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Carchidi: Flyers’ OT Loss to Powerful Canes Felt More Like a Win

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Right winger Travis Konecny's late goal tied the game and enabled the Flyers to salvage a key point Thursday in Carolina. Photo: AP.

Forget that the Philadelphia Flyers dropped a gut-wrenching 3-2 overtime decision Thursday to the powerful Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh.

Remember that they collected an important point, outworked he Hurricanes, and are now four points ahead of fourth-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division.

The third period was owned by the Flyers. They had the period’s only goal and owned a 16-7 shots domination. Against a team that is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, a team on a 27-7-2 run.

Despite missing three injured defensemen, the Flyers (35-26-9) compensated by outhustling the Hurricanes (44-20-6) for most of the night.

Positive signs

The Flyers are now 1-2-1 in a seven-game gauntlet against the Eastern Conference’s best teams. Great, no? But they are playing fast, playing smartly, and showing no signs of wilting under the late-season pressure.

“I thought we battled and our D did  great job getting the puck up ice … We have a lot of positives to take from that game,” said center Scott Laughton, who scored the Flyers’ first goal.  “We’ve shown we’re a good team. Keep them to two goals five-on-five. You have to come away with positives.”

“This group continues to give ourselves a chance in games,” said Travis Konecny after tying score at 2-all — and, as it turned out, securing the Flyers a point — with 9:44 left in regulation.

The Flyers lost the season series against the Hurricanes, 1-2-1, and there’s a chance the teams will meet in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Yes, the Flyers will be thrilled to just qualify for the post-season, well ahead of expectations.

Yes, anything can happen in a short series.

And, yes, Thursday’s quality performance, despite the loss on Seth Jarvis’ two-on-one goal (after Joel Farabee nearly scored down the other end) should give the Flyers confidence if the teams do meet.

Those are my glass-is-half-full points on a potential playoff matchup against Rod Brind’Amour’s Hurricanes.

The glass-half-empty outlook?

Different paths

Carolina is a strong Stanley Cup contender. The Flyers are a few years away.

The Hurricanes don’t have many weaknesses. Their special teams — second in the NHL  on the penalty kill, third on the power play — are nearly flawless. Their goaltending and defense are outstanding, and their offense is formidable.

Put it all together and you have a puck-possession team that the Flyers should be trying to emulate. (* Checks notes. They did a good job of that Thursday.)

The Flyers are last in the league on the power play — they were 0 for 3 Thursday and are in a 2-for-25 rut — and their offense is in the bottom-third of the NHL. The goaltending, once a strong point, is scrambling after the departure of Carter Hart, and the defense is decimated by injuries.

But rookie goaltender Sam Ersson (30 saves) had his second straight strong performance. That was among the many developments that had the team in an upbeat mood. Some others:

  • Konecny’s goal, his 28th, was his first since returning from an injury seven games ago. His production is desperately needed if the Philadelphia Flyers are to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
  • Rookie defensemen Adam Ginning and Ronnie Attard played well and were both plus-1. Give Phantoms coach Ian Laperriere props for their development.
  • Veteran defenseman Erik Johnson is getting acclimated to his new team and its system. He made one of the game’s best saves, diving to knock away Marty Necas’ wraparound into an empty net late in the first period.

‘Great culture here’

“There’s a great culture here … Everybody’s pulling in the same direction. Philly is a great place to be and it’s an honor to be a Flyer,” Johnson, 36, acquired from Buffalo for a fourth-round pick at the trade deadline, said on NBCSports Philadelphia heading into the second  period.

His goal-saving play, in which his stick stopped the puck from crossing the goal line, came after the Flyers squandered a five-on-three power play for 1:20. They managed three good-but-not-Grade-A shots against Frederik Andersen.

The power-play struggles aside, the young Flyers are showing moxie. Before they started their potentially unraveling seven-game stretch, coach John Tortorella said he was eager to see how his team responded.

So far, they have held their own.

Things don’t get any easier, however. On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers host Boston, arguably the NHL’s best team. There are no breathers for Philly during this seven-game span.

You get the feeling they welcome the challenge, and, win or lose, that will pay dividends down the road.

Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called “Bullies.” Carchidi can be reached at samcarchidi55@gmail.com.

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