In the only match up between the two teams which met in the Stanley Cup Finals last year, the Philadelphia Flyers visited the Windy City and handed the home team a 4-1 loss.
Jeff Carter tallied two goals and one assist on the evening while Claude Giroux assisted on all four goals. Nikolay Zherdev scored Philly’s game-winning goal and assisted on their first goal of the contest.
Chicago’s only goal came courtesy of a Marian Hossa penalty shot in the third period. The Flyers’ penalty kill kept the Blackhawks’ top-ranked powerplay unit off the score sheet as they wouldn’t convert on either opportunity.
The game started off with chances for both teams. Chicago had more chances early, but the Flyers had the best chance. Scott Hartnell threw the puck on net from the blue line resulting in a rebound for Ville Leino. Showing his patience, Leino drew Crawford out of the crease and tried sneaking the puck just inside the post. His attempt was denied by Duncan Keith who then cleared the puck to the boards.
After a very uneventful fight between Hartnell and Bryan Bickell, Niklas Hjalmarsson tripped Giroux in the corner behind Crawford leading to the first power play of the game. Philly would generate three shots, but wouldn’t register a goal.
The Blackhawks, using the momentum from a successful penalty kill to their advantage, started putting a lot of pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky resulting in an eventual holding call on Braydon Coburn. That advantage wouldn’t produce a goal for Chicago due to Bobrovsky’s strong goaltending and the game opened up shortly after.
The opening period wasn’t as exciting as anticipated. A few penalties and a fight that nobody was able to witness on television were the major events. The Flyers didn’t seem to forecheck as much as usual and spent a lot of time in their zone narrowly avoiding a Chicago goal. The lack of pressure may have been a result of playing a game and traveling the day before, but the Blackhawks did the same.
The beginning of the second period started off with a bizarre goal, but one beneficial to the visitors.
As the puck bounced around the crease and Hawks goalie Corey Crawford for a matter of seconds, the Flyers kept whacking away at the puck until Jeff Carter was credited with his 21st of the year. The play seemed as though it was going to be blown dead multiple times as the puck kept moving underneath Brian Campbell and Crawford, but since the refs were able to see it, the whistle was never blown.
The Flyers came out of their defensive shell in the second period and started dictating play. The majority (if not the whole period) was spent in the Blackhawks’ defensive zone and saw several scoring chances from the Flyers. Good chances came from Jeff Carter, Kimmo Timonen, and Zherdev in the period.
The game’s second fight happened late in the second. In response to a questionably high hit he received from Dan Carcillo, Jake Dowell decided to drop the gloves with the veteran pugilist in the corner to Bob’s left. Despite leaving the fight with a bloody face, Carcillo definitely had the upper hand through the whole fight landing more punches and stronger punches. Dowell landed one solid punch, which resulted in Carcillo bleeding.
The final six minutes or so of the period saw each team apply a fair amount of offensive pressure. The Flyers’ closest scoring chance came with about twenty seconds left in the period, when Giroux deflected a Carter shot. Crawford saved a Flyers goal moving right to left gloving a puck that seemed destined for the top left corner. The Flyers would lead 1-0 entering the final stanza.
A one goal lead entering the final twenty minutes is still anybody’s game. With this in mind, the Flyers put away the next goal in the stanza’s first three minutes to extend their lead to two.
After winning the puck in the corner, Zherdev would then cause a turnover on the right side of the Hawks’ net. While Zherdev was taking the puck behind the net and attempting a wraparound, Campbell and Crawford got their sticks entangled resulting in Zherdev sliding the puck just inside the right goal post. It was the 15th goal on the year for the Ukrainian enigma which made it a 2-0 Flyers edge.
Carter increased the lead to three less than three minutes later when he batted in a thigh-high cross ice pass from Giroux at the right post. Brent Seabrook turned the puck over to Giroux while he was coming onto the ice and Giroux glided into the Blackhawks’ zone. From the top of the left circle, Giroux paused and saucered the puck to Carter who bunted it by Crawford’s right pad for his 22nd on the season.
The Blackhawks showed urgency immediately after the three goal deficit took place. After a play that resembled the Flyers’ first goal of the game, suffocating pressure from the Hawks in Bobrovsky’s crease (allegedly) led to Coburn gloving the puck and throwing it into the corner. Somehow, an official spotted the infraction and Hossa was chosen to take the shot.
He wasted no time, scoring straight down the middle five-hole on Bob and cutting the Philadelphia lead to two with thirteen minutes left in the game.
The remaining time was a showcase for the Flyers’ ability to create and dictate play. At a point in the game when the Blackhawks should have been showing desperation and effort, the Flyers were walking into the zone and to the net almost scoring numerous times.
The best chance came on a 2-on-1 where Briere dropped it back to Leino who then handed it right back to Briere who got stuffed by Crawford on a shot that came within feet from the net.
With fifty-two seconds left in the game, an empty-netter sealed the deal.
Carter’s dump into Chicago’s zone allowed the unsteady winger to beat out several pursuing Blackhawks to the puck along the boards. While protecting the puck between the boards and right circle, Hartnell released a shot on the backhand with his body positioned parallel to the faceoff dot ending the Hawks’ chances of coming back.
For all the hype of two Stanley Cup combatants meeting for the first time since June, the game played out as expected; strong Flyers’ forecheck, good goaltending from the rookie goalies, and a Flyers win.
It clearly wasn’t the same Blackhawks team the Flyers played in the Finals last year because of roster changes and Chicago encountered a much steadier and consistent Philadelphia team. Chicago did manage to capitalize on Philly’s weak third defensive pairing of Oskars Bartulis and Lukas Krajicek last year in the playoffs, but Sunday was a different story as Andrej Meszaros and Sean O’Donnell both played sound defense and allowed the offense to forecheck affectively.
Bobrovsky, perhaps the newest and most unknown quantity, played a great game keeping the Flyers in the game after several close scoring chances from the ‘Hawks. An eleven save first period paired with crucial saves in the third period produced the seventh time “Bob” has limited the opposition to exactly one goal on the season. It also marked the ninth time Bobrovsky made 30 or more saves in a game.
Notes: Carter and Giroux were both a team-high plus-4 on the day… Coburn led all Flyers with 5 hits; Troy Brouwer had a game high 6 for Chicago…The Flyers improved to 14-2-0 in the last 16 regular season games against the Blackhawks…This marked the second game this year Bobrovsky allowed one goal on which the score resulted from a penalty shot; the other game was Philly’s 6-1 win on October 30th against the New York Islanders…The Flyers are 2-1-1 against the Central division this year (DET 1-0-0, NSH 0-0-0, CHI 1-0-0, STL 0-0-1, CBJ 0-1-0).