Special teams has been talked about, mostly in a negative way, for the Flyers this season. Their power play has struggled and is among the worst in the league. However, the penalty kill has made up for that with strong stretches during the early part of the season. After another good performance on Saturday night, the Flyers have the eighth best penalty kill percentage at 84.8%. That’s only 4.6% off the league leading Los Angeles Kings when it comes to the PK.
The unit, often dubbed as the “power kill” was on display once more in the shootout victory over the Penguins. Pittsburgh has also faced trouble with their power play this season and now sit 30th with a measly 10.9% success rate. That includes the five opportunities they had against Philadelphia. None were more important than the third period kill over with about eight minutes remaining. The Penguins had a 2-1 lead at the time.
So it was important for a few different reasons. Scoring on the opposition’s power play can boost a team in general. This goal also tied the game with seven minutes remaining in regulation. The Flyers six short handed goals are tied for first in the league as well. But this goal was even more important for Scott Laughton. Just his second goal of the season, Laughton had been drawing the ire of fans for his play this season. One goal won’t fix everything, but scoring in a huge moment goes a long way.
The power play did manage to get on the board as well. At the time, it was also a very important goal. Tyson Foerster is starting to see the puck hit the back of the net as he scored his third goal in two games. While he had been doing all the right things earlier in the season, he wasn’t getting results. Now things are starting to happen for him. He showed off his lethal wrister to give the Flyers their first lead of the night and the first time they played with a lead in six games. It was certainly refreshing for Flyers fans to see another team lose a game largely due to their special teams.
Especially after some tough luck on a few of the Penguins’ goals. But the Flyers had an answer for every goal their opponent scored. After a Kris Letang shot bounced off of Travis Sanheim and past Sam Ersson, Owen Tippett answered with one of his own a little over two minutes later. Jake Guentzel scored the first of his just less than two minutes into the third period. The original shot from Erik Karlsson was heading wide until it hit the skate of Guentzel and went in. Laughton and Foerster would answer with two goals later on. The Flyers almost skated away with the regulation win until a failed clear set up Guentzel’s second with 21 seconds to go.
The penalty kill had to come up big again as the Penguins had an opportunity in the final minute of overtime. The Flyers were outshot 6-1 in the extra period. While special teams played well, Sam Ersson also continue his good play as well. A runner up for Rookie of the Month in November, Ersson has been on the winning end of his last four starts. His save percentage has been able .900 in each win and he’s been an important factor in all of those wins. Having a strong option behind Carter Hart allows him to be well rested throughout the season.
Ersson would deny all three shooters he faced, including Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The two combined for just one point in the game as Malkin earned a secondary assist on the tying goal at the end of regulation. It broke a 14-game streak in which Crosby had registered at least one point against the Flyers.
And if there was still any concern about Sean Couturier’s back, he continued to put that to rest with his twist and shoot goal in the shootout. It’s the second time he has scored on that move and it was the only goal needed in the skills competition. The backhand to forehand move is something Couturier worked on while he was rehabbing his injury.
The Flyers will face these same Penguins back in Philadelphia for the second half of a home and home series on Monday.