Tyson Foerster again sparks Flyers in crucial win over Senators



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PHILADELPHIA — One of the primary reasons general manager Daniel Briere and coach John Tortorella are delighted that the Philadelphia Flyers are still playing games that matter is that there is no better setting in which to evaluate talent.

It’s one thing to play well on a Tuesday in November. It’s another to play well in a Saturday sellout at home in March while your team is coming off perhaps its most disappointing loss of the season one night earlier and is still missing its leading scorer in Travis Konecny.

In the second period of their game with the Ottawa Senators, the Flyers needed a spark. They dominated the first period in seizing a 1-0 lead but saw Ottawa tie the score and gain momentum coming out of the intermission.

In the final minute, rookie Tyson Foerster stepped up and made a play. Actually, he made two.

First, after an offensive zone faceoff win by Scott Laughton, Foerster only partially settled the puck before fluttering a shot past Mads Sogaard at 19:13 to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead.

After a stoppage of play, he came right back out onto the ice for another shift, forced a turnover in the defensive zone and raced ahead for a breakaway before he was whacked on the hand by Shane Pinto as he tried making a move. That resulted in a penalty shot with 1.5 seconds showing on the clock. Foerster casually skated toward Sogaard before a late deke and slick shot through the goalie’s five-hole.

The Flyers won 4-2.

Foerster has nine goals in his last nine games despite missing four straight with a foot injury, and with 16 goals this season, is just one behind NHL rookie leaders Connor Bedard and Marco Rossi. Foerster had just one goal in his first 21 games this season but stayed in the lineup because of his prowess in other areas.

Lately, he’s looking like a complete player, and someone who can make a difference nightly.

“He’s had a good run here,” Tortorella said. “I’ve been looking to him the whole time because he was getting chances — they just weren’t going in for him. It’s easy for a coach to look at a guy for scoring, but also knowing he’s probably one of your best defensive players, too. I’ve been looking his way pretty much all year long.”

Laughton said: “He’s been good all year defensively and now he’s starting to score some goals here which are crucial for our team. He makes a couple huge plays there out of kind of nothing that that’s what we need with (Konecny) out.”

Foerster’s two goals Saturday allowed the Flyers to quickly put the stench of Friday night’s miserable final two periods in Washington in a 5-2 loss behind them. At 32-23-7, they have one more win than they did all of last season, with 20 games left to play.

“These are obviously huge games,” Foerster said. “We’re a young group, and we just want to build for the next couple years ahead. We’re looking at this season and we think can make the playoffs, and that’s what we’re going to do — try and do.”

Tortorella was confident that the club would quickly move past Friday’s loss to the Washington Capitals, in a game that they could have buried a team that’s chasing them. Instead, after jumping out to a 2-0 lead, they allowed Washington to take complete control. The Flyers’ internal metrics had them with just three scoring chances at five-on-five over the final two periods, according to the coach, while the Capitals reeled off five straight goals.

“You don’t have to direct the group too much. They’ve assessed themselves pretty well this year,” Tortorella said. “I had full confidence going into tonight’s game that they were going to answer the proper way. It doesn’t mean you win the games, but I know they’re going to answer the right way.”

While Tortorella wasn’t worried about effort, he was probably at least a little worried about his situation in goal. Felix Sandstrom was making his season debut, having not played since the 2022-23 season finale on April 13 against Chicago, a 5-4 overtime win. He replaced an ineffective Cal Petersen, who was waived and reassigned to the Phantoms, earlier in the week.

Sandstrom played admirably. He finished with 26 saves, including a handful in the third period, allowing only Thomas Chabot’s one-timer with Sogaard pulled for an extra attacker with 1:58 to go in the third.

“The thing I liked about him, he closed the game out,” Tortorella said. “Made some key saves at key times. I’m happy for him. He looked confident.”

Friday, Briere left open the possibility that the Flyers might be looking to add another goalie before the trade deadline on March 8.

“We’ll see. Felix will have the chance to play a few games,” Briere said. “But we’re certainly looking at all options, and if there’s something that makes sense, yeah, we might jump on something.”

Sandstrom, 27, who improved to 4-16-4 in his NHL career, is hoping to earn a longer look.

“I want to be that guy,” he said. “I want to be somebody that can make a difference here. I’m ready for the challenge and I’m going to do everything I can to be a big positive for this group.”

The Flyers have another winnable game Monday at home against the St. Louis Blues, who are quickly falling out of playoff contention. After that, nine of their following 10 games will be against teams currently in playoff position, including two each against Florida, Boston and Toronto.

They’ll likely have Konecny back in time for Thursday’s game against the Panthers in Florida. That will help. Regardless, they’re also going to need other young players to show they can handle the pressure and bright lights of a playoff race, as Foerster did Saturday.

“We have that confidence that we’re still in this thing and we’re making that push,” said Joel Farabee, who ended his 14-game goal drought in the first period. “When you have young guys playing as well as they are, it gives a boost of confidence to everybody.”

(Photo of Tyson Foerster shot attempt between Mads Sogaard, left, and Shane Pinto that led to Foerster’s penalty shot: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)





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