By the end of the first period Thursday, even the most die-hard Philadelphia Flyers fans probably changed the channel to the Sixers-Nets game.
The Flyers-Panthers matchup, you see, seemed over.
That was before Travis Konecny, giving up five inches and 23 pounds, got into a fight and sparked a furious rally that cut a 4-0 deficit to 4-3.
But it wasn’t enough.
Florida (40-13-5) regrouped in the third period and registered a 6-3 victory at FLA Live Arena.
The Panthers got three power-play goals as they swept the season series from the Flyers for the second time in their history.
The Flyers (18-29-10) allowed four first-period goals and chased the game the rest of the night. Against a Florida team that is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The Panthers are on their way to becoming the first NHL team since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins to average more than four goals a game.
Florida went 3-0 against the Flyers this season; the Panthers also swept the season series in 2006-07, when Philly finished 22-48-12 for 56 points, the lowest full-season total in franchise history.
The Panthers have won five straight, and they ended the Flyers’ modest two-game win streak.
“We allowed them to get into their transition game, and that’s a really impressive hockey team,” interim coach Mike Yeo said. “The speed and skill they have, they take advantage of mistakes, and obviously putting them on the power play like we did (hurt).”
With 13:01 left in regulation, Florida made it 5-3 when Anthony Duclair was credited with a power-play goal after his pass deflected off the stick of the Flyers’ Patrick Brown and past a helpless Carter Hart.
Sam Reinhart’s third goal of the night — an empty-netter with 2:06 left — made it 6-3 and secured the win.
The Philadelphia Flyers have a 10-game road winless streak for the first time since 1992. They have yet to win on the road in 2022, and they play powerful Carolina on Saturday in Raleigh.
1. Travis Konecny triggered a gallant comeback.
With his team facing a 4-0 deficit, Konecny ignited a comeback with his fists and a power-play goal.
Scott Laughton was off-balance as he absorbed a clean hit from Petteri Lindbohm in the second period and went hard into the boards. He had to be helped to the locker room with 12:57 to go in the second. The Flyers said Laughton, who didn’t return, suffered a head injury.
“Laughts is an emotional leader for our group, and he’s been playing at such a high level for us,” Yeo said. “That was tough to see.”
James van Riemsdyk said it was “good to see” that Laughton was alert between periods.
Konecny (5-10, 175), sticking up for his teammate, went after the 6-3, 198-pound Lindbohm and got into a fight with the big defenseman. (Konecny appeared to injure his left hand in the bout, but he returned to the game.)
Scott Laughton takes a heavy hit and Travis Konecny drops the gloves pic.twitter.com/jSFCPY2g87
— Nasty Knuckles (@NastyKnuckles) March 11, 2022
The fight sparked the Flyers. About two minutes later, Kevin Hayes set up van Riemsdyk’s 13th goal to get Philly to within 4-1.
Cam Atkinson then cut it to 4-2 as he knocked a rebound out of midair and scored his 21st goal, beating Sergei Bobrovsky with 7:37 left in the second.
With 3:13 remaining in the second, van Riemsdyk, of all people, got into a fight with Maxim Mamin. It was just his third bout since the 2013-14 season.
Konecny’s deflection of Cam York’s power-play shot cut the deficit to 4-3 with 68 seconds left in the second.
“Just shows the character we have,” Hart said. “They’re a good hockey team. We know that. But for us to battle back and get into that game after being down four, that speaks volumes.”
The second period has been the Flyers’ worst of the season, but they had a 3-0 advantage in that stanza Thursday and outshot the Panthers, 16-7. Yeo thought it was the Flyers’ best second period of the season.
Konecny inspired it.
“We played hard and stood in there for each other,” van Riemsdyk said.
2. Flyers’ defensemen continue to fail to clear bodies in front of the net.
They allowed an all-alone Sam Reinhart to score two power-play goals in the first period, one when he swatted the puck out of midair, the other on a redirection.
Where’s Eddie Van Impe when you need him?
The next time I watch anything Flyers related will be the 2023 NHL draft.
— Joe Gallagher (@Joey_Gallagher) March 11, 2022
3. The Panthers’ special teams are, well, special.
Florida showed why it has had the NHL’s best power play since Jan. 1. The Panthers went 3 for 3 on the PP, including one goal on a lucky deflection off a Flyer. They are (gulp) 10 for 20 in the last five games. Their PK is 15 for 16 in that span.
The Flyers, meanwhile, were 1 for 3 on the power play, making them 5 for 55 in their last 18 games. Their PK is just 21 for 32 since the All-Star break .
4. Carter Hart could have sued for non-support in the first period.
Hart had to make a career-high 47 saves to steal a 2-1 win Tuesday over Vegas, which dominated the game. On Thursday, Florida had 19 first-period shots before the Flyers bounced back.
The Panthers scored four first-period goals — two by Reinhart, two by Carter Verhaeghe — for the fifth time this season.
Florida has a league-high 79 first-period goals and is plus-30 in goal differential in the opening stanza.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) March 11, 2022
5. Rasmus Ristolainen celebrated a new contract with a strong effort.
The 6-4, 221-pound defenseman, who signed a five-year, 25.5 million extension earlier in the day, had an assist, five hits, two blocked shots, and three shots.
The only negative: Two minor penalties.
“They’ve got a good power play,” Ristolainen said. “Even if you don’t agree with the calls, you have to stay out of the box.”
Hart called Laughton a “heart and soul player” and said it “sounds like he’s doing better.” … York, in his first game since being recalled again from the Phantoms, had an assist and was minus-2. Yeo thought the defenseman got more assertive as the game went on. … Reinhart has 10 goals in his last 11 games vs. the Flyers. … Jonathan Huberdeau, an MVP candidate, and defenseman Aaron Ekblad each had four assists for Florida. … Zack MacEwen had six hits, and Gerry Mayhew blocked four shots for the Flyers. … It was the Flyers’ first road game since Feb. 15, a 5-4 OT loss to Pittsburgh. … RW Wade Allison, who has been sidelined by an MCL sprain, will return to the Phantoms’ lineup Friday against visiting Laval, per assistant GM Brent Flahr. … Florida is now 30-0 when leading after the second period.