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5 Observations: Late Goals Ruin Flyers’ Stellar Effort in Vegas

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Noah Cates, Philadelphia Flyers
Center Noah Cates got the Philadelphia Flyers going with a first-period goal that tied the game at 1-1 against host Vegas on Tuesday. Photo: AP.

If you watched the Phillies collapse Tuesday in Game 7 and tuned into the Flyers-Golden Knights in the Late, Late Show hoping to improve your mood, well, it didn’t happen.

The Philadelphia Flyers’ three-game point streak ended as they dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to surging Vegas at T-Mobile Arena.

Vegas, the defending Stanley Cup champion, scored two goals in the final 7:54 to erase a 2-1 deficit. Shea Theodore won it with a blast from the top of the left circle with 32.5 seconds remaining, whipping a shot past a screened Carter Hart.

The Golden Knights became the 16th team in NHL history to start a season 7-0.

In a game that ended at around 1:50 a.m. Philadelphia time, the Flyers slipped to 3-2-1.

The Flyers played without two injured defensemen, veterans Rasmus Ristolainen and Marc Staal.

“We’re banged up defensively, but we don’t want to go into a defensive shell,” coach John Tortorella said before the game.

But that’s what happened in the third period, when the Flyers were outshot, 14-8.

Here are five observations:

1. Paul Cotter made an amazing play to tie the game late in the third period.

Streaking down the right side, Cotter put the puck between his legs to get around defenseman Egor Zamula, then beat Carter Hart to the far side. The goal tied the score at 2-all with 7:54  left in regulation.

Hart had stopped all 11 third-period shots he faced before Cotter connected.

2. Hart was excellent. Again.

Hart turned aside  26 of 29 shots, and was the Flyers’ best player. He had a terrific sequence with just under eight minutes left in the second period. At the time, the Flyers were clinging to a 2-1 lead when Hart stopped Jack Eichel’s blast, then made a highlight-film glove save on Eichel’s rebound attempt.

The 25-year-old goaltender made a key blocker save on Kaedan Korczak ‘s ticketed drive to keep the Flyers ahead, 2-1, with about 14 minutes left in regulation.  About five minutes later, he frustrated Mike Amadio on a rebound.

The Knight were on the attack in the first 10 minutes of the third, getting nine of the first 12 shots in the period.

Hart had all the answers until Cotter’s magical play.

Entering the game, Hart had a 3-1 record, a 2.01 GAA, and a .929 save percentage.

3. The Flyers got an early Christmas present

From an odd angle deep in the left circle, Philadelphia Flyers winger Cam Atkinson threw a long backhander at the net and somehow scored, giving the Flyers a stunning 2-1 lead with 2:41 remaining in the opening period.

Goalie Logan Thompson appeared to try to clear the shot into the corner, but it hit his blocker and caromed into the net. That gave Atkinson four goals, including three in his last three games.

The Flyers scored on two of their eight first-period shots. They were the hungrier team in the opening period, outhitting the Golden Knights, 7-2, blocking nine shots, and allowing just seven shots.

4. Good things happen when you throw pucks at the net.

Trying to score the equalizer, Joel Farabee knocked a Noah Cates pass out of the air and put it on the net in the first  period. Thompson made the save, but a husting Cates knocked in the rebound. It was his first goal of the season and it knotted the score at 1-1 with 6:53 left in the first.

The Knights had taken a 1-0 lead in a similar fashion as Ivan Barbashev crashed the net and scored on a rebound.

5. The defense, despite being shorthanded, was solid.

Until the last eight minutes, the undermanned Flyers contained a high-powered Vegas lineup that had been averaging 4.2 goals per game.

They did it with good backchecking, and a defense that, because of injuries, forced the Flyers to go with youth on the back end. The youth included Emil Andrae, 21, Cam York, 22, and Zamula, 23. Andrae blocked four shots, and Zamula was plus-1. York (three blocks) and Travis Sanheim (four blocks) were each minus-2.

They grew up Tuesday, but the Knights’ late flurry gave them growing pains.

Ristolainen hasn’t played this season because of an undisclosed injury. Tortorella said he had a setback and the medical staff was “trying to figure it out. We thought it was getting better, and now we’re not sure where it’s at.”

Breakaways

Cates led the Flyers with four shots, and Nic Deslauriers had four hits. … Sean Walker played 24:26 and had another strong game; he blocked three shots, took three shots, and was plus-1. … Morgan Frost was a healthy scratch for the fourth consecutive game. … Sean Couturier played in his 727th game with the Flyers, tying Jake Voracek for the 10th-most in franchise history. … Rookies Bobby Brink and Tyson Foerster failed to get a shot on goal. … The Flyers will start a four-game homestand Thursday against Minnesota. Before Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against Anaheim, former Flyers public relations director Zack Hill will be saluted. The new media room will be named in his honor.

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