In hockey, a turning point can take many forms. Killing off a penalty at an opportune time, for instance, or a scoring a last-second goal as the clock is ticking down.
Its not every day, though, that a games momentum changes entirely only once a player scores a goal with his face.
On Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center, thats exactly what happened. Down 3-0, the Flyers went on a second-period tear fueled by the off-the-face goal of Wayne Simmonds, and fought back to steal a point before falling to the Senators, 4-3, in a shootout.
Though both teams have struggled with flat starts this season, it was the Flyers who faltered far worse early in the game.
Yes, it was goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky who gave up the first goal of the affair to Senators center Jason Spezza. But it was defenseman Pavel Kubinas sloppiness that cleared the way for it. Kubina was stripped of the puck along the boards beside Bobrovsky by Colin Greening before drifting to the far side of the ice allowing Spezza to crowd in on the Flyers net.
Once again, for the sixth time in eight tries, the Flyers allowed the first goal of a game.
And it was again the Senators who hit the back of the net next. Bobrovsky was simply no match for Daniel Alfredssons shot from the blue line that beat him through traffic.
As if yet another 2-0 first-period deficit werent enough for the Flyers, Senators winger Chris Neil added to the visiting teams lead when his shot trickled through Bobrovskys pads and danced across the goal line.
When Bobrovsky, who seemed to struggle handling pucks all afternoon, made a save on the games next shot, the crowd cheered sarcastically. The Senators carried their 3-0 lead into the first intermission.
And then Wayne Simmonds took over.
Thanks to some fancy stick work early in the second period, Brayden Schenn carried the puck into the Senators zone and whipped a wrist shot from the top of the slot. But instead of beating goalie Craig Anderson on its own, the puck redirected only after careening off Simmonds face.
Schenn was so concerned for his teammate he didnt celebrate the goal. Instead, he joined linemate Danny Briere by Simmonds side. By that point, Simmonds was face-down on the ice. Once he was helped to his feet by a team trainer, Simmonds clutched his face as he made his way down the tunnel and into the Flyers' locker room.
But miraculously, Simmonds only missed a few shifts, returning to an ovation later in the second period. If Ian Laperriere became a fan favorite for blocking a shot with his face, one has to wonder what fans will say about Simmonds scoring a goal with his.
Whatever the future holds for Simmonds reputation, he certainly helped propel the Flyers into action. Sean Couturier scored next, at 14:38 of the second period, just as the net was pushed off by Senators defenseman Filip Kuba. After a lengthy review process, the goal, which was originally waived off, was awarded to the home team.
The first period may have been all Senators, but the second was securely in the Flyers possession. Braydon Coburn added to the Flyers tally, scoring a goal off a centering pass from Briere that Anderson fumbled.
Suddenly, and swiftly, the game was tied at 3.
(More coming ... )