A win is a win. It doesn’t matter if the opening goal was due to a lucky bounce or if the Flyers played undisciplined in the third period, the Flyers won their home opener 5-4 against the Vancouver Canucks Wednesday night.
Andrej Meszaros scored the game-winner early in the third period as the Flyers also received goals from Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger, James van Riemsdyk, and Jakub Voracek. Despite two-point nights from Alexandre Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson, Alex Edler, and Daniel Sedin, the Flyers managed to outscore the most potent offense in the league last season.
In one of those rare instances where the goaltending is just solid enough to get by, Ilya Bryzgalov had 36 saves in the win.
The Canucks didn’t start off strongly. Within the first ten minutes of the game, they were called for three minors and were on the wrong end of an awkward bounce off the boards.
After killing off a Sami Salo hooking call, Vancouver was in the middle of killing off a Samuelsson holding infraction when a Pronger clear into the zone bounced awkwardly in the corner to the right of Roberto Luongo and into the slot. Assuming the puck’s path wasn’t unexpectedly altered, Luongo looked to his left while Giroux was in alone and let go of a high shot just in front of the crease for a 1-0 lead.
The Canucks killed off their third penalty of the game, a Henrik Sedin high stick, but they couldn’t kill off their fourth penalty in the first period.
Agitating is what Zac Rinaldo does best, and he was able to draw Burrows into a cross checking minor. With Burrows in the box, Giroux’s one-touch pass set up Pronger for a slap shot from the blue line. After finding it’s way through traffic thanks to a Wayne Simmonds screen, the puck found the back of the net for his goal since December 9, 2010.
The two-goal lead didn’t last long as Vancouver connected on their first power-play opportunity of the game. With Scott Hartnell in the box for high-sticking, Samuelsson put in a rebound from the right side for his first goal of the season.
Luongo’s mishandling of the puck continued late in the first period as he wrapped the puck around the boards from behind the net right to Giroux — who trailed the play and waited at the right point. Getting back to the front of the net just in time to get in position for Giroux’s long dish, van Riemsdyk roofed his second-chance rebound to give the Flyers a two-goal lead again. It was JVR’s first goal of the season and his second point of the year.
But the defending Western Conference champs began to get organized in the second period, cutting their deficit to one. Henrik Sedin was able to rip a loose puck home from the slot, grabbing the puck at the top of the crease as a result of a broken play and put it top shelf before Bryzgalov could get back to the left post in time to make the save.
For the second time in the evening, though, the Flyers scored a goal within two minutes of a Canucks’ tally.
Sean Couturier went behind Luongo’s net and passed it cross-ice to Voracek, who lifted a beautiful rising shot under the crossbar to make it 4-2. Voracek’s second goal of the season was due to Couturier’s first career NHL assist and point.
The Canucks stayed relentless in their pursuit of tying the game, and climbed within one late in the middle period. Chris Higgins was left alone from a sharp angle on the right side to put home a one-timer thanks to a Burrows pass from behind the net. Higgins’ second of the season led to Vancouver’s rush of offensive pressure to close out the second.
Despite the surge from the Canucks’ offense, Jaromir Jagr almost gave the orange and black a two-goal lead in the last minute of the second, but Luongo was able to make an amazing kick save on a sneaky chance to keep the visitors within one.
The third period saw the continuation of the Canucks’ offensive pressure, thanks to some undisciplined play by the home club. One early advantage fell by the wayside, but on the second try, Edler found Daniel Sedin on the doorstep for the Canucks’ second power-play goal of the game at 3:39.
Though the goal had a chilling effect on the sellout crowd, the gloom — and the score — didn’t remain 4-4 for long.
Just over a minute later, Briere danced through a few Canucks defenders in the offensive zone, and Meszaros exploited a hole on the left side of the rink to move up on the play. Gathering in a perfect lead pass, he ripped a shot top corner on Luongo’s glove side for the go-ahead score. His first goal of the season, coming on his third significant foray into the offensive zone, gave the Flyers the lead for good.
Following the Meszaros goal, the Flyers continued to play off kilter, resulting in three more power-play opportunities for Vancouver over the remainder of regulation. Unable to score on any of their man-advantage opportunities, the Canucks were also unable to net an equalizer after Luongo went to the bench for the final 81 seconds.
In general, the game looked pretty sloppy. Mistakes by Luongo and bad penalties by both teams ironically led to a very intense and close game. In addition to these factors, it seemed that as soon as the Canucks cut the deficit or tied the game, the Flyers responded with a quick goal. Another impact for the tension late in the game was the fact the Flyers took a couple unnecessary penalties. JVR earned an unsportsmanlike conduct minor for yelling at the refs for not awarding him a penalty shot after being hooked on a breakaway and Jagr earned a hooking minor at center ice. After these two penalties, Voracek took a bad boarding minor. The Flyers killed off all three penalties, but it led to the dangerous position of putting the potent Canucks’ power play on the ice late in the game to even the score.
It’s hard to say a goalie had a strong game when he allowed four goals, but Bryzgalov did prevent several scoring chances from the Canucks in the third period. Needing to kill off five minors in the final 20 minutes, Bryzgalov was the strongest penalty-killer for the Flyers making five crucial saves while being down a man and affectively denying four of Vancouver’s five power play opportunities.
The Flyers look to become 4-0-0 when they host the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.
Notes: Tonight’s win marks the first time the Flyers have started off 3-0-0 since 2009, when Ray Emery spearheaded the effort against Carolina, New Jersey and Washington…This was the Flyers’ first win against the Canucks since their 3-2 in Vancouver on December 30, 2008…The Flyers have won 3 straight home openers…Giroux has scored in three straight games for the first time since April 3, 2009 (a three-game span where he had seven points)…Giroux also recorded three points in a contest for the first time since January 23 (four assists against the Blackhawks)…Daniel Sedin notched two points giving him an average of a point-per-game against the Flyers in his career (11 pts. in 11 games)…Twin brother Henrik now has 14 points in 11 games against Philly in his career, his most points against any Atlantic Division team…Meszaros earned his first game-winning goal since his OT winner against the Islanders on February 24th.