It’s difficult to play a game that holds no meaning in the standings or seeding for the playoffs. Do you play your best players to keep them loose or do you rest them so they are fresh? If you play them, how much is too much whereas how little is too little? Is it worth it to risk injury? These are the questions some head coaches must answer.
Flyers head coach Craig Berube, having witnessed his top goaltender get knocked out of the game just 24 hours prior, opted to rest backup goaltender Ray Emery while giving Cal Heeter his first NHL start.
Heeter had a rough go of it early on allowing the Hurricanes to score on three of their 13 first period shots, including a goal on their first shot of the game just 2:07 into the opening period. Carolina got goals from Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal and Manny Malholtra. The Flyers mustered one goal from Matt Read but it wasn’t enough as the Hurricanes dominated.
The second period began as a continuation of the first period as Staal scored against just 17 seconds into the period.
It all changed soon enough. With the Flyers on the power play with eight minutes remaining in the second, Kimmo Timonen unleashed a laser that found the back of the net to make it 4-2. Wayne Simmonds joined the fun just 10 seconds later scoring his 28th goal of the season, tying a career-high set in 2011-12 and tying Claude Giroux for the team lead.
Sean Couturier got into the scoring mix just three and a half minutes later as he beat Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Anton Khudobin on a nifty move on the breakaway. Couturier’s goal was his 12th of the season and it tied the game for Philadelphia.
Late in the third period and the game still tied, Carolina rookie Elias Lindholm dumped the puck into the Philadelphia zone when it hit the sideboards and came careening out in front of the net. Heeter had left the net to play the puck on the backboards but was able to scramble to make to the save. Unfortunately, the rebounded ended up on Skinner’s stick and he didn’t miss as the Hurricanes took a 5-4 lead with 6:21 remaining in the game.
The Flyers pulled Heeter for an extra attacker late in the third period when Mark Streit blasted a slap-shot from the point that Khudobin was able to handle but the rebound was sitting there for Wayne Simmonds who went topshelf to tie the game with 9.5 seconds remaining. The goal set a new career-high for Simmonds and moved him into sole possession of the team lead for most goals.
The game would go to overtime then to the dreaded shootout. The Flyers started off with rookie Jason Akeson followed by Giroux and Couturier. All three were stopped by Khudobin as the Hurricanes went 1-for-2 in their attempts to win by a final of 6-5.
The Flyers played a solid second and third periods as they recorded 44 total shots and out-shot the Hurricanes 18-9 in the third period. Every Flyer recorded at least one shot on goal with Wayne Simmonds leading the way with six.
Philadelphia ended the season with 94 points which is incredibly impressive after the 1-7 start to the year. They set a franchise record with 11 wins when trailing at some point in the third period.
That wasn’t the only franchise record they set this season. The Flyers had seven players play in all 82 games surpassing the previous record of six players playing in every game in a season set in 1974-75 when the full seasons were just 80 games.
The Flyers open up their playoff series against the New York Rangers on Thursday night at 7:00 pm at Madison Square Garden.