The Philadelphia Flyers have improbably rocketed to the top of the Metropolitan Division by making a living in come-from-behind wins, registering four comeback wins on their way to a 5-2 start to the season. Saturday night, it looked for all the world like the Carolina Hurricanes would be the fifth victim.
Martin Necas was having none of it.
The Hurricanes’ best player in the first month of the season tied the game late, and Brent Burns’ one-timer with less than a minute to go in overtime finished it off, as the Hurricanes performed their own come-from-behind magic in South Philadelphia with an improbable 4-3 overtime win.
Jordan Staal, playing his 1100th career game, was a man on a mission early. His opening goal was a no-angle backhand, almost as an afterthought, that surprised Carter Hart by squeezing somehow between his pad and the near post. When the Canes doubled their lead ten minutes later, it was the captain again starting the play, feeding Jesper Fast who saucered a pass to Jordan Martinook to put the Canes up by a pair.
But as good as the Canes’ third line was early, for most of the night they were getting painfully little support from elsewhere in the lineup. The Canes’ best chances, a partial Teuvo Teravainen breakaway that didn’t end up with a shot at all and a Jesperi Kotkaniemi chance that hit the post early in the third, were victims of the timing that the Hurricanes have struggled to consistently click on early in the season.
The Flyers had no such issues, at least in the second, which seemed like it was played entirely in the Carolina zone and consisted largely of the Hurricanes being forced to kill a parade of penalties. Nic DesLauriers got the Flyers on the board five minutes into the second with a snap shot that beat Antti Raanta cleanly, and two minutes later the Flyers tied the game on an Owen Tippett knuckler that Raanta misjudged while killing a Burns tripping penalty
Injuries didn’t help the Hurricanes either. Andrei Svechnikov went down awkwardly, favoring his right knee, in a collision in the second period. While he and the Canes dodged a bullet, with Svechnikov not missing a shift, Derek Stepan wasn’t so lucky. The Canes’ fourth-line center left the game after blocking a shot with his hand late in the second period, and the Canes were forced to play the final 20 minutes with 11 skaters.
Not long after Kotkaniemi hit the post, Wade Allison gave the Flyers a lead that they looked unlikely to lose at 6:09 of the third. While the Hurricanes played a much stronger period in the third, and certainly avoided the penalty miscues that marred the middle frame, it was going to take a moment of brilliance to beat Hart and get the game back to even.
Necas, as he’s done so many times this season, answered the bell.
Burns was nearly offside on the entry, but he dragged his left foot behind him just enough that Necas entered the zone onside. He took two strides with the puck and wired a point-perfect shot that beat Hart over the shoulder and went bar-down into the net, tying the game. Energized by the goal, the Canes almost won it in the final minute on a point shot by Brett Pesce and a tip chance by Sebastian Aho.
Necas nearly ended it with an end-to-end rush in overtime, turning former teammate Tony DeAngelo inside-out while forcing Hart into his best save of the night. It wasn’t his shooting that set up the game-winner, but his patience, dangling the puck around a defender and starting a tic-tac-toe passing play through Aho to Burns, whose second goal in as many nights was a one-timer from the top of the far circle to stun the home crowd and send the victorious Canes back to Raleigh for a Halloween night date with the Washington Capitals.