James van Riemsdyk needed to find his way to the net in a crucial non-conference game on Thursday — and he did just that, scoring in the final minute of regulation to complete a two-goal night as the Flyers handed the Chicago Blackhawks a 5-4 loss in the Hawks’ first appearance in Philly since the infamous Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.
Scott Hartnell had a goal and an assist, while Claude Giroux recorded a pair of assists. Jacob Voracek and Harry Zolnierczyk also added tallies as Ilya Bryzgalov survived a late-game meltdown to post his first win since December 13. The erstwhile starter, hopefully chastened by his Winter Classic snub, made 30 stops in all, many of them quality chances, in a contest which featured a ton of open ice and scoring opportunities.
Jimmy Hayes, Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw tallied, while Jonathan Toews had a pair of assists and Ray Emery made 41 saves in defeat as the Blackhawks have come up empty in the regular season here since 1996.
Last time Patrick Kane skated at the Wells Fargo Center, he provided his team with the Stanley Cup winning goal. This time around, the Chicago forward forced his team into a penalty kill late in the game that ultimately led to the decisive goal.
As Kane sat in the box for a high stick on Matt Read with 1:38 left in regulation, Giroux moved just over the Hawks’ blue line before he stopped and passed to Hartnell at the bottom of the circles. Spinning with the puck, Hartnell backhanded a pass across the slot to van Riemsdyk, who was flying into the circles when he let go of a blast that beat Emery for his 11th goal of the season with less than 33 seconds left in the game.
The beginning didn’t look so rosy for the hosts, as the rookie Hayes posted the game’s first goal after minutes of end-to-end action.
Forced into a turnover by Jamal Mayers at the Flyers’ blue line, Zac Rinaldo banked the puck off the boards in front of the players’ benches but failed to clear the zone in the process. Picking up the puck at the blue line, Mayers threw a shot towards the net, where Hayes deflected it in the slot and past Bryzgalov 3:01 into the game.
In an effort to patch up his mistake instantly, Rinaldo dropped the gloves with Shaw, who made his NHL debut tonight, at center ice. After landing a couple of solid punches, Rinaldo took Shaw down to the ice to conclude the bout. It was hard not to notice the specks of blood showered around the rink near the bout.
Despite end-to-end action, the Flyers didn’t manage to get on the board until the late stages of the period — but not after Bryzgalov survived a stiff test.
Breaking in with a 2-on-1, Toews showed great patience with the puck before sliding it cross ice to Sharp, who aimed low and near post on the sprawling goalie. But Bryzgalov denied the attempt with a sliding kick save to keep the score 1-0.
The stop paid off as the clock ticked down inside a minute remaining. Braydon Coburn caught a pass from Marc-Andre Bourdon along the blue line and intentionally slapped the puck wide of the net from the point. As the puck bounced off the end boards and out in front of the net on the opposite side, Voracek ripped his sixth goal of the season along the ice, beating Emery as he slid from right to left in his crease.
Despite spending minutes at a time in their own defensive zone, the Flyers headed into the second period with a shot advantage of 13-7. Philly held the Blackhawks without a shot for a 6:17 span in the first before Toews registered a shot with three seconds left in the period to end the drought.
Shaw eventually returned to the ice and gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead.
The rookie dropped his shoulder to deke past Kimmo Timonen at the bottom of the circle closest to the players’ benches before he moved the puck to his backhand and put it past the stickless Bryzgalov for his first NHL goal at the 7:37 mark.
Chicago enjoyed their lead for all of 17 seconds before Hartnell batted home his 18th of the season to tie the game. Giroux provided an airborne pass from the corner closest to the benches in the Blackhawks’ defensive zone into the slot for Hartnell, who whacked the puck out of the air, between Emery’s leg pads and over the goal line.
Less than four minutes later, the Flyers experienced their first lead of the game with a tally from Zolnierczyk — who managed to stay planted on the ice unlike his first two pro tallies.
