While Flyers fans were serenading to “Let’s Go Flyers” and “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles," the team avoided a potentially ugly loss to the NHL’s last-place team.
The first five minutes of the first period looked promising for the Coyotes, as they were getting shots fast on Brian Elliott. The Coyotes surrendered three breakaways to the Flyers in the first period, and one arguably could have been a penalty shot.
Jason Demers got the scoring started for the Coyotes, as the puck couldn’t be cleared out of the zone by Shayne Gostisbehere and the 'Yotes took advantage. Demers’ shot was a weak tap off of a one-timer, right through the five-hole of Elliott.
That’s all the shine the Coyotes would get in the first period because the rest of it belonged to the Flyers.
Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl tallied goals just nearly two minutes apart from each other and gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead after one period.
The momentum wouldn’t last very long, as Elliott let in a shaky goal from a shot by Alex Goligoski over the blocker on the short side to tie the game at two.
Two minutes later, Wayne Simmonds was parked out in front of the net, per usual, and redirected a Gostisbehere shot to make it 3-2 Flyers. The assist for Gostisbehere marked his fifth in the last two games, two of those came on Saturday. The 11th-ranked power play for the Flyers finished 2-for-4 on the night, making it 4-for-8 in their last two games.
Ex-Flyer Zac Rinaldo scored his fourth goal of the season two minutes into the third period as Elliott allowed another stoppable puck to get past him to tie the game. The Flyers outshot the Coyotes, 18-4, in the final frame.
Neither team was able to put home the game winner in overtime and the Flyers looked to get their first shootout win this season.
That’s when the scare for Flyers fans came about.
In the second round, Coyotes forward Clayton Keller came in on Elliott and appeared to hit Elliott in the mask with his stick. Elliott stayed down on the ice and eventually came out of the game. Michal Neuvirth stepped in for the Flyers and went 5-for-5 to give the Flyers the win. It was announced after the game Elliott was diagnosed with a lower-body injury.
“I’m not going to speculate on how the injury occurred,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I don’t know if the dots connect because he got a stick in the face or some kind of chain reaction that happened. But you hate to see that. I don’t think the stick was intentional, but that was a tough play for our goaltender."
Jakub Voracek roofed a wrist shot over the glove of Antti Raanta to tie the shootout at one. After three failed attempts, rookie Nolan Patrick scored the game-winner to put the Flyers in sole possession of third place in the Metropolitan Division.
“I knew what I wanted to do,” Patrick said on his shootout attempt. “I was watching on the monitor and saw that his glove was low so I was going there from the minute the shootout started if I got a chance to go.”
“Good saves by Neuvy coming in a tough situation and he did a good job,” said Hakstol. “Also nice to see (Patrick) go out there with that kind of confidence and make the play.”
For the Coyotes, they drop to 13-32-10 on the season. Raanta made 40 saves for Arizona while ex-Flyer Nick Cousins scored the lone goal in the shootout.
This wasn’t the first time the Flyers have had a tough encounter with the Coyotes. The Flyers lost back on Oct. 30 at the Wells Fargo Center, which marked the first win on the season for the Coyotes. The Flyers survived the scare this time around and now ride a three-game winning streak.
“They (Coyotes) play a pretty aggressive game and they play the right way,” Giroux said. “If you’re not responsible with the puck, they will hurt you. A couple times in the game, we weren’t playing our best and they were all over us. But we stuck with it and we were able to get the two points.”
The Flyers will wrap up their brief two-game West-Coast road trip tomorrow night in Las Vegas when they meet the Western Conference-leading Golden Knights at 8 p.m.