It's a mixed blessing that the Philadelphia Flyers have been so good at coming from behind to win hockey games this season. The Orange and Black already have eight comebacks from third-period deficits this season, one short of the franchise record in a single season, with 34 games remaining on the schedule.
The Flyers are fifth in the NHL with 50 third-period goals. They have pulled out some very close games in the final seconds, including the dramatic 4-3 win in Buffalo Tuesday night. Veteran forward Vincent Lecavalier scored with 14.8 seconds left in that contest to win it for Philadelphia.
Being able to pull out games late says some good things about this team. It means the Flyers don't panic when they fall behind and that they come through in the clutch. It also means their conditioning is at least as good as their opponents', probably better. More importantly, it shows that the Flyers are confident playing in coach Craig Berube's system even when they desperately need to score a goal.
Scott Hartnell told The Associated Press after Tuesday's game, "Never give up, that's probably the biggest thing. We showed a lot of character, especially late there coming back."
That determination breeds the belief that the team can complete a late comeback no matter how dire the circumstances.
"Once you do it once, you have that confidence," forward Matt Read told Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News. He continues:
I think that's something that we lacked a little bit last year and the beginning of this year, that when we were down a goal in the third period, we didn't know how to come back. Good teams know how to win games when they're down in the third period.
Certainly, having experienced players like Lecavalier, Hartnell and Mark Streit also helps the cause when the team falls behind.
But there is a downside to these comebacks as well. It also means the Flyers are falling behind early in games and are not putting forth a consistent 60-minute effort, something the best teams in the league are able to do.
And let's face it, the players are also aware that while they are confident in their ability to score once they fall behind, that they can't rely on last-minute comebacks all the time.
"Sooner or later, you're not going to win every game in the third," Brayden Schenn said to Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer after the win over Buffalo. "We're getting lucky lately and able to score some goals in the third and get some breaks and bounces."
So as the Flyers head into the final three-plus months of the season, they realize they cannot keep falling behind in the first 40 minutes of games and expect to win consistently. But if they do fall behind, they know they have the experience, poise and confidence necessary to get back into any game.