Scott Gordon walked away from the podium Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center and couldn’t help but wonder if a 4-1 loss to the Penguins would be the Flyers' defining moment of the season.
Quite frankly, no one knew how the Flyers would react just 24 hours later, playing the second leg of a back-to-back with a Wild team waiting and rested. Their late-night charter flight didn’t arrive in Minnesota until after 3 a.m. Eastern time, and they were simply too emotionally spent to replicate that energy level in Minnesota.
But impressively, the Flyers managed to find a way in a 5-4 win over the Wild (see observations).
“There’s no excuses this time of year,” Sean Couturier told reporters. “You’ve got to [go all out] every shift, every night. I thought we did that. It wasn’t easy at times. Guys battled hard and found a way to win a big hockey game. We showed some character tonight.”
Performances like Tuesday’s are indeed character builders for a team still scratching and clawing to stay in the playoff chase, but much of the character rebuild can be traced back to Gordon, who’s now 14-9-3 since taking over behind the Flyers' bench.
There's a belief system and a resiliency that simply didn’t exist in the first 30 games of the season under Dave Hakstol. The Flyers improved to 10-2-1 over their last 13 games with four of those 10 victories the product of overcoming two-goal deficits.
Tuesday at the Xcel Energy Center, the Flyers pulled it off a second time against the Wild. The Flyers not only spotted Minnesota a 3-1 lead, they were faced with the potential of falling behind by three goals when the officials awarded the Wild a four-minute power play as Jordan Greenway caught teammate Jason Zucker with a high stick. Yet somehow defenseman Robert Hagg was the guilty party.
Once the Flyers successfully killed that penalty, the emotional tide started to turn in the Flyers' direction.
James van Riemsdyk scored roughly five minutes later and Couturier tied it about five minutes after that. It’s these type of comeback efforts that have been the Flyers' defining moments throughout Gordon’s interim.
“As a coach, there’s different wins you have throughout the course of the season that are real gut checks and how your team responds,” Gordon said. “When a team comes in and does what they did after a heartbreaking loss, as a coach, that’s a real proud moment. That’s what I told the players. Nobody quit. Everybody stayed with it.”
Gordon was forced to lean a little more on one player in particular.
Ivan Provorov, the 21-year-old defenseman, logged an astounding 30:19 of ice time — the most he’s ever played in a regulation game in his career.
For his ironman-like efforts, Provorov was presented the player-of-the-game helmet.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Provorov said of his new temporary headgear.
A defining moment any young defenseman can get used to.
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