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February 24, 2019

Flyers' thrilling comeback vs. Penguins was 'most important' win of the season

And it may have been Wayne Simmonds last as a member of the Orange and Black...

Flyers NHL
022419_Flyers-win_usat Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Flyers celebrate the game-winning goal by center Claude Giroux (28) against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field.

Jake Voracek has a way about him. The Flyers’ veteran right winger has no filter. Whatever is on his mind bounced right out through his lips. He doesn’t believe in finessing his thoughts and words.

So, he knew what was at stake Saturday night in the nationally televised Stadium Series game when all of the hyperbole and bombast was cut. If the Flyers lost to the Penguins before the sellout 69, 620 at Lincoln Financial Field, their season may have been over, their playoff hopes dashed under the steady drizzle.

This season, the Flyers looked dead and have come back to be viable contenders for a playoff berth. For 56 minutes and 56 seconds on Saturday in the Stadium Series, they looked pretty dead against the Penguins, trailing 3-1, and at one time almost outshot 2-to-1.

But, like this season, they’ve had a habit of resurrecting a bad situation into a positive, and after Voracek scored the tying goal with 20 seconds left to play, and Claude Giroux scored the game-winning goal in overtime, the Flyers found themselves alive again.

“This was important for us. I called it the most important game we’ve won this year, because if we would have lost this game in regulation, it would have really been tough to come back (and make the playoffs),” Voracek said. “We knew it. We pushed hard in these conditions and we came through.

“I never played in conditions like this before. The game two years ago in Pittsburgh was tough because of the wind. You were going into the wind or against the wind. The ice was outstanding tonight for the first two periods.

“We still have a lot of work to do and a lot of ground to make up, and we have been kind of pushing the last month and a half. We still have a lot of ground to make up.”

An underlying storyline that wasn’t overshadowed by the overtime victory was the future of Flyers’ forward Wayne Simmonds. He’s been the focal point of many trade rumors with the NHL trade deadline approaching Monday, February 25 — and the Flyers likely to be sellers and not buyers.

Saturday night’s comeback victory may have been Simmonds’ last game as a Flyer after eight years.

“I think everybody around the league and everybody in Philly knows what kind of guy and what kind of player he is,” said Voracek, referring to Simmonds. “Obviously, everybody knows what kind of position he is.

“It’s something we can’t change. He’s been amazing and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”

If Simmonds is indeed traded, he will go out on a very high note as a Flyer.

We just don’t know what’s going to happen. Wayne has been an ultimate warrior and the best teammate all of these years... There’s not enough good words I can say about Wayne Simmonds.

For 75 percent of the game, things didn’t look too good for the Flyers. With roughly 5:00 to play, large pocket of seats at the Linc began opening. An estimated 20,000 may have left by the time Voracek scored the tying goal.

“It didn’t look too good there,” Giroux said. “We found ways to get back into the game and make it 3-3. The whole game was kind of weird. I think I spent more time trying to clean my visor than actually playing. Other than that, the experience was great.”

As for Simmonds, Giroux admitted it’s a tough situation.

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen,” said the Flyers’ captain, who played in his 800th game Saturday night. “Wayne has been an ultimate warrior and the best teammate all of these years.

“It’s not something we can control so it’s definitely frustrating a little bit. We’ve all been here for a while now and we understand the business of it. It doesn’t mean we have to like it. There’s not enough good words I can say about Wayne Simmonds.”

Voracek, as he is wont to do, openly admitted he had doubted the Flyers could come back.

“I thought our line was making a good push every time we were on the ice, but I wasn’t sure what was going to happen in that third period,” Voracek said. “To be honest, I wasn’t believing that we were going to win, which is bad to say.

“But those conditions, the ice was kind of heavy in the third period. The conditions were obviously tough. It’s been a good push so far. I think it was the biggest win of the year.

“If we lost that game, it would be tough to work from here.”

Simmonds himself wore a big smile afterwards.

“The first and second period conditions weren’t bad, and the third period, you go out there and it starts coming down a little bit heavier,” Simmonds said. “The sticks were slippery. The gloves felt like your hands were in a swamp. You can’t see anything.

“Hey, we finally got one on the third try (in outdoor games).”

If it was Simmonds’ last game as a Flyer, he couldn’t have asked for a better send off.


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