“It’s pretty blatant.”
Direct words an hour before game time from general manager Ron Hextall as he laid out the lack of secondary scoring and production from the Flyers' supporting cast, and how it had to get better in the second half of the season.
Somehow that message worked its way down seven stories from the Wells Fargo Center press box to the Flyers' dressing room as five different players scored goals and 12 registered a point in the 6-4 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday night (see observations).
“I think everyone is starting to get into their mojo now,” forward Travis Konecny said. "You’re seeing different guys every night step up and it’s important when you have a whole team contributing each and every night.”
“If we want to be a playoff team, we need everyone, especially from now on,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “Games are going to get a lot tighter, a lot tougher and we need everyone to step up in any way we can."
Over the past 15 games, Elliott has been the one assigned to step up and carry the load in net. It marks the longest stretch of starts since Ilya Bryzgalov started 22 straight in 2013. On Thursday, for once, the Flyers bailed out Elliott.
“I didn’t feel like I had my best effort,” Elliott said. “It’s nights like that when other guys pick up the slack. That’s huge for me. Next game is next game. You kind of erase this one from the records and start all over again.”
Aside from the pond-hockey scoring, the Flyers also displayed some raw emotion as the game featured three separate fights from players who don’t typically drop the gloves. Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton and Konecny each spent five minutes in the box for throwing punches against their Islander counterparts (see highlights).
“It was a big game tonight,” Couturier said. “They’re just ahead of us in the standings. We knew it was important and there’s a lot of emotions out there. Guys responded and that’s what happens during the game.”
Konecny may very well be one of those key scoring components as the Flyers enter the second half of the season. While Konecny hasn’t played top-line minutes alongside Couturier and Claude Giroux, he filled the scoresheet with a goal, five shots, a fight and three hits. He’s now registered a point in three of his last four games.
“There’s a simplicity to his game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He has such good speed. He’s very tenacious on pucks. He’s not the biggest body, but he’s heavy on pucks and I think he’s using all those abilities. Instead of trying to make that extra move through people, he’s shooting the puck.”
After a three-goal lead was reduced to 5-4, the referees threw the Flyers a last-minute life preserver when they slapped Isles forward Andrew Ladd with a tripping penalty with 49 seconds remaining in the game.
Prior to that moment, New York had been coming at the Flyers hard, and appeared as if it were on the verge of sending the game to overtime yet again.
Much like the Islanders did in this same building on Nov. 24 when they trailed the Flyers, 4-2, entering the third period before winning, 5-4, in overtime. The Flyers simply could not afford to hand another point to a divisional opponent on home ice.
“We can be better in the last 20 minutes,” Hakstol said. “We took our foot off the gas a little bit, and against this team they’ve got a history here of pushing hard in the third if they’re down. They can come hard. They’ve got pretty good offensive numbers for a reason. Give them some credit, but I thought we backed off some of that.”
Thursday’s win over the Islanders was the Flyers' first victory over a Metropolitan Division opponent since the home opener against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 14. The Flyers were 0-1-4 in the previous five divisional games.
To put it bluntly, the Flyers need much more of this.
More scoring from the team’s role players. More victories over teams in the Metropolitan Division.