Sean Couturier was still standing, somehow, when he let it slip.
Torn MCL, right knee, no surgery needed but normally a four-week healing period (see story).
“It wasn’t the ideal situation,” Couturier said. “I didn’t really feel a whole lot. I was just giving everything I got and not really thinking about it. But there were times I could feel it pretty bad.”
Most of the time, this story comes with a happy ending, after a month-long triumph. It’s the type grandparents tell their grandchildren, and it’s what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs so great.
That’s not what this is. There is no grand finale here. The Flyers’ season is over. It ended Sunday night bitterly with a sour-tasting 8-5 loss to the Penguins in Game 6 at the Wells Fargo Center.
It’s a story, though, to remember, an all-time great individual effort on one leg that wasn’t enough. The Flyers’ result should not impact how we tell Couturier’s story going forward.
“He’s a warrior,” Wayne Simmonds said. “The things he’s done this year and the way he handled himself after missing a game there, he came back and was the best player on the ice.”
Couturier delivered his second career postseason hat trick and became just the fifth Flyer in franchise history to register a five-point playoff game with three goals and two assists.
With the Flyers’ back up against the wall, Couturier, nursing a “lower-body” injury far more severe than initially believed, put his teammates on his back and carried the weight.
The 25-year-old finished with 20 minutes and 5 seconds of ice time, not nearly where he was in the first three games of the series but four more minutes than Game 5, his first game back.
“He gave us a chance to win that game,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “I know I said it before; I have a lot of respect for that guy. He’s one of our leaders. Our season is on the line, and he played a great game.”
On Friday, Couturier’s heroics forced the series back to Philly when he scored the game-winner in the final minutes of regulation. To the naked eye, it was hard to notice anything different.
There were limitations, but he had an impact. Then on Sunday, he raised his level of compete and almost single-handedly beat the two-time defending champs in a do-or-die situation.
“With Coots, there’s a real mental toughness there in terms of being able to focus on the job at hand,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “He had to change the way he went about his job a little bit.”
The torn MCL limited Couturier’s mobility and he said he let his wingers do the work when they had the puck. But it was Couturier who scored his first by crashing the net, and it was Couturier who showcased a power move to score on a breakaway.
After his five-point game Sunday, Couturier now has 13 career playoff points against Pittsburgh in 11 games with two hat tricks.
Last spring, Couturier asked for a larger role offensively and the Flyers rewarded him with one. He paid them back with a 31-goal, 76-point season.
“I think I showed I can produce in this league offensively,” he said. “I don’t think I really changed the type of game I play. I still take pride in defense. It’s just about getting more opportunities.”
And on Sunday, Couturier demonstrated one more thing.
He can produce in this league, on one leg, with his team on life alert.