with 10 games left.
“I knew there was time left,” Couturier said, adding he was more worried about a lurking Crosby than the clock. “I had my back turned to the play, and you never know. Crosby could have just … went the other way, but I got the chip by him and got a good goal there.”
Crosby has 99 points in 67 career games against the Flyers, but he was blanked Sunday and finished at minus-2. He had collected points in seven straight games against the Flyers and had scored goals in the previous four meetings.
As for Couturier, he has 36 points in the last 28 games.
Claude Giroux, certified rink rat, was battling flu-like symptoms, and interim coach Scott Gordon knew he was extremely ill when he wasn’t able to participate in the morning skate. But Giroux had an IV administered before the game and proclaimed himself ready.
“It was a big game. I think everybody in the locker room would have done the same thing,” Giroux said. “If you asked me [Saturday night], I don’t know if I’m playing, but our trainers did a good job.”
Giroux was eased into the action. He played just 4:40 in the first period, 7:29 in the second, and a combined 9:38 over the third period and overtime. He finished at plus-2 and took all six of his shots after the second period. That doesn’t include the second-period goal he scored that was erased by a video review because it was determined Jake Voracek was offside when the play started.
Shortly after the Penguins took a 1-0 lead, the arena erupted with chants of “16,000.” That’s how many days it’s been since the Flyers won the Stanley Cup.
The fans were reminded of the number in a Pittsburgh newspaper story, and some unfurled a huge banner that read, 16,000 AND COUNTING.
Carter Hart, 20, played perhaps the best game of his young NHL career, stopping 40 of 41 shots and keeping the Flyers’ oh-so-slim playoff hopes alive.
“It was very cool to be a part of that. It’s hard to describe,” Hart said. “A lot of emotions, and it was just a lot of fun.”
Hart now has a 2.76 GAA and .918 save percentage. Look for him to start most of the remaining 10 games.
The Flyers power play went 0-for-3 and is now 0-for-17 in the last seven games. On the flip side, the revived penalty kill was 4 for 4 and helped keep the game within reach.
In the outdoor game Feb. 23 at the Linc, Voracek scored on a bad-angle shot with 19.7 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime.
Sunday, James van Riemsdyk scored with 18.8 seconds left to force OT.
The Flyers won both those games against the Penguins.
If they had not blown a 5-2 lead in Toronto on Friday and dropped a 7-6 decision, their playoff chances would not be as daunting.