Flyers coach Dave Hakstol has been pushing a lot of different buttons trying to find the right combination to get his team out of its recent downward spiral toward mediocrity.
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From tinkering with his lines trying to find something that works to scratching a healthy top-four defenseman, Hakstol has played just about every card left in his hand.
And on Thursday night, the second-year head coach had one final play, a card he hasn't put on the table yet during the Flyers' recent stretch of seeing valuable points slip away.
With the Flyers down one goal after surrendering three goals in the second period, Hakstol made a goaltender change, from Steve Mason to Michal Neuvirth, for the third.
"We thought it was a good time just for a change for our team coming out of the second period," Hakstol said after a 5-4 shootout win over Vancouver at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
"It was a tough second period. A lot of different things going on there, so it was two-fold. I think Mase would probably admit there was one more save there he can make, but at least equal or more than that, it was just a time to make a change for our team and try to push for a little change in direction, and Neuvy went in and did a good job."
The goalie reset button paid dividends for Hakstol and the Flyers, as Neuvirth provided a calming presence in net and turned away all 14 shots the Canucks threw at him in the third period and overtime and stopping all three Vancouver shootout attempts.
Claude Giroux scored the lone goal of the shootout on his 29th birthday, beating Ryan Miller, the NHL's winningest shootout goalie, five-hole on the Flyers' second attempt.
Neuvirth picked up his fifth win of the season, and second since returning from a left knee injury that forced him out of commission for almost two months on Jan. 4.
"Coach asked me to come in and shut the door," Neuvirth said, "and that's what I did."
Since the Flyers' franchise-record 10-game winning streak was snapped Dec. 17, the orange and black entered Thursday's game 2-6-3 in their previous 11 games and losers of seven of their last eight contests. With a back-to-back this weekend in Boston and Washington before their bye week, Hakstol decided to continue to ride Mason.
Mason made his 26th start out of the Flyers' last 30 games Thursday, and fourth out of the five games since Neuvirth returned from injury. The Flyers' goalie stood tall in the first 20 minutes, turning away 12 of the 13 shots the Canucks threw at him.
But, as the Flyers' lack of discipline and lackadaisical defensive coverage caught up to them in the second, Mason began to bend and yielded three second-period goals. Two of the three goals were results of a failed clear on a 5-on-3 penalty kill and a complete defensive breakdown, but Vancouver's third goal was one Mason cannot let in.
Markus Granlund punched his second goal of the game at 10:01 past Mason in tight for the equalizer, making it 3-3, after the Flyers captured a 3-2 lead in an 18-second span of the second period with goals from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Sean Couturier.
After the game, Mason admitted he was struggling in a lengthy session with reporters. He finished Thursday stopping 20 of 24 shots, and in his last eight games, he's 0-5-2 with a 3.99 goals-against average and .854 save percentage.
"Not getting the job done," Mason said. "I totally understand where [Hakstol] is coming from, and I have to work at it to get better. I am just not happy with where the game is at right now. I have to find ways to work through this and to get back to where I can be.
"It's not mental. I've played a lot of hockey. There hasn't been a lot of time to have practice and actually work on things. When you are playing a lot of hockey, you just kind of keep going and keep going. I think it would be good to get some practice in."
Second periods haven't been kind to the Flyers of late. On Tuesday night, they fell apart in Buffalo, allowing three goals before losing, 4-1, to the Sabres. And on Thursday, the second stanza against almost cost the Flyers two points they desperately needed.
Discipline was an issue from the start, as the Flyers spent nearly half of the first period penalized, faced back-to-back double minors and had to kill off two 5-on-3 power plays. Yet, they escaped against the Canucks, allowing just one power-play goal in eight kills.
"That was ugly, wasn't it? Just one of those games where [you're] sitting in the penalty box all night," Brayden Schenn, who scored his NHL-leading 10th power-play goal in the third period, said. "PK did an outstanding job for us. Power play came up with some big goals, and Neuvy came in and shut the door. Probably not the way we wanted to draw it up, but at the end of the day, we got the two points."
The Flyers' power play struck twice in four opportunities, with Schenn's third-period goal and Travis Konecny's first-period marker. … Radko Gudas was a healthy scratch Thursday, with Nick Schultz entering the lineup. Schultz was a minus-2 with four blocked shots in 16:12. … Sean Couturier had a goal and an assist playing with Nick Cousins and Jakub Voracek. The line combined for four points, and Couturier led the Flyers with five shots on goal.