After skating hard towards the corner along the boards near the penalty boxes, Couturier gracefully stopped on a dime right before the goal line and released a shot towards Emery. Grabbing the puck at the top of the crease off of Couturier’s rebound, Zolnierczyk backhanded the puck home to net his third goal of the season just shy of the 12-minute mark.
Only 23 seconds later, the Flyers extended their lead to two goals as van Riemsdyk was handed a gift in front of the Hawks’ net.
Charging into the offensive zone after their third tally, the Flyers maintained their hectic pressure with a Schenn shot from the slot that created a rebound for Simmonds at the bottom of the circles. As Emery sprawled across the crease for an incredible glove stop on Wayne Simmonds, the puck ended up just outside of the crease on the opposite side of the net for JVR, who took his time to gather the puck and rack up his 10th goal of the season.
Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville then called a timeout to slow down the Flyers’ barrage.
If two goals in 23 seconds wasn’t enough to sway the momentum Philly’s way, Nick Leddy cleared the puck over the glass in Chicago’s defensive zone less than two minutes later for the Flyers’ first power-play chance of the game.
The Orange and Black couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage as only one shot reached Emery, while three Philly shots missed the net completely. Still, the home squad led 4-2 after the blitz of offense.
The least intentional of the four questionable plays by the Blackhawks in the final period came as Sharp was hit with a high-sticking double minor for smacking Giroux in the face and neck with his stick while falling down in the neutral zone.
With the best chance coming on a Hartnell deflection that clanked off the inside of the post, the Flyers not only failed to convert on the elongated power play, but they allowed the ‘Hawks to creep within 4-3 as Sharp left the box.
Moving into the Flyers’ defensive zone, Seabrook let go of a quick wrister from between the circles that beat Bryzgalov with 5:45 remaining in regulation. Things got hairy only 25 seconds later after Kane blasted home his 10th goal of the season from in between the circles after a feed from Sharp in the corner.
Despite the tie score, the Flyers defense still seemeed out to lunch on the following shift, when Kane and Toews missed their chance to convert on a 2-on-1 chance. The Blackhawks had grabbed control and were looking for the winner in the final minutes. Fortunately for Philly, Kane was safely in the penalty box when the deciding goal was scored.
Chicago pulled Emery for the final seconds, but they couldn’t muster a goal as the Flyers won their third straight regular season meeting against the Blackhawks.
The trend for Philly lately is a strong second period, followed by a shaky third period. Last week against the Pens, Philly racked up two goals in the second period before almost letting Pitt tie the game in the third. On Monday in the outdoors, the Flyers out scored New York 2-1 in the second before losing the third period 2-0. Tonight, the Flyers dominated the second period 3-1, but let the Hawks tie the game with two quick goals late.
The Flyers look to carry the momentum from tonight’s win into Saturday, as they host the Ottawa Senators at 1 PM.
Notes: The Flyers have won nine of their last 10 against the Blackhawks in the regular season and have won the last nine meetings in Philly…This win was the Flyers first at home since their 5-2 decision over the Tampa Bay Lightning on December 10…Bryzgalov earned his first win since his 31-save performance against the Washington Capitals on December 13, going 0-3-1 in his previous four games…In the last three games, the Flyers have outscored the opposition 7-2 in the second period. In the last four games, the Flyers have been outscored 6-2 in the third period… Giroux is now two points away from 200 in his career…Voracek’s goal in the first ended his eight-game drought…Bourdon’s assist on Voracek’s tally is his first NHL assist…Emery’s 41-save effort is the most saves he has made in a game since his 41-save overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 10, 2007…Shaw and Dylan Olsen made their NHL debuts tonight. Shaw had a goal and five PIMs in 12:29 TOI, while Olsen had three shots on net in 9:48 TOI…O’Donnell’s next game is his 1,200th NHL game…The Flyers improved to 1-0-0 against the Blackhawks, 2-1-0 against the Central Division, and 7-1-2 against the Western Conference this season.