(Photo credit: Amy Irvin 38 Photography)
A mere five days ago, the Philadelphia Flyers were a couple of victories away from securing a playoff spot and completing an exciting push for the playoff that most thought was at least a year away.
Those playoffs hopes are in serious jeopardy once again, as the Flyers furious rally against the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs came up just short, falling 4-3 in overtime and coming away with the pity point, albeit a very important one.
With their playoff chances dropping with each passing minute, the Flyers were given new life as Wayne Simmonds tipped home a Mark Streit shot from the point for his 30th goal of the season with less than a minute remaining to force overtime. Despite the roars of the rowdy Flyers crowd, their comeback was thwarted thanks to a power play goal by Jake Gardiner to end the game.
Despite not securing the two points, the Flyers can take some solace in securing at least one. Despite the Boston victory over Detroit tonight, Philadelphia still controls their destiny for a playoff berth as they can win their final two games against Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders. Even if they split the weekend tilts, that result coupled with either a Boston OR Detroit loss would lock the team in for a Stanley Cup Playoffs matchup against the Washington Capitals.
But things would have been much, much simpler had they completely taken care of business tonight and had some help from the Red Wings.
The Flyers looked like they would pick the Leafs apart early as they collected the game’s first four shots, but a defensive breakdown in front of Steve Mason following a lackluster line change led to the game’s first goal. Toronto phenom William Nylander collected his sixth goal of the year on essentially a wide open net to put the home team in a hole.
The tired legs reared their head throughout the course of the frame as Toronto sustained pressure and controlled play. The Leafs would be rewarded as Colin Greening sped past a slow Radko Gudas and alluded Brandon Manning enough to beat Mason glove side and extend the lead.
After intermission, the Flyers came out regrouped and energized and were able to capitalize almost immediately. Brayden Schenn finished off a brilliant feed from Sean Couturier from the corner to cut the deficit in half. Not even a minute later, it seemed the Flyers would inevitably tie the game as Toronto took a double-minor high sticking penalty.
And tie the game the Flyers did, so they thought. As Brayden Schenn thought he had his second goal of the game, the referee waived off the goal on the basis of incidental contact with netminder Jonathan Reimer. A Dave Hakstol challenge would come up empty, as did the rest of the power play opportunity.
The domino effect continued but for the worse, as a errant Wayne Simmonds pass was tipped away by Michael Grabner at the blue line and he sped away to another breakaway goal, deflating the Wells Fargo Crowd as they watched their season begin to seemingly slip away.
Twenty minutes was all that remained for the Flyers to save their season and they put out a furious effort as they controlled the first half of the period. After a number of near chances, the forechecking of the fourth line forced a turnover and the puck found Andrew MacDonald, who blasted it by Bernier to cut the lead to one with just more than 10 minutes left.
Chance after chance continued before Simmonds tied the game in the final minute. An untimely MacDonald tripping call ultimately led to the Toronto game winning goal by Gardiner.