PHILADELPHIA — His nickname is “Ghost,” though Shayne Gostisbehere has hardly been invisible for Philadelphia.
He has revealed himself as perhaps the Flyers’ most valuable player in a stretch run playoff charge.
Gostisbehere scored twice, leading the Philadelphia Flyers past Tampa Bay 4-2 on Monday night to snap the Lightning’s franchise-best nine-game winning streak.
The Flyers have 73 points and moved within two of idle Detroit for the final wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers went 5-1 on their homestand and earned 10 of 12 possible points to key their surge in the standings.
There are 17 games left for the Flyers and two of them are against Detroit.
With Gostisbehere streaking, a playoff berth for the rebuilding franchise suddenly seems within reach.
“It’s been a fun ride,” Gostisbehere said. “I didn’t expect any of this to happen.”
Gostisbehere, the sensational 5-foot-11, 180 pound rookie defenceman, had his first two-goal game for the Flyers, and his go-ahead goal early in the third ended an 0 for 15 slump for the Flyers on the power play. His 14 goals – in only 47 games – are a team record for a rookie defenceman.
“He’s learning fast,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “He listens. When a young player comes in and wants to get better and listens to the people around him, good things are going to happen.”
Schenn scored his 22nd goal of the season for some needed insurance against a Lightning team that struggled to generate much offence. Namestnikov struck for his 11th goal of the season with 5:07 left that brought Tampa Bay within one.
Simmonds scored an empty-netter and the Flyers hit the road with a renewed playoff push.
Palat knocked home a rebound from the slot just 4:07 into the game for a 1-0 lead. Slater Koekkoek had the assist for his first career NHL point.
The Lightning not only should have enjoyed that goal – they should have appreciated that shot.
There weren’t many more the rest of the way for the Lightning. They had three shots on goal in the first period and six in the second, giving Mason a light workout.
“We laid an egg tonight but there’s a big picture here,” coach Jon Cooper said.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was sensational, stopping shots from all angles all while carrying a heavy workload. He stopped 21 of a whopping 22 shots in the second period and kept Tampa Bay in the game. He finished with 36 saves.
“We had one guy show up tonight and it was him,” Cooper said. “We got outplayed, outworked, outcompeted, outclassed, out everything.”
Vasilevskiy’s lone mistake came when Gostisbehere squeezed in his 13th goal with 3:09 left in the period. Philadelphia’s first goal came on its 30th shot.
“We were buzzing all over their offensive zone,” Flyers centre Sean Couturier said. “We were bringing a lot of pucks to their net, creating some second and third chances. We didn’t capitalize that much but we did finally score that first one.”
The Flyers again struggled on the power play, failing on all four attempts in the first.
Gostisbehere ended the slump right when the Flyers needed him.
Steve Mason made 16 saves for the Flyers.
“The guys were prepared to have a strong finish here,” Mason said.
NOTES: Lightning F Jonathan Drouin will resume his career in the minors after the team lifted its suspension. Drouin is scheduled to report to Tampa Bay’s American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse for practice Tuesday. … Behn Wilson held the rookie goal record for a Flyers defenceman, set in 1978-79. … Philadelphia’s 21 shots in the second was its most in a period since it had 22 in the second period vs. Ottawa on March 2, 2013.