In a game where both teams were already eliminated from playoff contention, on paper this game seemed meaningless. However, there is so much more to this game than meets the eye.
For the Flyers, another key player for their future in Robert Hägg makes his NHL debut after making tremendous strides in his third full season playing for the Flyers’ AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms. On both sides, many other players are trying to solidify their spot for next season and in their mind, this game matters.
This game also signifies the end for Hurricanes’ Bryan Bickell who announced he will retire after this season. Bickell, a two-time Stanley Cup champion has been battling multiple sclerosis and was just recently called back up to the NHL to play the last four games of his professional career.
The Flyers came out with two great chances early in the game. The first, a point blast from Shayne Gostisbehere, followed by a deflection in front by Nick Cousins that almost beat Lack.
The Flyers came right back with two more chances from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and a tricky slot deflection from Brayden Schenn. However it was Carolina who got on the board first at 5:43 when a bad pass from Travis Konecny landed right on the stick of Derek Ryan who then found Brock McGinn wide open in the slot beating Stolarz high glove-side.
After a back-and-forth next five minutes, the Hurricanes got another great opportunity on a blast from defenseman Jacob Slavin from the circle left of Stolarz.
The Flyers came close to tying it soon after as Nick Schultz, who was up on the play, came close to beating Lack but shot it wide.
Carolina came back on a two-on-one as Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravinen broke into the Flyers zone, but Teravainen’s pass to Aho was blocked by Nick Schultz.
At 15:00, Wayne Simmonds created another great chance for the Flyers to tie the game. After a great takeaway in the offensive zone by Simmonds, Simmonds found Filppula who passed it to Andrew MacDonald in the circle for a one-timer that sailed high.
At 17:00, a puck that was deflected high into the air was batted down by Flyers rookie Robert Hägg which landed right in front of Jeff Skinner. Skinner was able to get off a weak shot that was saved and covered by Stolarz.
At 18:32, during a puck battle in the Hurricanes zone, Jordan Weal took down…
At 19:30, one minute into the Carolina powerplay, the Flyers were able to carry the puck out of their end down into the Carolina zone that was dropped back to Hägg for a shot on net, but with no screen in front, Lack was able to save it easily.
Carolina started the second period with 30 seconds of powerplay time but it was Wayne SImmonds who had the only chance during the man-advantage, toe-dragging around Justin Faulk, Simmonds snapped a shot high off of Lack.
The Flyers continued their hot start to the period with another scoring chance when Nick Cousins found Claude Giroux out in front of the crease, but Giroux could not get it to go.
At 6:00, the Flyers Ivan Provorov carried it through the neutral zone on a 3-on-2, dished it across the blue line to a streaking Claude Giroux. Giroux was able to split the defense and took a low wrist shot that was saved by Lack.
The Flyers continued to dominate the second period, hemming Carolina in their own zone. The Hurricanes were finally able to gain possession of the puck but Bellemare made a great defensive play, taking the puck away and finding Konecny in the slot but Konecny whiffed on the shot, dribbling it wide of the net.
The Flyers continued to 8:46 a great keep by Macdonald who contolled the puck, skated down along boards before losing control, the puck dribbled to Sean Couturier in the corner and he found Dale Weise in the slot. Weise one-timed it past Lack, tying the game at 1.
The Flyers looked to take the lead just two minutes later, when Wayne Simmonds blocked a shot, skated down to the Carolina blue line before finding a streaking Valteri Filppula who backhanded a shot high off of Lack.
At 13:30, Nick Cousins muscled his way around outside of the Carolina defense before getting a weak shot off Lack that settled behind the goaltender, a falling Cousins made one last effort but poked it through the crease.
The Hurricanes finally got a scoring chance at 14:17, forward Jeff Skinner skated down along the boards, stopped, and found Elias Lindholm across the zone for a shot that was answered by Stolarz. The Hurricanes continued their pressure on the next draw as a point shot was deflected in close on Stolarz but the young goaltender made the save.
At 16:50, the Flyers would get their first powerplay of the game on a high-stick by Matt Tennyson. Carolina won the opening draw and cleared the puck down the ice.
