'We've been calling it a playoff series' — Flyers get 1 of more gut checks to come

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Jordan Hall
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'We've been calling it a playoff series' — Flyers get 1 of more gut checks to come originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Amid the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Alain Vigneault noted the history of his players hiking up their "big-boy pants."

Well, this was only Game 20 of the 2020-21 regular season, but Thursday night represented a big-boy win for the Flyers.

"I do think there are some moments in a regular season where a team has a gut check," Vigneault said.

The Flyers got a good one when they went down 3-0 only 3:57 into the action against the Penguins. Frustration was brewing for the Flyers. Confidence was soaring for the Penguins. Pittsburgh fans were loving it.

Vigneault called a timeout and the Flyers hiked up their big-boy pants. They settled the waters and chipped away at a 4-3 come-from-behind win at PPG Paints Arena.

"I just told them to take a deep breath, still a lot of time left on the ice, play the right way a shift at a time," Vigneault said postgame Thursday. "And that's what we did. ... Big character win."

Indeed. Those types of wins can fuel a team's psyche. Scott Laughton, who scored the game-tying goal in the third period, had an important point about the significance of the win for the Flyers.

"I think it was 3-0 with 16 minutes left, so lots of time," Laughton said. "I don't think we've had a comeback win this year, so it feels good to come back, especially in the fashion we did. Guys were working hard all night, supporting each other all over the ice.

"It's a huge win to build off of."

That's the key.

The Flyers are two games into a jam-packed March slate of 17 games. The club lost Game 1 of the three-game set in Pittsburgh, 5-2. The rubber match with the Penguins comes Saturday (1 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

"In our locker room, we've been calling it a playoff series," Travis Konecny said Friday. "You've got make sure you win two out of the three. It's different and it's more challenging because teams can look at the way you play — you've got to have a lot more adjustments; even mid-game adjustments are pretty important.

"I think one of the big things that people don't realize is special teams is challenging because they can look at so much video. It's a lot about adapting and making sure you're surprising the other team with different stuff every night. They're doing the same to us so it's a lot of fun."

At 12-5-3 with 27 points, the Flyers have matched their best 20-game start since the 2005-06 season (12-5-3).

Here's their breakdown through 20 games last season and this season:

2019-20

  • Record: 10-6-4

  • Goals per game: 2.90

  • Goals allowed per game: 2.80

  • Power play: 20.8%

  • Penalty kill: 84.2%

2020-21

  • Record: 12-5-3

  • Goals per game: 3.35

  • Goals allowed per game: 3.00

  • Power play: 18.6%

  • Penalty kill: 73.5%

Thursday night's win marked the Flyers' first of the season when trailing after the second period.

"There was no panic," Sean Couturier said of the team's first-period timeout. "Everything was under control. I think we responded really well after."

It wasn't an elimination game. It wasn't the pressure-cooker of the postseason.

But the win showed the Flyers have big boys capable of taking the gut-check moments.

In this kind of season, for a team eyeing to take the next step, there will be more gut checks along the way.

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