In a game they desperately needed two points, the Flyers survived a lack of discipline and lackadaisical defensive coverage Thursday night for a gritty victory.
Claude Giroux scored the lone shootout goal on his 29th birthday and Michal Neuvirth held down the fort in relief to send the Flyers to a 5-4 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers yielded two 5-on-3 power-play goals in the first 22 minutes, spent half the first period penalized, failed to hold onto any momentum in regulation and had too many turnovers. However, their offense, which has struggled lately, got enough past Ryan Miller.
The win was just the Flyers’ third since their 10-game winning streak was snapped Dec. 17 in Dallas and gives them a four-point cushion for the East’s second wild-card spot.
Twenty-two seconds after the Flyers took a 3-2 lead in an 18-second span of the second period with goals from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Sean Couturier, Markus Granlund punched his second of the game past Steve Mason in tight for the equalizer. Granlund’s marker suffocated the building and shifted the momentum back into the Canucks’ favor.
Two minutes after the tying goal, Brandon Sutter floated the Vancouver lead to 4-3 at 12:46, beating Mason on a soft wrist shot with no Flyers defensemen around.
Brayden Schenn’s league-leading 10th power-play goal of the season just 57 seconds into the third period knotted the game, 4-4, for another momentum-shifting tally.
Mason continued to be a workhorse in net for the Flyers, making his 26th start out of the team’s last 30 games and fourth out of the five games since Neuvirth’s return.
The Flyers’ goaltender stood tall in the first 20 minutes, turning away 12 of the 13 shots the Canucks threw at him, but surrendered three goals in the second period.
Two of the three second-period goals were results of a failed clear on a penalty kill and a complete defensive breakdown, but Granlund’s second that made it 3-3 was a goal Mason had to stop. The Flyers had just recaptured the momentum and needed Mason to bail them out, but he could not answer the call. He stopped 20 of 24 shots Thursday.
Neuvirth replaced Mason to start the third period and provided a steadying presence in net. Neuvirth rejected all 14 Vancouver offerings he faced in the third period and overtime.
The Flyers’ power play has struggled mightily in recent weeks, but on Thursday night, it provided a much-needed boost in a game their overall defensive play was lacking.
Travis Konecny and Schenn each had power-play goals, and the Flyers now have five power-play tallies in their last six games. They finished 2 of 4 on the PP Thursday.
With 14:29 left in the first period, the Flyers were forced to kill eight minutes of penalties after back-to-back double minors, including 50 seconds of being down two men. The Flyers escaped, killing three of the four penalties and coming out with just one blemish.
The Flyers faced yet another 5-on-3 kill — this time 33 seconds — at the end of the opening period and into the beginning of the second and nearly came away unscathed. Vancouver scored its second goal just as Michael Del Zotto’s second high-sticking penalty expired to go up, 2-1, at 1:51 of the middle stanza. The Flyers finished 7 of 8 on the penalty kill, and are now 16 of 17 in their last six games.
Forwards Boyd Gordon and Roman Lyubimov and defenseman Radko Gudas were healthy scratches. Mark Streit (left shoulder) remains on long-term injured reserve.
Streit participated in full practice Wednesday and both he and general manager Ron Hextall said they are shooting for the 39-year-old’s return this weekend in Boston (see story).
Canucks forwards Derek Dorsett (neck) and Jannik Hansen (knee) and defensemen Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Ben Hutton (hand) and Philip Larsen (head) are all injured. Forwards Reid Boucher and Anton Rodin and blueliner Andrey Pedan were scratched.
The Flyers head to Boston on Saturday afternoon to face the Bruins, and then head to Washington for a Sunday matinee before their mandated five-day bye week begins.
Vancouver has two days off before hosting the Devils at Rogers Arena on Sunday.