The Philadelphia Flyers came up just short against the New York Rangers on Thursday night. Despite being shorthanded with six regulars out of the lineup, the Flyers earned a hard-fought point in a shootout loss. It was a game that could’ve gone either way based around a few key moments. The Flyers’ failed exits cost them.
One of those key moments was the Rangers’ go-ahead goal just before the midpoint of the third period. The Flyers had the better of the play in the first period, the Rangers took over a bit in the second, and the third period was up for grabs.
Let’s take a closer look at one of the main turning points in the game: Brendan Smith‘s go-ahead goal with 11:39 left in the third period.
It all started with a few seemingly innocuous plays.
In the above screenshot, Gostisbehere has the D-to-D pass to Sanheim and both Hayes and Aube-Kubel are about to turn around to open up a passing option.
Instead, Gostisbehere got greedy and attempted a stretch pass up the ice to Raffl. It nearly worked, but the Rangers moved it back into the Flyers’ zone to Gostisbehere.
Okay, no harm done. The Flyers still have possession and can move up the ice.
Gostisbehere has fewer options available to him this time, however.
In this screenshot, Gostisbehere has two forecheckers to deal with as he looks to move the puck. A pass to Sanheim would be risky, and even a pass to Hayes or Aube-Kubel could be picked off by Panarin.
So, again Gostisbehere sent the puck up the wall to Raffl. Unfortunately, this didn’t work either and the Rangers got the puck all the way in deep this time.
Given the situation, Gostisbehere isn’t totally at fault. He shimmied to buy himself more time and space and still got the puck out of the zone. However, Raffl couldn’t handle the pass or win the battle and the Rangers pushed forward.
Carter Hart stopped the dump-in behind the net with limited options.
Hart also didn’t have too many options here. A quick backhand pass up the wall to Sanheim or reversing to Gostisbehere up the wall seem like his two options.
He elected to pass it to Travis Sanheim. Here’s the whole sequence starting with Gostisbehere’s shimmy.
In hindsight, a reverse to Gostisbehere would’ve been the right move. It becomes increasingly evident if you watch it a few times, and obviously knowing that the Rangers scored shortly after this doesn’t help.
Still, Hart isn’t totally at fault here, but it sent things downhill for the Flyers.
Sanheim doesn’t have too much time with Strome there. Hayes is in the center of the ice covering the slot and Gostisbehere is on the left side.
Sending it back behind the net to Gostisbehere may have been the ideal move in hindsight, but an odd bounce could’ve easily sent the puck off of the wall, or Hart with no one in the crease.
If the puck did get through behind the net, however, Gostisbehere would’ve had the puck with some time and options available to him. But in reality, Sanheim quickly backhanded the puck up the wall to Aube-Kubel.
The puck bounced off a skate into perfect position for a streaking Brendan Smith. Smith mishandled, but the puck just escaped Hayes’ reach. Strome picked it up and fired a turning shot on net. Hart kicked the rebound right to Artemi Panarin, who made a nifty backhand pass across the crease to Smith.
It’s also worth mentioning the positioning of Raffl for most of the Rangers’ offensive zone time. After Gostisbehere failed twice to connect with him, Raffl didn’t enter the defensive zone until the puck was in the slot heading to Strome. By then it was simply too late.
This isn’t a situation or goal where one player, in particular, was at fault. Hell, most of these plays wouldn’t be given a second thought if the puck didn’t end up in the back of the net. It was a series of unfortunate decisions and bounces that ultimately forced the Flyers to play from behind. Luckily, the Flyers were able to jam home a puck in the final minutes to earn a point before falling in a shootout.
Photo Credit: Heather Barry Images