The Philadelphia Flyers were down, but they were not out. After surrendering three goals in a 1:11 span and allowing the game’s first six shots on goal, things were looking bleak for the Flyers. Then Alain Vigneault did something that he doesn’t normally do early in games: he called a timeout.
That timeout came less than four minutes into the game. The Flyers had several defensive breakdowns in Tuesday night’s loss and it wasn’t looking much better on Thursday night. The Penguins took advantage of a fluky bounce to open the scoring and piled on with two more goals on two odd-man rushes in the next 71 seconds.
The Flyers could’ve spiraled. It could’ve turned into a blowout loss. They could’ve packed it in and focused on the next game on Saturday. Instead, they reset with a timeout, killed off a penalty, and got things moving in the right direction.
Alain Vigneault presses the reset button
It was an unusually early timeout for Vigneault, but he said it was a necessary one.
“Sometimes things are going to happen in a game … Stuff happens in a game. There’s 54 or 56 minutes left. If you play the right way and keep doing the right things, good things are going to happen,” Vigneault said. “We got back, we scored one, won the second period, and found a way to win the third period.”
Vigneault mentioned the mistakes the team made on the forecheck on the Penguins’ last two goals. They got caught in deep and allowed odd-man rushes the other way. It was evident for the rest of the game that the Flyers were putting extra focus and work into their forecheck, and it paid off.
“It was pretty simple,” Vigneault said. “I just told them to take a deep breath, there’s still a lot of time left on the ice. Play the right way, a shift at a time, and that’s what we did. We went out there, played the right way, and we were able to dig ourselves out of the hole we put ourselves into.”
Sean Couturier, who scored the Flyers’ first goal, confirmed that message.
“I think it was just to calm everyone down, make sure we refocus and get back to our good habits,” Couturier said. “I feel there was no panic, everything was under control, and we responded really well after.”
“Won a big game for us. Big character win,” Vigneault said.
It certainly was a big win for the Flyers. It showed that they are able to come back from a deficit – even an early 3-0 one. And doing it against their biggest rival only adds to that. If they can come back against the Penguins in Pittsburgh – in the second game with fans in the building against them –, they can come back against anyone.
“That’s a good team there. We battled hard, came back, and it’s not easy to come back in this league,” Vigneault said.
“To come back against any team. The Penguins are, in my estimation, one of the strongest teams in the league.”
Vigneault also stressed how important this game could be moving forward.
“I do think there are some moments in a regular season where a team has a gut-check,” he said. “We’d lost that first game two days ago. For us, this was an important game, it’s like a mini playoff series.”
It is like a mini playoff series. The first period on Tuesday felt that way, and the intensity picked up in this one. This unique schedule is giving teams these types of series and most people around the league seem to like them.
The turning point?
There is no doubt that Vigneault’s timeout helped change the direction of Thursday night’s win. But it could have a larger impact as well. If he hadn’t called that timeout – or if it had failed and the Penguins still won –, the Flyers would be staring at their first back-to-back regulation losses in nearly 14 months.
They would’ve lost a gut-check game after an error-filled loss on Tuesday. Two straight losses like that, especially in a shortened season against a rival, could send the Flyers in a downward spiral.
Instead, the Flyers were able to bounce back after the timeout and complete the four-goal comeback. They’re now 4-1-0 in their last five games, rather than being on a two-game losing streak and 3-3-1 in their last seven games (and 4-4-2 in last 10). They showed that they are still as resilient as ever with their first comeback win of the season.
The Flyers’ schedule doesn’t exactly get easier after the three-game set in Pittsburgh. They play the surging Washington Capitals in three of their next four games after Saturday’s finale. This game could go a long way.
The Penguins had the game’s first six shots on goal prior to the timeout. After that, the Flyers had more shots on goal in total (35-23) and at 5-on-5 play (27-22). The Flyers’ expected goals share at 5-on-5 also improved as the game moved along. They had a lowly 32.27% xGF in the first period, 49.09% in the second, and 54.75% in the third. They were playing the right way and it showed.
The Flyers evened the series at one game apiece with Thursday night’s win. The decisive Game 3 will be on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.