On Thursday night, the Flyers returned to the site where their Stanley Cup dreams ended last season.
This time, the Flyers had a new goalie, several new players, and a desire for revenge.
The result was a 2-1 victory on a night the Boston Bruins raised their 2011 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters.
After Brad Marchand scored the first goal of the NHL season, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek each scored for Philly within a 42-second span late in the first period.
Ilya Bryzgalov, fresh from his $51 million, nine-year deal, made quite the impression in his first regular-season start for Philly, saving 22 of 23 shots on net. Chris Pronger led all Flyers in ice time with 24:34 while providing the secondary assist on Giroux’s goal.
And Jaromir Jagr’s return from a three-year Russian exile resulted in his 1,600th NHL point.
The game didn’t start out strong for the Flyers as the Bruins provided the early offensive onslaught and the game’s first goal.
With Zac Rinaldo in the box for holding the stick, the defending champions took advantage. Tyler Seguin completed a pass from blue line-to-blue line landing on the stick of Marchand, who weaseled his way past the defense for a breakaway. Going to his backhand, the hulking forward slid the puck past Bryzgalov for a 1-0 lead at 9:42.
The Bruins dictated play for a few more minutes before the Flyers started pushing back. That surge from Philly resulted in Matt Read being slashed by Nathan Horton in Tim Thomas’ crease with just under two minutes left in the opening period.
With the man advantage, Jagr used his still-sharp puck-handling skills to send Giroux up the middle. He broke into the Bruins’ zone kicking the puck to his stick and deked Thomas for an easy score — the Flyers’ first goal of the new season.
Forty-seven seconds later, and with under three seconds left in the first period, Voracek registered his first goal as a Flyer. Completing a spin-o-rama with the puck, Voracek managed to put his shot between Thomas’s legs to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead heading to intermission.
Bryzgalov recorded his first big save of the season midway through the second period. As Marchand stormed to the top of Bryzgalov’s crease, he received a pass from David Krejci. Going against the grain, Marchand took a shot on net with Bryzgalov sliding away from the play. Despite his momentum moving him right, Bryzgalov was able to glove the shot with a flourish and keep the score 2-1.
The rest of the second period was pretty eventless despite two Flyers penalties in the last five minutes. Although the Bruins had three minutes and eighteen seconds on the power play, the Flyers out shot Boston 2-0 to close out the middle stanza. To open the third period, the Bruins had 41 seconds left on Wayne Simmonds’ holding penalty.
With the Bruins applying severe pressure on multiple power plays during the third period, Kimmo Timonen provided the save of the game.
Simmonds was sitting in the box again, this time for hooking, and Horton found himself with a wide-open net on a rebound attempt while Bryzgalov was out of position. Coming across the crease to protect the wide open net, Timonen was able to block the puck with his stick and move it away from the net.
The Bruins had another favorable chance later in the power play when Seguin whiffed on a chance at the side of the net with Bryzgalov on his butt and out of position.
Near the end of the game, the Bruins kept fighting and fighting in hopes that one more shot would find it’s way past Bryzgalov. Unfortunately, it never happened as the Flyers held on to start off their third straight season on the right foot.
Many of the new faces made a difference in tonight’s game. Voracek had a goal, Jagr (who also drew a penalty late in the game) and Simmonds had an assist, and Max Talbot looked strong on the penalty kill while leading the team with high four hits. Read drew the penalty that led to Giroux’s goal and Sean Couturier formed a strong penalty-killing duo with Talbot.
The team, as a whole, came out pretty sluggish and unmotivated to start the game — but that can be chalked up to the adrenaline rush the Bruins felt from their pregame ceremony. However, late in the first period, Peter Laviolette’s boys started looking strong and resembled a team that could find its way to the playoffs.
Bryzgalov had a strong night despite a shot that fooled him in the middle of the third period. As a shot leaked through a standing Bryzgalov, the puck landed in the crease and towards the net with Horton on the verge of putting it home. However, Bryzgalov covered and kept the score the same. The team seemed to play confident in front of both him and Pronger tonight.
The Flyers look to start the season 2-0-0 for the first time since 2009-2010 when they travel to New Jersey and play the Devils at The Rock on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Notes: The Flyers have now won three straight season-openers (all on the road)…The Flyers snapped a five-game losing streak in Boston with their win tonight — the win also snaps a six-game losing streak to the Bruins overall…Jagr’s assist was also his 90th career point against the Bruins…Marchand now has three goals in seven regular season games against the Flyers…The Flyers out- shot the Bruins 25-12 in the first two periods of the game (13-6 in the 1st, 12-6 in the 2nd). The Flyers blocked 17 shots while the Bruins blocked only nine…Chris Pronger had 5 blocked shots alone.