The Flyers have dug themselves a hole as of late, one they're flirting with laying in after churning out 10 straight wins and making up considerable ground in the standings.
That wild-card cushion has all but evaporated with their recent stretch, entering Thursday night's game with the Vancouver Canucks losing seven of their previous eight and 2-6-3 since their third-longest win streak in franchise history was snapped Dec. 17.
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With Florida and Carolina idle Thursday, a meeting with one of the NHL's worst road teams in Vancouver, a tough back-to-back looming this weekend before their league-mandated bye week, the Flyers understood the importance of Thursday night.
And despite digging even further with a lack of discipline and defensive coverage that appeared, at times, comatose in the first two periods, the orange and black scraped their way to a self-inflicted, adversity-ridden 5-4 shootout win over the Canucks.
"For our group, especially over the last couple of weeks, we've found a way to lose a point or two in games like this," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said Thursday.
"Whereas tonight, we found a way to push for a win in the third period and that's the big positive. We didn't sneak out the back door in the third period with the two points. We played a real, good third period and earned the two points in our own building."
It was the second period Tuesday night in Buffalo where the Flyers were undone. The Sabres outcompeted and outworked the Flyers for three second-period goals en route to a 4-1 win. Two nights later, the second period again almost doomed the Flyers.
Three more goals allowed in the middle stanza led to Steve Mason being pulled after the second intermission for Michal Neuvirth. Yet, the difference between the Buffalo game Tuesday and the Vancouver game Thursday was the Flyers' first-period play.
A complete mental lapse in discipline led to four stick infractions, back-to-back double minors for high sticking, 12 first-period penalty minutes, two 5-on-3 Canucks power plays, one that bled into the second period, and one power-play goal against.
Vancouver capitalized on the first 5-on-3 man advantage at 9:21, when Daniel Sedin found twine after Michael Del Zotto was whistled for a double-minor high sticking. Del Zotto took another high sticking infraction at 19:51 that led to Markus Granlund's first of two goals at 1:51 of the second period, right as the Canucks' second 5-on-3 expired.
"I don't know if I've ever seen anything quite like that," Hakstol said. "That not only changes the start of that hockey game and alters the first period, but it has an effect on the energy some players have and vice versa for the guys who aren't playing.
"There was a little bit of adversity there through the first period, same thing in the second. In the second period, we created some of our own adversity, but I like the fact we turned it around and pushed the right direction in the third and did it the right way."
Hakstol was not pleased with the Flyers' reckless sticks in the first period, calling it the players' responsibility to take care of their stick and said those penalties "can't happen."
Breakdowns in defensive coverage and turnovers highlighted the Flyers' second period. They struggled to clear the front of the net, let Canucks uncovered and were flat. Two of the three second-period goals allowed were direct results of poor coverage.
After the first 40 minutes, the Flyers found themselves down, 4-3, to the Canucks and incurring 14 of the 16 penalty minutes they had on the night. It had all the making of a repeat from Tuesday night, where the second period costs them two more points.
Yet, Brayden Schenn scored his NHL-leading 10th power-play goal of the season just 57 seconds into the third period to knot the game, 4-4, and Neuvirth clamped down with 10 third-period saves, providing a calming presence in net and settling the Flyers down.
"I don't think we played our best game," said Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who scored his second goal of the season in the second period. "We have to start way stronger the next one, but at the end of the day, we were behind three times. It's not the situation we like to be in, but we came back and we won the game."
The Flyers' win was their fifth shootout victory of the season, which sets a franchise record. Since its inception in 2005, they have never won more than four in a season. They did so against the NHL's winningest shootout goalie in Ryan Miller (57 wins).
More importantly, the Flyers fought back to pick up the extra point they nearly let slip away with another abysmal second period ahead of their back-to-back set with Boston and Washington this weekend and to pad their wild-card cushion to four points.
"It's really big for us," Travis Konecny said. "We've been preaching the importance of the points heading forward. We're not a team that's going to look at the standings, but we've had to dial that in a little bit lately and make sure we're on the right page."