It was as big of a game as the Flyers have played all season.
Five points behind the idle Columbus Blue Jackets for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers needed help from the Islanders, who took on the Montreal Canadiens. They got it via a 2-1 victory, but that score didn’t go final until after the final horn had sounded at Wells Fargo Center.
More importantly, they needed to help themselves. Simply put: they didn’t. One could argue that coach Scott Gordon’s decision to start Carter Hart was one part necessary and one part strategic. With Hart healthy enough to play and the impending back-to-back games at home against the Capitals and on the road versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gordon had to get his Wunderkind netminder a start; starting Brian Elliott in back-to-back games simply wasn’t an option. The strategic aspect came down to another Brian Elliott issue, namely his woeful performance against the Caps just eight days before: four goals allowed on 19 shots good for a .789 SV% in just north of 24 minutes of action. It was the first game Elliott’s save percentage dipped south of .900 since he returned to the lineup on February 19th. Those four goals were also the tied for the most he’d allowed over that nine-game stretch, along with a 36 save overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Carter Hart had to better. He couldn’t possibly have a worse game, right? Well…
The first period was a Jekyll and Hyde performance in two of the three zones. For roughly six minutes to start the game, the Flyers seemingly dominated play in the offensive and neutral zones. The were flying all over like bats out of hell. Sean Couturier created a shot from the slot then laid a huge hit at center ice, followed by another by Ryan Hartman:
— Brandon Murphy (@2Murphy8) March 14, 2019
With much-needed energy propelling them forward, it seemed somewhat inevitable that they’d score first. That didn’t happen. With just 2:53 off the clock in the first period, Brett Connolly got his sensational night off to a good start: