After coming out of the Christmas break the Flyers played like they were suffering from a holiday hangover when they took to the ice against the Panthers. The Flyers did not get their legs under them until there were about seven minutes left in the game. Looking to build on the last minutes of the Panthers game they hoped to come out right from the opening face off in the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning who are currently the top team in the league.
It was apparent that both teams had some jump in tonight’s game right from the drop of the puck. The speed of the game was evident and the compete level was much higher than last game. Tampa Bay got the scoring started when a questionable penalty was called on Jakub Voracek for tripping Cory Conacher at 7:08 into the first.
The Tampa Bay Lightning came into the game with the leagues best power play, with players like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov on the first power play it is easy to see why. It did not take Tampa long to show why they have two of the top five leading scorers in the league. Less than 20 seconds into the power play Kucherov took a pass from Victor Hedman and placed it right in the wheelhouse of Stamkos for the one time shot that Brian Elliott had no chance on to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
The Flyers did not seem to let the fact they trailed the top team get them down and instead seemed to use it to fuel their level of play. With the Flyers pressing Jori Lethera drove the net to attempt a screen on Peter Budaj but Former Flyer Braydon Coburn hooked him and picked up the penalty. With just over a minute gone in the power play, Voracek made a pass down to the front of the net to Shawn Couturier who froze both Dan Girardi and Budaj with a backhand saucer pass right to the tape of Wayne Simmonds who got the score tied at 1-1.
The momentum seemed to swing in the Flyers favor after the Simmonds goal causing Tampa to take a very undisciplined penalty when Kucherov slashed Robert Hagg at 9:30 of the second. This time it only took 33 seconds for the Flyers to strike with the man advantage, Claude Giroux took a shot from the far faceoff circle that bounced off of Budaj right to the feet of Simmonds who chipped the puck over to a streaking Shayne Gostisbehere who gave the Flyers their first lead since before Christmas.
With the score 2-1 Flyers they seemed to take their foot off the gas and relax a bit. The Flyers forwards left the zone early which cause Ivan Provorov to dump the puck into the neutral zone to relieve the for-checking pressure from Tampa. The puck was picked up by Tampa and they entered the Flyers zone for the counter-attack. Kucherov made a cross-ice pass to a breaking Ondrej Palat who tipped the puck over to Brayden point in the slot. While attempting to get off the quick one-timer point whiffed on the shot causing the puck to flip end over end Elliott seemed to get fooled by the shot and the puck entered the net just over his glove hand for the 2-2 tie.
The tie could have crushed the confidence of the Flyers who seemed to be building momentum but this time they shook it off and went back to the play that got them the two power plays and a lead at one time. With just 12 seconds left in the second period Giroux too a pass from Travis Konecny and deflected it on the net. Budaj made the save of the game keeping the Giroux shot out of the net but he could not control the rebound which went right to the stick of Couturier who gave the Flyers the 3-2 lead to close out the second period.
With the last second goal giving the Flyers the lead they pushed the pace and built on their lead with just under two minutes gone in the third.
Looking like they set up for a power play Konecny made a pass to Giroux at the blue line who tipped the puck to Bandon Manning who skated down the near boards for a quick short-side shot on Budaj. After only getting a piece of the shot Budaj looked as though he lost his position in net as the puck bounced right back to Manning as he went behind the net. Budaj got his leg tangle with the goal post as he tried to fight his way back into the net but Manning already settled the puck on his blade and stuffed the wraparound shot into the net to extend the Flyers lead to 2 goals.
The Flyers looked to put the game away when they went back on the power play when Alex Killorn tripped Voracek at 7:12 of the third but Provorov’s stick had another plan. Nolan Patrick gave the puck to Provorov at the point for the shot when his stick broke leading to the short-handed rush the other way. Provorov defended Tyler Johnson as well as anyone could have asked when Johnson sent a floating wrist shot on net that seemed to catch Elliott sleeping in the net to narrow the lead to only one goal with half a period to go.
Tampa Bay tried to get the game tied but tonight the Flyers were able to deny them at every chance. With just over 30 seconds left in the game former Lightning player, Valtteri Filpulla was able to pick up the empty net goal to sent the fan to the exits in Tampa.
This was the Flyers last game of 2017 and they were able to pick up the win to end the year. The Flyers are off until January second when they play the Pittsburgh Penguins at home. The Flyers are looking for some revenge after the last game these two teams played had more than a few questionable calls as the Penguins picked up the OT win.