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Turning Point: Brian Elliott’s late second-period gaffe costs Flyers in Pittsburgh

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The Philadelphia Flyers had turned things around. Brian Elliott was solid … until he wasn’t.

After a lackluster end to the first period, the Flyers were trailing 2-1 heading into the second period. They had already wasted two of their power-play opportunities but were able to convert on the one at the start of the second period to tie the game at two. After that, they killed off a Penguins power play and regained the lead during 4-on-4 play.

GIF Rewind: Flyers get feisty in seesaw series finale in Pittsburgh

It hadn’t been the best effort we’ve seen recently from the Flyers, but they had a 3-2 lead with less than eight minutes to play in the second period. All they had to do was hang on to that lead to have control of the game heading into the second intermission.

The Penguins had the better of the play after Shayne Gostisbehere‘s go-ahead goal, but it looked like the Flyers were going to be able to escape the second period with a lead.

But they couldn’t hang on.

Brian Elliott was playing well for the Flyers. He made 26 saves in Thursday night’s win and was looking solid. Unfortunately, that all came crashing down on a seemingly innocent shot from the corner.

With less than two minutes left in the period, the Penguins took the lead on a goal by Zach Aston-Reese. After two pretty passing plays set up the Penguins’ first two goals, this one was ugly.

The Flyers were hemmed in their own zone for a bit, but Gostisbehere finally got out of the zone and dumped the puck in to go for a change. Nicolas Aube-Kubel tied the puck up behind the net for as long as he could before the Penguins came the other way.

The Penguins got the puck in deep and Elliott set it up behind the net for Nate Prosser. Prosser, with Teddy Blueger bearing down on him, quickly passed the puck to Travis Sanheim, but it eluded him. Either Sanheim wasn’t ready for the pass or the puck was a bit too far out in front, we can’t really be sure based on the views provided – we also can’t get into Sanheim’s head.

The puck then bounced to the corner, where Brandon Tanev took control and gave it to Zach Aston-Reese. The rest is history.

That is a goal that should be stopped 99.99% of the time. Unfortunately, this was that 0.01% when it goes in.

 

The Penguins nearly took the lead before intermission –– less than a minute later –– but Bryan Rust whiffed on a puck in the slot. That would’ve made this goal even worse, but it was still a huge turning point in the game.

If the Flyers had the lead heading into the third period, there would be a different energy and perhaps a different gameplan. The Penguins would’ve needed to get one to come back and tie it, not just to take the lead and hold on for the win.

The numbers this season speak for themselves.

2021 Season Leading after two periods Tied after two periods
Trailing after two periods
Flyers 7-0-1 4-1-2 1-4-0
Penguins 3-1-0 5-2-0 4-6-1

Records do not include today’s game

It hasn’t been impossible for the Penguins to come from behind this season. However, it would’ve been a much easier path to victory (or at least a point) for the Flyers with a lead after two periods.

Looking back at last season’s records, the Flyers were 29-0-2 when leading after two and 10-0-1 when tied after two. The Penguins, on the other hand, were 7-20-1 when trailing after two, and 8-0-4 when leading after two. That’s a pretty big disparity.

The game-winning goal was also one that the Flyers will want back. It was a bad line change that resulted in an odd-man rush and the Penguins taking a 4-3 lead that they would not relinquish.

Brian Elliott has been great so far this season. Unfortunately, he was due for a bad goal or two and that came at one of the most inopportune times for the Flyers.

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Ryan is a proud graduate of Monmouth University. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers for the better part of a decade at various outlets, including Sons of Penn and Broad Street Hockey. Ryan has also worked for NHL.com and NBC Sports Regional Networks. Whether it's a GIF, quick stat, analysis, or long-form column, he's got you covered.

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