The Philadelphia Flyers’ snide only continued on Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum, falling 3-2 in a shootout to the New York Islanders.
Alain Vigneault’s men have now won just five of their last 16 games, including eight losses in their last 10.
Yet the Flyers’ outing against the Islanders — who are tied for first in the Eastern Division with the Washington Capitals — was a far better one compared to their previous outing when they were thrashed 6-1 by the Buffalo Sabres, who snapped an 18-game losing streak with their surprising triumph over hapless Philly.
Even more promising was the play of Carter Hart, who had been benched the previous week for a downturn in play that saw him become more of a liability than the franchise’s goaltender of the future; as he had originally been billed over his first two seasons and his impressive run in the playoffs last season.
Hart turned away 22 of 24 shots, keeping the Flyers in it just long enough to spark a third-period comeback from which they trailed 2-0 to snag a point.
“He played well tonight,” Vigneault said. “He did what we expect a goaltender to do and that’s to give your team a chance to win… I thought we played well in front of him.
“There’s no doubt you need your top players to put minutes up to have a playoff push. We needed Carter to come up big tonight and he did. We’ll re-energize [Monday] and get ready for Boston.”
In his previous 10 outings, the 22-year-old Hart was 2-6-0 with a 5.06 goals-against average and an .815 save percentage.
“He needs to work on his game,” Vigneault said last week. “He needs to work harder, he needs to work better.”
That’s exactly what he did.
“It was pretty much what I made it out to you when we decided to make this decision,” Vigneault continued. “He’s been practicing every day except Thursday, which was a mandatory day off. He’s had some good workouts.
“When I asked him if he was ready, it was a definite yes. In my estimation, it showed in his play tonight. He was determined and he made some big saves at the right time for us.”
“I had a good week of practice,” Hart said. “Got a bit of a mental breather from the game, as well. Just came to practice every day. Not pouting. Having fun with the boys. Showing up to work with my hard hat and lunch pail, you know.”
The hope is that Hart can ride this promising outing to backstop a Flyers resurgence, and one will be needed quickly if they want to salvage the season.
Philadelphia is four games back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division, which is owned by the Boston Bruins who have played two fewer games than the Flyers.
They’re up next for the Flyers on Monday night, and there is no hyperbole in admitting the importance of the tilt in Boston.
“The season is on the line, you know,” veteran forward Jake Voracek said. “We are in a big hole. We cannot afford to lose any games, basically. That’s the way it is. We shot ourselves in the foot.
“But this could be a good start to get on a winning streak. But we hadn’t done much in March, so we have to make sure we bring the same intensity next game. It’s gonna be a tough three games, but we’ve got to play the same way every game.”