Flyers

Flyers force a Game 6 with OT thriller, but did they lose huge piece in process?

Flyers

Following the lead of their head coach, the Flyers hiked up their "big-boy pants" and delivered the first step of what they hope is the beginning of a series comeback against the Islanders.

The Flyers can only hope, though, that they didn't lose one of their big boys in the process.

As the Flyers avoided elimination Tuesday night at Scotiabank Arena with a gutsy, gutsy 4-3 overtime win in Game 5 of their best-of-seven second-round series with the Islanders, the club's do-it-all center Sean Couturier did not play in the third period or the extra session. 

Couturier collided with Mathew Barzal late in the second period and never returned as the Flyers were able to finish off the victory despite a blown lead, trimming New York's series edge to 3-2.

Scott Laughton deflected home the overtime winner, while veterans Matt Niskanen, James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux answered the call from Alain Vigneault to ignite a comeback. 

“Well, we’ve got to get one game,” Niskanen said Monday. “If you get one game, the tide starts to turn and the pressure is flipped.”

The Flyers are 3-17 all-time in best-of-seven series when trailing 3-2.

They’re still alive and Game 6 is next.

The big-boy pants is something that they’re aware of; they don’t need me to motivate them, they’re a group that motivates themselves. They’ve got a lot of pride and a lot of compete; they want to win.

Vigneault

• Niskanen, a Stanley Cup champion with 138 games of postseason experience, put it well on Monday.

“The beauty of the playoffs is it can flip quick,” he said.

Giroux and van Riemsdyk proved those words wise when they flipped a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead for the Flyers in fewer than three minutes during the second period.

 

The Flyers’ captain had gone without a goal through 13 games of these playoffs, while the two-time 30-goal scorer van Riemsdyk was without a point in nine contests.

In a span of 2:33, they both struck with their first goals.

Then, 4:32 into the third period, Niskanen netted his first, giving the Flyers a 3-1 advantage.

Hockey is a weird and funny game.

• Vigneault did not have any information on Couturier after the game.

It looked like Couturier and Barzal banged knees on the collision. Barzal did not play in overtime after taking an inadvertent high stick to the face.

Couturier is as tough as they get; in a game of that magnitude, the fact that he couldn't come back creates valid concerns about his status moving forward.

• The never-go-away Islanders got goals from Brock Nelson and Derick Brassard in the final five minutes of regulation to force overtime. 

It looked like a perfect storm was brewing for a nightmare finish to the Flyers' 2019-20 turnaround season.

Credit to the Flyers for somehow finding a way to pick back up their chins in OT.

• New York drew blood first with a Barzal power play goal 1:20 into the second period.

The marker had a layer of controversy to it as there was a logjam in the crease, giving Carter Hart essentially no chance to make the save.

Along with Ivan Provorov and Tyler Pitlick, Barzal was stationed in the blue paint as Josh Bailey flung the puck into the crowd.

Vigneault challenged the play for goaltender interference but the goal was upheld, which put the Flyers on the penalty kill again.

• Hart is 4-0-0 with 114 saves on 122 shots in games after a loss during the playoffs.

Hart was not strong in the third period as the Islanders stunned the Flyers in the final five minutes, but he bounced back in overtime with seven stops.

Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov, who entered with a postseason-leading 1.69 goals-against average, made 28 saves.

• After playing in Games 1 and 2, Michael Raffl sat out for a third straight game. It's uncertain if Raffl is dealing with any ailments. 

The key role forward with size and puck-protection ability missed four games earlier in the tournament because of a lower-body injury. He briefly departed Game 1 of this series before returning to the ice not long after being checked on the bench by Flyers director of sports medicine Jim McCrossin.

Here’s how the Flyers looked at forward:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Joel Farabee-Kevin Hayes-Tyler Pitlick

James van Riemsdyk-Scott Laughton-Travis Konecny

Derek Grant-Nate Thompson-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

• Oskar Lindblom, who continues to eye his comeback from Ewing’s sarcoma, took part in warmups for a second straight game.

 

“I think we’re still a few days away here, but he’s closing in,” Vigneault said Tuesday before the game in a video interview. “He skated with us this morning, he’s in the gym every day — I’ve rarely seen a young man put himself through what he’s putting himself through.

“He already had to put himself through everything to get healthy. Now, the steps that he has taken to do everything he can to come back as quick as he can and healthy and obviously in shape is amazing.”

• It’s on to Game 6 Thursday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSN).

For the full series schedule, click here.