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September 03, 2020

Three reasons the Flyers saved their season with double-OT win over Islanders

Oskar Lindblom's emotional return helped fuel a Flyers' victory, as Carter Hart made 49 saves in Game 6

It took more than an hour and 35 minutes of hockey to decide, but the Flyers extended their season as Ivan Provorov fired a double-overtime goal into the back of the net to put an exclamation mark on one of the most exciting Philly hockey games in recent memory, a 5-4 win in Game 6 Thursday night.

The goal came on the heels of a game that saw the Islanders dominate for long stretches and Carter Hart play out of his freaking mind in what was one of the best four-goals allowed performances you will ever see.

The Provorov strike will welcome a Game 7 on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. for all the marbles and a berth into the Eastern Conference Finals against the Lightning. The Flyers will try and overcome a 3-1 deficit for the first time since their 3-0 comeback against Boston in 2010.

Here's the goal that saved the Flyers' season:

It was an eventful Game 6 (as one might guess) but let's start near the end. 

Tied for the third time, this time at four goals apiece, the Flyers faced their biggest penalty kill of the season with just 2:42 left to play (after a bad Justin Braun tripping penalty). Hart was the best penalty killer on the team, making unbelievable saves to help Philadelphia force overtime for a third time this series.

In overtime, the Flyers faced elimination several times as the Isles were relentless, but Hart, remarkably and emphatically, said "no."

In the first overtime, two Flyers power play chances went unrealized, and a fast-paced 20 minutes that saw both sides looking winded ended without a goal.

The Flyers' first playoff double-overtime session since 2008 (a win vs. the Capitals) didn't see as many shots as the first extra stanza, as both teams struggled to get possession and sustained offense. 

Hart, the Flyers' fearless 22-year-old goaltender, stopped 49 Islanders shots, many in spectacular and clutch fashion. Somehow, despite being outshot overwhelmingly, 53-31, the Flyers were able to get ahead in the only stat that matters.

Here's a look at why the Flyers prevailed (aside from, of course, Provy's OT-winner):

Early and often

Throughout this series, the Flyers have been the aggressors in the early going, setting the tone and peppering the puck on net. That was not the case Thursday. It took half the first the period for Philly to get its first shot on Semyon Varlamov, and it wasn't long after that that the Flyers struck first.

A Islanders' turnover led to a Flyers' opportunity, and a threaded pass from Travis Konecny found Kevin Hayes' stick, and a top shelf snipe gave Philly a 1-0 lead. It was the Flyers' second shot on goal.

Prior to some missteps during their series against New York, the Flyers made scoring first and winning a point of pride. That pride returned, and with it the momentum and the ability to use confidence to spur them forward.

Their third shot was just as lucrative as their second, as an odd-man rush and a slap shot from James Van Reimsdyk fooled Varlamov. A shot from long distance by JVR is certainly a change of pace for a guy who likes to score closer to the net, and zigging instead of zagging paid off to the tune of a comfortable 2-0 lead in the first.

The Flyers have not held the Islanders under three goals this entire series.

No lead is safe

The Flyers' previous two wins in this series are telling for a number of reasons. The first is that they were both won on dramatic walk-off overtime goals. The second is that they each saw the Flyers blow sizable leads. Back in Game 2, Philly blew a 3-0 advantage, and in Game 5, the Flyers led by two with four minutes to go before needing an extra frame to extend the series.

The Flyers had an early 2-0 lead in Game 6 but it was similarly short lived. A bad Flyers' slash gave the Isles a man-up advantage. Devon Toews took a shot just as the power play expired that was perfectly redirected by Derick Brassard to get New York on the board, 2-1 just before the end of the a very action-packed first.

They continued to push for an answer, as just 104 seconds into the second period a turnover due to a blocked shot led to an Islanders' rush and a Matt Martin equalizer. The play, which was challenged by Alain Vigneault, was reviewed and determined not to have had goalie interference (the tumbling Islander was said to be tripped). You can decide for yourself, but either way, for the second straight game, the Flyers gave New York a free power play.

On the ensuing power play, the overmatched Flyers were unable to kill the entire two minutes, as a big rebound led to an Anders Lee goal and an Islanders' 3-2 lead.

Trailing in shots by a ridiculous 20-8 clip, the Flyers looked to be on a full strength penalty kill for most of the second, but finally got possession and created a few scoring chances. A flurry of activity around the net gave Michael Raffl an opportunity and he took advantage, netting an equalizer of his own from Nick Aube-Kubel and Ivan Provorov at the point.

The Flyers couldn't take a tie game into the second intermission, as sustained pressure and scoring chances in the Philly defensive end and a failed attempt to get the puck out led to a bad turnover right in front of the net and a Matt Barzal goal, sending New York into the locker room ahead 4-3 (after trailing 2-0).

In the third, an early power play did not yield its intended results (no shots, just a clank off iron from Hayes), continuing frustration in special teams that have dogged the Flyers inside the playoff bubble. However, special teams did lead to a second game-tying goal — a simply gorgeous breakaway at the tail end of New York's power play. Take a look:

The Flyers now have three wins in the series, all in overtime. Lets hope they can give fans of the Orange and the Black a little less drama in Game 7,

Oskar Strong

Regardless of Thursday's result, just before puck drop the Flyers made an announcement that assured Game 6 would be a game for the ages. 

Just 10 months after playing in his last game with the Flyers, on December 7th, 2019, Oskar Lindblom was in the lineup (265 days later). The Flyers' forward was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, last winter and not only beat it back, but also worked his way back to game shape in remarkable fashion.

The Flyers haven't won a Stanley Cup in decades, and have had a whirlwind of a season already. If they didn't have enough to play for before, giving Lindblom a 'W' in his first game back was certainly an undeniable storyline for Game 6.

Lindblom was not just there to emotionally encourage, he also was playing a pivotal role on the offense, with Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee both out due to injuries sustained back in Game 5. Michael Raffl was the other newbie added to the line up, a decision which would pay off (he scored a pivotal goal in the second period).

In the madness of the overtime thriller, Lindblom's return (and 17:30 of ice time) was overshadowed — but Flyers fans will surely remember his return as part of one of the more dramatic Game 6's in franchise history.

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