The Flyers did the unthinkable Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.
In fact, the NHL said they became the first team in league history to overcome a four-goal deficit in the final 10 minutes of regulation and tie a game.
It was great theater, a thrilling comeback, a wake-up call for a power play that had been in a deep sleep.
Oh, the Flyers ended up dropping a 6-5 overtime decision to a Tampa Bay team that is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, but the inspiring rally might just trigger some good vibes.
You see, two of the Flyers’ next three games are on the road, and this is a team that seems more comfortable playing anywhere except the Wells Fargo Center.
It’s pretty bad when you score three power-play goals and still lose at your arena. Or four unanswered goals in a stunning 6-minute, 4-second span of the third period.
Coming off a 3-0-1 road trip that put them in second place in the Metropolitan Division, the Flyers had a chance to establish themselves as a serious player in the race as they returned for s season-high five-game homestand.
Instead, they finished just 2-2-1 in those games. They are the definition of mediocrity: a 9-9-2 overall record at the season’s quarter-pole.
Worse, they are just 4-6-1 at home. (The Curse of Gritty?) On the road, they are 5-3-1, so they should be thrilled to be playing in Buffalo on Thanksgiving Eve.
On the road, the Flyers play confidently, play a simple game, play with an overall crispness. They also play better defense, and don’t seem to turn over the puck as much as they do at the Wells Fargo Center.
At Gritty’s house, they have been outscored, 41-30, and their penalty kill has clicked at just 64.7 percent, last in the NHL entering Saturday night.
Maybe that’s why a youth player dropped his gloves during a between-period mites-on-ice game Saturday and began throwing punches at the Flyers’ furry, seven-foot mascot as the crowd howled.
Only Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh!) and Florida have fewer home points than the Flyers.
“We want to be a good team at home, want to to be a tough team to play in front of our fans,” captain Claude Giroux said after the Flyers’ rousing rally failed to produce a win, “and that’s not the case right now. But I think tonight is definitely a step in the right direction. We played a solid game; we worked really hard to get that one point.”
The Flyers’ power play was struggling at home — they entered Saturday clicking at just 9.1 percent, the worst home success rate in the NHL — but went 3-for-5 against the Lightning, showing signs that James van Riemsdyk will jump-start a turnaround.
“We were getting some good looks, some good chances,” van Riemsdyk said after the 21st three-point game of his career. “It was just a matter of time before they started going in, so it was nice to have some success as a unit. We generated a lot, so that was obviously encouraging, and that’s a good team over there.”
The Flyers outshot the Lightning, 45-26, but they were sloppy at times and had too many breakdowns in front of their latest goalie. Cal Pickard (.852 save percentage this season) wasn’t sharp and will probably be replaced Wednesday by Alex Lyon.
“We’re not happy with our whole game, but we found a way to get a point,” van Riemsdyk said. “Obviously, we have some things we can clean up and go forward from there.”
Sean Couturier, who helped key the comeback with a goal and an assist, downplayed the Flyers’ struggles at home.
“Obviously, our record shows we’re better on the road, but some of these [home] results weren’t good and we may have deserved better,” he said. “”It’s still early in the season to dictate whether we’re a good home or away team. The midway mark, you can come up with the stats, but right now I think it’s still pretty early to say that we’re that bad.”
Maybe he’s right. Maybe the Flyers will soon turn it around at home.
If not, they will probably force their usually patient general manager to make some major moves before the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
Gritty, we presume, is untouchable.