It looked like the Philadelphia Flyers were finished after the second period of Thursday night's game. They were down 3-0 to the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets, and with the way they've played in the third period this season, a comeback seemed next to impossible. However, the Flyers bucked all trends and completely stunned the Blue Jackets and goalie Curtis McElhinney scoring five third period goals en route to a 5-4 win, which turned out to be a crucial victory over a Metropolitan Division opponent.
The Jackets didn't waste much time in the first period, striking when they were short-handed. Near the five-minute mark, Cam Atkinson beat Steve Mason to put the Blue Jackets on the board during a Flyers power play. Columbus would add two more goals in the second period from Jack Skille and Nick Foligno to seemingly blow the game open, giving the visiting team a 3-0 lead over the Flyers heading into the second intermission. The salt in the wound with Foligno's goal is that it came with just 11 seconds to go in the second period, and seemed like it may take away any little bit of momentum that the Flyers were building up going into the third period.
However, the Flyers came out in the third period as a completely different team. Many times this year, they've come out strong in the first two periods and have fallen apart in the third. Thursday's game was the polar opposite of this, as the Flyers came out on a mission to win. Or, perhaps Columbus had a mission to lose. Either way, the Flyers began their five goal onslaught with a Jakub Voracek goal just over four minutes into the period set up by Claude Giroux, who was on his way to a big night. One minute later, Braydon Coburn got a bit of a lucky bounce and got one past McElhinney to make it a 3-2 game all of the sudden.
Columbus decided to wake up at this point, albeit rather briefly. They would add a goal from Blake Comeau to make it a 4-2 game and take some of the life out of the Wells Fargo Center crowd. This didn't seem to matter to the men on the ice, as the Flyers cooly made it a 4-3 game with 5 minutes to go in the game thanks to an Erik Gustafsson goal to make it 4-3. Not even a minute later, Claude Giroux tied the game up, beating McElhinney on a wrister set up by Michael Raffl. Suddenly, it was a brand new game with just minutes to play in regulation.
But the Flyers – and Giroux – were not done yet. On what could be one of the most impressive goals in hockey this season, Giroux made an incredible play as he was going to his knees. He backhanded a shot on net which got past McElhinney and made its way onto highlight reels far and wide. Most importantly, it gave the Flyers their first lead of the game with two minutes to go in the third period. The Flyers would protect this lead and skate to an improbable 5-4 win against a division foe.
Thursday night's win is one of the more improbable comebacks Flyers fans have seen in recent history. Perhaps it makes up for all of the comebacks the Flyers have allowed to other teams. Regardless, Steve Mason still struggled by allowing 4 goals. He has been having trouble putting up solid numbers in the past couple weeks, which should be seen as a concern. The Flyers were completely outplayed in the first two periods, being outshot 18-9 in the second period alone. Their third period explosion included five goals where Claude Giroux picked up 4 points – in just about 16 minutes of hockey. Jakub Voracek also had a goal and two assists. A win is a win, but the team was completely unstable Thursday night, and continued their 2013-14 trend of playing at an incredibly inconsistent level.
Having said all of that, the Flyers find themselves in third place in the Metropolitan Division with the win. They are now above .500 for the first time this season, at 16-15-4, and are now in the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They'll get another shot at Columbus this weekend in Ohio, as the teams play the second installment of their home-and-home series before the Flyers host the Minnesota Wild on Monday.
Columbus – 15:16 – SHG: Cam Atkinson (10), Assisted by Ryan Murray (5)
Columbus – 4:44: Jack Skille (3), Assisted by Mark Letestu (11) and Nikita Niktin (6)
Columbus – 19:49: Nick Foligno (10), Assisted by Jack Johnson (6) and Brandon Dubinsky (16)
Philadelphia – 5:22: Braydon Coburn (3), No Assists
Columbus – 8:35: Blake Comeau (3), Assisted by Artem Anisimov (6)
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