By Jenny Masters
It’s only early March in this pandemic-shortened season, but Flyers coach Alain Vigneault knows this series in Pitt is uniquely important.
“There’s a moment in a season where a team has a gut check,” Vigneault said.
Such as last night, when they overcame an early three-goal deficit to stun the Penguins 4-3.
Claude Giroux scored his second goal of the night on a tap-in with 2:08 remaining to cap the comeback and just the Pens second loss at PPG Paints Arena this season.
The Flyers trailed by three following a 71-second first-period onslaught by Pittsburgh but kept chipping away before finally moving in front on Giroux’s easy flip into an open net late in the third.
“For us to make the playoffs, we need to win games like tonight,” Giroux said. “I think the way we answered tonight, we’re down 3-0. I think it’s our first comeback win this year. So it’s good to know we can do it and that’s how we need to respond in the future.”
Giroux’s first goal pulled the Flyers within one in the second period, like his winner a simple shot from in front. Scott Laughton drew Philadelphia even 13:37 into the third. Sean Couturier started the Flyer comeback with his sixth of the season late in the first period.
The teams will finish the rare three-game set in Pittsburgh on Saturday night. The Penguins won the opener 5-2 on Tuesday night and appeared firmly in front when Kris Letang, Mark Friedman and Jared McCann all beat Brian Elliott early in the first period.
The Flyers called a timeout after McCann’s pretty redirect capped Pittsburgh’s outburst 3:57 into the first period. Rather than panic, they kept their composure and kept chipping away while the Penguins retreated.
“We just didn’t play the game hard enough and smart enough,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said.
Elliott overcame a rough start to stop 26 shots as Philadelphia won its first game after falling behind 3-0 since earning a shootout victory over Buffalo on Oct. 25, 2016. The Flyers moved back into fourth place by themselves in the crowded East Division, two points ahead of the fifth-place Penguins.
“Other than the first five, 10 minutes, I thought we came back and played hard,” Couturier said. “We didn’t give up a whole lot after that. … It was a huge battle and a big character win.”