The Flyers came to Atlanta looking to put the memory of Thursday’s bad third-period behind them.
It took a little while longer than expected, but the Atlantic Division leaders came through with a 5-2 victory thanks to a three-goal burst in the final 20 minutes.
As the period grew older, the time spent in Philly’s offensive zone grew larger. Strong forechecking and pressuring each Thrasher with the puck allowed the Flyers to stay in Atlanta’s defensive zone and recover several bad neutral zone passes.
With just over seven minutes left in the game, the Flyers finally capitalized.
Scott Hartnell worked hard along the boards to gain control of the puck and slap it towards the net as he was gliding out of the zone. Atlanta goaler Ondrej Pavelec had the save lined up until Ville Leino deflected the shot into his leg pad creating a rebound that went directly to Danny Briere.
Philly’s leading goal scorer would put the shot home for his 24th on the year and a 3-2 Flyers’ lead.
The Thrashers weren’t subdued yet. A couple big slap shots from Dustin Byfuglien created scoring chances and Rich Peverley missed the net as Sergei Bobrovsky was on his stomach after a rebound.
As the clock ticked under three minutes to play, Claude Giroux gathered a Matt Carle pass on the left wing, skated towards the slot and placed a shot just under the crossbar through traffic increasing the Philly lead 4-2.
That goal put the game away as Atlanta would show no fight for the rest of the game. A Jeff Carter empty netter with 40 seconds left would make the final score 5-2.
The first period looked as though it would be done within 25 minutes after there had only been two whistles within the first 10 minutes. Both teams applied decent pressure within the first ten minutes, but there weren’t any real good scoring chances.
Philly provided several takeaways and good keeps in Atlanta’s defensive zone to keep pressure on Pavelec, whose biggest save was on a Carter slapshot (where he made the original save and covered the rebound up quickly before Giroux could get a stick on it).
The majority of the action in the opening period occurred within the last 5 minutes. After Atlanta was assessed a bench penalty for too many men on the ice (served by Anthony Stewart), the Flyers peppered Pavelec with 3 shots on net in the two-minute span. Despite being on the power play, the closest thing to a goal was a Bobrovsky turnover.
While stopping the puck behind the net, Bob had the puck stolen from him by Evander Kane. Kane attempted a wraparound at the right post where he mishandled the shot and saw the puck moved into the corner after Carter slid into the crease and knocked the puck out of harm’s way.
Kane also provided another chance for Atlanta later in the period when he tried going five-hole on Bob while on a 2-on-1 rush with Bryan Little. Bob didn’t back down, making the save and covering the puck.
The second period started with the Flyers on the advantage due to Nik Antropov’s interference on Blair Betts with one minute left in the first.
The Flyers failed to convert on this chance and on another power play 1:13 later due to Tobias Enstrom’s trip on Darroll Powe. Unlike the first period, there were several scoring chances and goals for both teams.
Briere created several chances near the Thrashers’ net and Giroux missed a walk-in chance from the slot getting robbed by Pavelec’s glove. Another chance for a goal was muffed when Leino led a 3-on-1 with Briere and Hartnell. Instead of shooting or passing, Leino slowed up and had the puck poke-checked away from him.
After several chances and minutes of pressure applied by Philly, Atlanta spent time in the Philadelphia zone and took the lead due to another unfortunate bounce.
Andrew Ladd found the back of the net with 3:23 to play in the second after receiving an attempted centering pass from Niclas Bergfors which hit a refs’ skate and then a Flyers player.
As in their 7-5 loss 24 hours earlier, instead of sulking, the Flyers answered back quickly.
Jody Shelley (yeah, Jody Shelley) bravely blocked a Byfuglien shot from the right point, chased down the puck at center ice and ripped a slap shot home from the left circle. The puck could not have been placed any better as it hit the inside of the intersection between the crossbar and right post.
Not even half a minute later, the Flyers took advantage of a stunned Atlanta squad when Kimmo Timonen held the puck at the top of the circles and put a shot passed a screened Pavelec.
Timonen unfortunately would go to the box later in the period for hooking Kane and Peverley scored on a rebound created by a Bergfors shot with just 3 seconds left in the period.
The 3rd period was only 1:19 old before Andrej Meszaros got called on a very, very questionable interference call. Atlanta’s power play consisted of another set up for Byfuglien to tee up from the blue line and Kane getting laid out by Sean O’Donnell.
As Kane was protecting the puck from Carle, O’Donnell glided into Kane who had his head down. Play stopped as Kane needed time to get back to the bench after absorbing a hard but legal check from the wily veteran.
As it has many times before during the first half of the schedule, the Briere line came through for this team. There may have been only 3 points among the line tonight (Briere goal, Leino and Hartnell 1 assist each), but each of their points came on the most crucial shift of the game. Neither team had dominated the game up to that point in time, but Briere’s putback allowed Philly to pressure Atlanta for the rest of the game on their way to another victory. The line also created several scoring chances throughout the game as Briere also provided some nice and uncharacteristic back-checking in a handful of shifts during the second period.
Two players who aren’t expected to do much came through for Philly this evening. Shelley played more shifts than usual in the first two periods, and capped off his play with the Flyers’ critical initial goal; a tally that came seconds after the Thrashers broke the scoreless tie late in the second period.
O’Donnell also had a big night. He had a good check along the boards in the first period and had the beautiful hit on the young Kane in the third. O’Donnell also played reasonably well defensively tonight.
Both goaltenders played great tonight as the game was scoreless closing in on the end of the 2nd period. Pavelec made some great saves throughout stoning both James van Riemsdyk and Giroux on different occasions. Pavelec also stopped Hartnell in the crease near the middle of regulation which would have given the Flyers a 1-0 lead; he made 31 saves on the evening.
Bobrovsky performed strongly yet again tonight. He was able to see the puck through traffic and he didn’t allow Byfuglien’s feared slap shot past him once this evening. The Thrashers’ opening goal against was a tough shot from the slot while the second was the result of a bad rebound. However, he performed well making 27 saves on the night.
Apparently the Thrashers aren’t used to the physical brand of hockey that has been instilled in Flyers’ hockey for years now. Multiple occasions throughout the game indicated how much tougher the Flyers were than the Thrashers. Kane was hit hard by both Meszaros and O’Donnell in the third period while Coburn pushed Little to the ice after a whistle in the 1st and Meszaros roughed Little up near the boards in the second. The physicality allowed the Flyers to apply so much forechecking pressure and also led to several Atlanta turnovers.