The Flyers finally were able to set up 30 seconds into the man-advantage but could only muster one shot off the stick of Jake Voracek.
Early in the third period, at 1:30, Jordan Weal lifted the stick of Sebastian Aho, but in the process caught Aho in the face with his stick, sending Carolina on their second powerplay. The Hurricanes came close to re-taking the lead on a Noah Hanifin wrist shot that rung of the post and to the corner.
The Flyers came back after the Carolina powerplay with Claude Giroux carrying the puck past the blue line before dropping it off to Jake Voracek who swung in and passed it to an open Michael Del Zotto in the circle to the left of Lack. Del Zotto blasted the pass high off of Lack who covered.
The back-and-forth play continued when, at 7:15, Victor Rask slapped one through Stolarz, trickling through the slot and wide.
Carolina struck again at 8:39, with defenseman Noah Hanifin finding Brock McGinn uncovered by the far post with a slap pass that McGinn tipped past Stolarz, giving the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead.
The Flyers retaliated a few minutes later at 10:58. At the Carolina blue line, Sean Couturier dropped the puck off for Dale Weise who carried the puck in and fired a wrist shot past Lack to tie the game at 2.
A minute and seven seconds later, at 12:05, the Flyers took their first lead of the game after Wayne Simmonds skated up to the blue line, dished it off to Shayne Gostisbehere who carried the puck deeper into the Carolina zone before giving it back to Simmonds who protected the puck through the slot and lifted a backhand shot past Lack, giving the Flyers a 3-2 lead midway through the final period.
The momentum the Flyers gained with two quick goals was short-lived as just a minute later, Ivan Provorov was called for tripping, sending Carolina to their third powerplay.
At 14:50, the Hurricanes were able to capitalize after extended pressure with Sebastian Aho blasting a pass from Justin Faulk past the glove of Stolarz, tying the game at 3.
Each team came close to taking the lead in the final five minutes with Dale Weise and Brock McGinn both with chances at a hat-trick, but neither could capitalize and the third period came to an end with the score still tied.
The first chance of overtime came off the stick of Jordan Staal on a breakaway, but Stolarz made the stick save.
Soon after, Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux had a chance of his own, getting off a weak backhander that sailed high. Philadelphia had two more chances from Brayden Schenn and Ivan Provorov but were both gloved by Lack and the overtime came to an end still tied at 3.
The final game for each team would be settled in a shootout. After Jordan Weal missed wide on the first attempt, Hurricanes Bryan Bickell, in his final game in the NHL, scored to give the Hurricanes the 1-0 shootout lead. Claude Giroux answered on the next attempt, beating Lack through the five-hole. After failed attempts from Sergey Tolchinsky and Jake Voracek, Brock McGinn won the game with a wrist shot past the glove of Stolarz, ending the 2016-17 season for both clubs.
FINAL: 4-3 (SO) Hurricanes
SHOTS: 44-35 Flyers
- Anthony Stolarz made the fourth start (seventh appearance) of his career Sunday night, allowing three goals on 35 shots. With Steve Mason likely gone and Neuvirth’s status up in the air in regards to the upcoming expansion draft, the young goaltender most likely will be one of the team’s two goaltenders next season. Stolarz’s play this season, whilst a small sample size, should put him into consideration for the starting job next season.
- Robert Hagg, in his first game in the NHL, had five shots on goal, leading the team.
- Dale Weise continued his hot streak since he was paired with Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn, scoring two goals on Sunday night, bringing his season total to 8.
- Bryan Bickell, playing his last game in the NHL, was rewarded with an attempt in the shootout. Bickell scored and was met with a decent amount of cheers from Flyers fans.
- Sebastian Aho continued his dominance against the Flyers with a goal on Sunday night. The goal gave him four goals and four assists against the Flyers in four games.
The Flyers and Hurricanes both have a long offseason ahead of them. The Flyers have missed the playoffs for the third time in five years. While the Hurricanes have missed the playoffs for the eight straight season. While both teams have lots of young talent, they will have some difficult decisions to make en route to becoming a contender.
Dean Snock is a writer for Good Night, Good Hockey and a Hershey Bears reporter. You can follow him on Twitter @DSnock97.