PHILADELPHIA – A little extra effort went a long way for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Claude Giroux scored at 4:46 of overtime after Shayne Gostisbehere’s diving play kept the puck in the offensive zone, and the Flyers beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 on Monday night for a crucial win for playoff positioning.
Giroux also had an assist and Wayne Simmonds and Mark Streit scored in regulation for the Flyers, who are fighting with the Red Wings for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia and Detroit, which beat Buffalo 3-2 on Monday night, have 87 points apiece. The Flyers have seven games left, while the Red Wings have six games remaining.
The Flyers blew a two-goal lead and appeared to be headed for a shootout before Giroux and Gostisbehere stepped up. Philadelphia is just 2-8 in the tiebreaker this season and 32-70 since its inception.
As Mark Scheifele was trying to clear the puck from Winnipeg’s zone, a diving Gostisbehere used his fully extended stick to find a wide-open Giroux right in front of the goal.
“It was more desperation than anything,” Gostisbehere said. “I probably wasn’t going to get back.”
Giroux finished the play with a wrist shot off Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and into the net, touching off a wild celebration for the Flyers.
“Just a second effort play,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Gostisbehere’s assist. “I thought we had a ton of those throughout the night. Our guys battled until the bitter end and that’s what it took.”
Scheifele and Blake Wheeler scored for Winnipeg, which was eliminated from playoff contention with Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Buffalo.
“It was a fun game to be a part of,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice, who liked his team’s effort but added a caveat. “Before we get too excited with ourselves, they’re dealing with a whole different kind of pressure. Every pass matters.”
Wheeler netted his 20th of the season 2:35 into the third period, tying it at 2. After Wheeler did good work transitioning from defence to offence, he passed it to Scheifele along the left boards. Scheifele returned a backhanded pass to a wide-open Wheeler in the middle, and the centre lifted a wrist shot high over goaltender Steve Mason.
Gostisbehere nearly won it for the Flyers in regulation, but his wrist shot from the top of the right circle with 5 1/2 minutes left caromed off the post. Each of the rookie defenceman’s 16 goals this season have tied the game, given Philadelphia the lead or been game-winners.
After a lacklustre first period by the Flyers returning from a four-game road trip for the first of three straight at home, Streit scored 41 seconds into the second period to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead. Sean Couturier sent a cross-ice pass to Streit in the slot and the defenceman one-timed a wrist shot under Pavelec’s right arm for his sixth goal of the season.
Simmonds got his team-leading 26th goal 4 1/2 minutes later, stopping a six-game scoring drought. The right winger beat Pavelec on the glove side with a wrist shot from the high slot. Simmonds is more known for scoring from close range.
“That’s the furthest goal I’ll ever get,” he joked.
Philadelphia appeared to be in total control before Jakub Voracek turned the puck over in his own end to set up Scheifele for a breakaway. Scheifele shot past Mason’s blocker for his team-leading 25th goal of the season.
The Flyers nearly extended their lead late in the period, but Pavelec made a good glove save on Brayden Schenn’s try with 1 1/2 minutes left and Ryan White’s deflection of Matt Read’s slap shot with one minute remaining went off the left post.
Mason made 26 saves in his sixth straight start. He figures to get the nod the rest of the way as long as Philadelphia is in the playoff chase, with regular backup goalie Michal Neuvirth (lower body) shelved for the rest of the regular season. Current backup Anthony Stolarz never has played an NHL game.
“I prepare each and every day as if I’m going to play,” Mason said.
Pavelec stopped 29 shots.
NOTES: The injury-riddled Jets were missing seven regulars. … Philadelphia swept the season series while improving to 8-1-1 in the last 10 against the Jets. The Flyers won 3-0 at Winnipeg on Nov. 7. … Pavelec was struck in the head by defenceman Jacob Trouba’s left skate with 3:09 left in the third period. He stayed down on the ice for several minutes but remained in the game.