Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau (left) helped set up Jiri Hudler’s game-winning OT goal.
By Mary Cunningham
If the Flyers wake up on April 12, the day after the regular season ends, and have not made the playoffs, last night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames at the Wells will be one of the reasons.
Sure, they picked up one point because you get one point when the game goes into OT.
But they are now five points behind the sinking Boston Bruins instead of four in the race for the last playoff spot in the Eastern conference.
The Flyers trailed 2-0 after two periods but rallied to tie the game midway through the third. They continued to press, outshooting the Flames 15-7 in the third, but they couldn’t get the deciding goal.
“It’s great that the guys found the energy and played the way we need to play in the third period,” goalie Steve Mason said. “We’re a tough team to play against when everybody’s going like that. That’s the type of energy we need. We should have been able to close it out.”
Johnny Gaudreau returned home for the first time in his NHL career and helped set up the winning goal.
A Kris Russell pass in transition bounced off TJ Brodie to Gaudreau at center ice. Gaudreau pushed the puck ahead to Brodie, and the defenseman carried it deep into the Philly end and centered it for Jiri Hudler, whose shot along the ice got between goalie Mason’s pads at 1:23 of overtime.
Gaudreau, who grew up in nearby Carneys Point, N.J., had a large fan section that gave one of the loudest ovations of the night when the 21-year-old rookie forward took the ice for his first shift 1:23 into the game.
“That was pretty neat,” he said. “I knew I had a ton of support here tonight. Hearing them on the first shift was pretty exciting for me.”
Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund also scored for the Flames, and Karri Ramo made 35 saves. It was Calgary’s first game since learning Monday that captain and top defenseman Mark Giordano will miss the rest of the season because of a torn biceps tendon.
With the win, the Flames (34-25-4) kept pace with the Los Angeles Kings, who defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 on Tuesday. The Flames and Kings each have 72 points, but Calgary is in third place in the Pacific Division based on having more wins in regulation and overtime (31-29).
“We’re fighting for a playoff spot now,” Gaudreau said. “That’s the most important thing right now, coming out with a win, and the guys got it done tonight.”
Gaudreau played at Wells Fargo Center last season with Boston College in the Frozen Four, and as a youth player, he got on the ice between periods of Flyers games. But playing here in an NHL uniform was a whole different experience.
“It was just as special as I thought it would be,” he said. “Growing up I came to a ton of Flyers games. Getting to play here at Wells Fargo, playing against the Flyers. [Claude] Giroux has been playing for the Flyers for a long time now, been a big fan of him, and getting to play against him was fun too. Great night all around.”
Sean Couturier and Mark Streit scored for the Flyers, and Mason made 23 saves.
Part of the reason the Flyers couldn’t close it out was the play of Ramo, who is 2-2-0 in his past four games but has stopped 126 of 130 shots for a .969 save percentage.
“[Ramo] is the story of our past two weeks,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “He’s our best player out there. He’s giving us lots of confidence He’s giving us key saves at the right time. Again tonight I think he was our best player.”
Ramo appreciated the compliment but said the victory was a team effort.
“That’s kind of my job,” he said. “If I wouldn’t do that, I don’t think I would be playing a lot. That’s why you’re in there. They gave me a lot of help at the time, and earlier in the season too. That’s how a team works.”
Ramo had to be good in the third when the Flyers pressed hard after a slow start that saw turnovers lead to the Flames’ first two goals.
“Start of the game not good enough,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “Needs to be better. You don’t get down 1-0 right away, it could be a different hockey game.
“I’d say the first 10, 12 minutes we lacked that effort or energy or execution that we needed. I thought after that we played a pretty solid hockey game. We gave up five shots in the second period; we gave up six or seven in the third. Trying to generate a lot of action at the net, lot of effort out there. But we’ve got to find a way to win that game.”
At 6:30 of the first period, Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto tried skating the puck through center ice, but Hudler poked it away. Hudler lost the puck in the Philly zone but Mason Raymond picked it up and found Monahan on the right side, and Monahan fired a hard shot that beat Mason past his blocker.
The goal was Monahan’s 22nd of the season, tying the total he had as a rookie last season.
Then at 4:58 of the second, Flames rookie forward Emile Poirier intercepted Wayne Simmonds’ clearing attempt and found Lance Bouma deep in the Flyers zone. Bouma’s backhand attempt along the ice bounced off Mason and Streit to Backlund on right post for a tap-in goal. The assist for Poirier was his first NHL point.
The Flyers chopped into the lead on Couturier’s goal 53 seconds into the third. They appeared to tie the game at 4:24 of the third when a bouncing puck in front went off the Flyers’ Nick Schultz and past Ramo, but referees waved off the goal, ruling Schultz made incidental contact with Ramo in the crease before the puck crossed the goal line.
The Flyers did tie the game at 8:13 of the third when Streit got in front of the net and tipped a Michael Raffl shot past Ramo. Giroux had an assist, the 300th of his career.
Although forcing overtime got the Flyers a point, there was some regret over the point they didn’t get.
“We’ve been letting too many points lately slip by us,” Couturier said. “It might catch us up at the end of the year, one or two points out. That’s what made the difference. But we can’t really think about that now. Just focus on next game.”