Flyers Clinch the Atlantic At Last
Photo Credit: AP Photo
It wasn't easy, and as Flyers fans know it never is with this team. But the Philadelphia Flyers clinched the Atlantic Division title and the second seed in the East Saturday night.
This game was a wild one and it was that way right from the get-go.
The Flyers did exactly what everyone had hoped they would do. They came out early like a team on a mission. Before the game was even a minute old, the Flyers jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Kimmo Timonen scored his 6th of the season and Scott Hartnell scored his 23rd.
The Flyers went to the attack off the opening face-off. Kimmo Timonen fluttered a shot into the glove of Rick DiPietro. He dropped the puck after delaying for a few seconds. Kris Versteeg batted it down and Mike Richards got the puck before finding a wide open Timonen. He fired the shot and was able to make it 1-0 just 16 seconds in.
Scott Hartnell's goal came at the hands of a break away. Ville Leino sent the perfect pass his way as he was at the offensive blue line. Hartnell went shot all the way and beat DiPietro to make it a 2-0 hockey game.
But this was not going to be a 6-0 Flyers win or a game where they would skate circles around the Islanders.
Travis Hamonic tried to get Dan Carcillo to drop the gloves with him, but Carcillo would not drop his. Trevor Gillies and Zenon Konopka then got also involved. When all was said and done, Gillies, Konopka, and Carcillo ended up with 10 minute misconduct penalties and Hamonic got two minutes.
The game really began after that incident.
The Flyers got the puck past DiPietro again, but Jeff Carter had clearly kicked it in, and it was waived off immediately. Carter didn't even attempt to argue it.
Some people have been up in arms season long about the Flyers not recording a single shutout, and many thought tonight would be the night for that. But giving Michael Grabner a break away is not going to help your case in doing that. Grabner may be the fastest player in the NHL. Ville Leino tried to be cute with the puck at the blue line and turned the puck over. Peter Laviolette was not happy with the Islanders getting on the board after a turnover like that.
Two minute later, while on the powerplay, the Islanders silenced the sold out crowd that was once rocking when the game started. Travis Hamonic tied it at two. But the Flyers would respond in a way that is rare for them. Goals like that usually deflate them, but twenty seconds later they took the lead right back. Danny Briere scored on the rush with a beautiful backhander.
But to stick with the theme of this game, of course the Islanders came right back later in the period. The puck was chipped in front of Bobrovsky from behind the net and it sat at the goal line. It was strange, but John Tavares saw the lose puck and tipped it into the net to make it a 3-3 game.
That goal resulted in the pulling of Sergei Bobrovsky for Brian Boucher. Boosh had to come in and save the Flyers from a possible collapse. After taking a 2-0 lead so early, ending the first period in a 3-3 tie was disappointing,
Things got ugly fast in the second period. The Islanders scored on the power play less than a minute in. PA Parenteau scored his 20th of the season. The building was deflated and you could just see the anguish on the face of Peter Laviolette.
The Flyers had no choice but to respond and save themselves from potential embarrassment. On a night where he won the award for the best defenseman of the team, Andrej Meszaros scored to tie it up again. He has been such a pleasant surprise and so clutch when needed most. He deserves much praise.
The Flyers still were not looking very sharp. It wasn't going to be easy for them to regain the lead.
A goal before the period ended would have been fantastic and the Flyers got that goal. Scott Hartnell scored his third goal in two nights. This time it was a goal from a strange angle. Hartnell picks up his game this time of the year. It was no surprise to see him light it up.
It all came down to 20 minutes. All the Flyers had to do was finish the game and keep pressuring the Islanders. That is easier said than done with this team, but this time they actually did it.
Andrej Meszaros scored a power play goal half way through the third period to cap off his incredible night. Add in a Darroll Powe empty netter with 1 second left and that was all it took. The Flyers hung on and won the Atlantic.
It wasn't exactly the desired win. The Flyers did blow a lead and their bad habits were very obvious, but just coming back to win it and put in the solid third period makes things so much more positive heading into the post season. Even though the Flyers couldn't hold on to the number one seed, holding on to the second seed and averting a collapse was huge.
The second season begins on Thursday. The slump at the end of the regular season hardly even matters now. The playoffs change everything, and that's not just a cliche. It is the truth. We saw how much little the regular season meant when the Flyers went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final with the 7th seed last spring. Anything is possible, and the Flyers are obviously big time contenders. The first step on their journey comes against the Buffalo Sabres.