There was a lot of credit to go around surrounding the fact the Philadelphia Flyers were able to gain an all-important point in the standings against the Boston Bruins in Sunday afternoon's 6-5 shootout loss.
Remember, this is a Boston team that has dominated their opponents for nearly three months, including a 6-0 drubbing of the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on December 17. So when the club allowed a breakaway to Chris Kelly just 10 seconds after the opening faceoff and yielded a goal to Patrice Bergeron at the 50 second mark, this could have been another ugly afternoon against the gold-and-black from Beantown.
And this was a shorthanded Flyers club, one that counted eight rookies against one of the League's top teams.
There was a trio of unsung heroes who provided a tremendous amount of support in bringing the club back from a 3-1 deficit at the first intermission to take the defending Stanley Cup champions to extra time. With the point, the orange-and-black drew to within three points of the Atlantic Division leading New York Rangers, and pulled one ahead of the Ottawa Senators for fourth place in the East. With the Pittsburgh Penguins winning again, it also keeps Philly three points ahead of the Pens.
In addition to the usual suspects -- Scott Hartnell's second period natural hat trick and Claude Giroux's three assists were very integral to the effort -- there were three other forwards who stepped up their game in the absence of some of their injured teammates.
"A lot of the guys stepped up today," Giroux said later. "There was a lot of character in the game."
Maxime Talbot, Brayden Schenn, and recent call-up Tom Sestito all played a vital role in the comeback to salvage a point.
Talbot played his usual feisty brand of hockey, and scored two goals to break a 10-game goal scoring slump. In 17:48 of ice time, 'Mad Max' registered three shots on goal, four hits, and blocked two Bruins' shots.
"I remember what happened last game, they came here and they won the game 6 - 0 and today was definitely about showing that we are a great team," said Talbot after the game.
His goals were scored at crucial times, as well. After Bergeron's early goal in the first, Talbot sent a pass across the front of the Boston goal for Jakub Voracek, which ended up deflecting off Bruins' defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and past goaltender Tim Thomas to give Philly a much-needed lift.
"I mean you have to look at the positive in that game," said Talbot. "It came down to 3 -1 in the first and we battled back. I think there was any doubts in our game if we were going to come back, and once again in the third we had to battle back."
And battle back they did. Talbot's second came midway through the third period. After Hartnell's three goals in the second period staked the Flyers to a 4-3 lead heading into the third period, Philadelphia was on the precipice of disaster when they gave up goals to David Krejci and Gregory Campbell in the first five minutes to trail, 5-4.
With Hartnell in the penalty box after a scrum with Shawn Thornton Talbot took Hartnell's usual spot in front of the opposition net. When Matt Carle let a slap shot go from straight away at the blue line, Talbot got position on Seidenberg and was able to get his stick on the puck and change the trajectory over Thomas and up under the crossbar to tie the game at 5-5.
Now with 12 goals on the season, Talbot is doing even more than just providing leadership and character to a young corp of forwards.
"I think we showed a lot of character," he said. "It was a hard-fought game. We battled hard, there were a couple fights and nobody backed down."
Filling in on the club's top line in place of the injured Jaromir Jagr, Schenn played probably his most physical game in a Flyers' uniform. In 18:38, the rookie delivered six big hits, including this one against Boston defenseman Steven Kampfer in the first period.
The hit led Kelly to chase Schenn down and engage him his first NHL fight.
"I saw him (Kampfer) coming around the net with his head down, and I just kind of laid a shoulder into him," Schenn said. "As I was skating up the ice I saw him (Kelly) kind of turn around and wanted to fight. That's what teammates do, and I guess it was a good fight."
The 20-year-old didn't pick up a point in the contest, but his physicality was instrumental in Hartnell's second goal. Throwing several hard hits on a ferocious forecheck, Schenn helped the Flyers gain control of the puck. It eventually made its way to Giroux who fed Hartnell in the slot to tie the game at 3-3.
"That's Schenner's game," Hartnell said. "He's a strong body on the puck, he's hard to get it off, he's smart. You know he's got his head up when he has the puck traveling wide, things like that. Good defensively, so I think he was a good part of our line to get chances and to get after him. He played really strong tonight."
When asked if he had seen Schenn's hit on Kampfer, Hartnell said he hadn't.
"I didn't actually," he said. "I know they replayed it like a hundred times, but every time I looked up, I heard the crowd go 'ooh,' and I'm like 'ah, I missed it again!' I didn't actually see the hit, but he (Kampfer) stayed down for a while and it's a good clean, body check."
Schenn's contributions didn't go unnoticed by head coach Peter Laviolette.
"I thought he had a great game," said the coach about Schenn. "There's nothing to show for it on the points, but he was a factor in the game from start to finish."
There is no doubt after being pushed all over the ice back in December, the game plan today was to push back. Although he saw just 8:36 of ice time, Sestito's six hits went a long way in establishing a physical presence against the Big Bad Bruins.
After Philadelphia trailed early on, something happened a half a minute after the ensuing faceoff following Bergeron's goal that appeared to swing the momentum back in the Flyers' favor. Sestito dropped the gloves with 6' 3", 228-pound Milan Lucic, and the 6' 5", 228-pound winger held his own against one of the toughest fighters in the NHL.
Just 41 seconds later, Talbot scored to tie the game at 1-1.
Sestito looked to have a roster spot all but locked up back in training camp, as Jody Shelley was serving a suspension that would last into the regular season and the team was in need of the services of a large-bodied enforcer.
But Sestito had a suspension levied against him for a hit against the Rangers late in preseason, and he was demoted to the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL. Zac Rinaldo ended up making the Flyers opening night roster in Sestito's place, and the winger has spent the season in the minors except for a call-up in December.
It was an entertaining Sunday afternoon matchup between two of the East's best teams, and three players who aren't the usual difference-makers were on this day.