By Michael Donovan
The Flyers are still hanging by a thread in their quixotic quest to make the NHL playoffs.
And they have Sean Couturier to thank.
He scored in regulation and provided the only goal in a shootout as the Flyers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4.
Radko Gudas, Travis Konecny and Ryan Hartman also scored for Philly, which moved within eight points of idle Montreal for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with five regular-season games remaining.
“Whatever it is, the situation, I think everyone has pride in here,” Couturier said. “We want to win games. It’s a lot more fun to win. Whatever happens here down the stretch we need to finish strong and build something here. Just push on in the same direction.”
Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Nazem Kadri and William Nylander scored for Toronto.
After four Flyers missed in the shootout, Couturier deked to his forehand and beat Frederik Andersen. It was his third shootout goal in 21 tries.
Carter Hart stopped Nylander’s attempt. In addition to the 20-year-old rookie not allowing a goal on five attempts in his first career tiebreaker, Hart made 38 saves in regulation.
It looked as if the Flyers had the game won in overtime when Travis Sanheim poked the puck over the goal line 2:34 into the extra period. But the officials disallowed the goal because they said the whistle had blown to stop play, even though Andersen never appeared to have control.
Interim coach Scott Gordon liked the way his team kept competing after they were down 2-0 after the first period.
“There’s got to be an element of character that always comes to the forefront,” Gordon said. “And I’d like to think that’s how we’ll finish out the season.”
Nylander evened it at 4 with 8:27 left in the third when his turnaround shot from the slot, following a turnover by Shayne Gostisbehere, went high over Hart.
Hartman had put Philly ahead 4-3 with 11 minutes left in regulation. He took a pass from Scott Laughton from behind the net and scored with a shot between Andersen’s legs from close range.
Matthews tied it at 3 by following his own miss and converting from a sharp angle 1:43 into the third.