Flyers

Flyers

NEW YORK — Radko Gudas wrapped up his buddy Michal Neuvirth in a massive bear hug.

Neuvirth, all smiles, then walked past Nolan Patrick and said, "I knew you would score." 

Not long after, Michael Raffl joked about his line with Patrick and Scott Laughton being the one that bickers the most on the bench.

This was fun.

The Flyers were enjoying themselves on the night before Christmas Eve following a tumultuous four weeks filled with firings and new hires. The Flyers took to Madison Square Garden and beat the Rangers, 3-2, in a shootout Sunday, improving to 3-1-0 under interim head coach Scott Gordon before the NHL-mandated three-day holiday break (see observations).

Patrick scored the only tally in the shootout, huge for the 20-year-old who has two points in his last 18 games but looks confident on the third unit. 

"Since our line has been put together, we've been really good in both ends of the rink," Patrick said. "Obviously, all you guys look at is production, but other than that, we've had our chances."

Neuvirth made the shootout tally stand as the winner by stopping all four shots in the skills competition and converting 32 saves. The oft-injured goalie had allowed nine goals in just 1½ games this season entering Sunday, while fans are abuzz over 20-year-old goalie of the future Carter Hart.

That doesn't bother the 30-year-old Neuvirth in the final year of a two-year contract. 

 

Raffl said Neuvirth has been the "best" teammate and that you never hear him complain.

"Just trying to enjoy every day, work hard and see what happens," Neuvirth said.

"Hartsy is playing unreal, I really like his game. He reminds me a little bit of myself when I was 20. He's a really good kid, he works hard and he's going to be a hell of a goalie."

Raffl, who scored his first goal since the 2017-18 regular-season finale, has always had chemistry with Laughton and is now building it with Patrick.

It doesn't matter how they do it.

"We're probably the line that fights out there the most with each other on the bench," Raffl said with a smile. "Some ridiculous stuff going on, I can't even tell you guys. We're good, it's mostly little stuff — we laugh about it after.

"We've got to keep pushing in that direction because it's been a lot of fun, honestly. We've got some good goaltending and been performing as a team.

"It was very enjoyable."

Gordon deserves a lot of credit for breathing new life into the Flyers. Taking over a team dealing with all sorts of pressure, losing its general manager, its assistant general manager, its head coach and an assistant coach, is a unique challenge.

But the Flyers are responding well to Gordon, who was a positive influence as the head coach of AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. 

"We've talked about discipline, we've talked about changes, we've talked about managing the puck," Gordon said. "Tonight was probably the worst we've managed the puck, but we still found a way to bring the energy and the effort."

And that has been key under Gordon. Mistakes aren't compounding. It seemed like with the crazy drama during the first two and a half months, they always did.

Not now.

"You keep reminding the players that there was no magic that happened when I came in here," Gordon said. "The magic came from them, they're the ones that are creating an identity that they have to live by."

The Flyers are having fun again.

The fans are, too.

Merry Christmas, indeed.

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