Leino Comes Up Big In Shootout, Helps Flyers Clinch Playoff Spot
Photo Credit: AP Photo
Last season, it took 82 games for the Flyers to clinch a playoff spot. This season, it only took them 71, as they beat the Dallas Stars in a shootout on Saturday night. Ville Leino scored the game-winning goal in the 6th round of the shootout, with the other Flyers goals coming from Jeff Carter (33) and Mike Richards (20).
Kari Lehtonen, who entered tonight’s game with a 0-10-1 record against the Flyers, was pretty strong between the pipes. Unfortunately for the Stars, Sergei Bobrovsky was even stronger. Both goalies saved 28 of 30 shots, but Bobrovsky stood tall all the way through until the end, robbing Brandon Segal in the 6th round of the shootout after Leino scored on Lehtonen. Bobrovsky looked sharp in net tonight after not starting the last two games (his last game was the shootout loss to Atlanta last Saturday). He made some huge saves all throughout the game to keep the Stars at bay until the shootout. When the defense got a little shaky, Bob rose to the occasion and held the Stars off. His confidence and quickness was both great and relieving to see, as the Flyers goaltending has been a little rocky as of late. Did his performance tonight help his case for starting in the playoffs? More than likely. He did all the Flyers could ask of him, short of the S-word (which, honestly, I think I’m giving up hope on. I can’t keep thinking I’m jinxing the team every time that word pops into my head during a game!).
The Flyers scored the all-important first goal with just over a minute left to go in the first period. Andrej Meszaros’ pass seemed to deflect off of Jeff Carter and get past Lehtonen to put the Flyers on the board. The goal was first credited to Meszaros, but the scoring was changed before the start of the second period and given to Carter for his 33rd of the season. Mike Richards scored early on in the second period to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead, but Alex Goligoski ended Bobrovsky’s shutout bid with a goal about ten minutes later. About two minutes after that, Stephane Robidas scored to tie the game. From then on, Bobrovsky was solid, leading the Flyers to overtime, a shootout, and ultimately victory. Claude Giroux had a chance at giving the Flyers a two-goal lead again before Robidas’ goal, but his backhanded rebound attempt hit off the post. He made up for it in the shootout, though, as he got the puck past Lehtonen in the 2nd round to help keep the Flyers alive.
Both teams played hard tonight, contributing to an intense game from the start. While the Flyers clinched their playoff spot, Dallas is still working on doing the same. They are currently in 6th place in the West with 85 points, but it’s a tight race. The Los Angeles Kings have 85 points as well, and Chicago and Nashville both have 84 points. A win tonight wouldn’t have helped the Stars clinch, but it would have at least brought them closer to doing so.
Tonight was a big game for the Flyers, but they can’t let the win and assurance of a playoff spot make them complacent. They have some pretty tough matchups throughout these last three weeks of the season, starting with a game on Tuesday against the surging Washington Capitals. Clinching a playoff spot may ease some of the pressure; however, the Flyers need to continue to maintain their spot atop the Eastern Conference in the standings to assure home ice advantage once the playoffs begin.