The Philadelphia Flyers finally proved they don’t need to practice the shootout, as they beat the Florida Panthers tonight 3-2 in a shootout in Sunrise. Claude Giroux, who saw his goal drought extended to 11 games, nonetheless came through with the decisive goal in the shootout, while Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek both scored in the first period for Philly.
With their first shootout victory of the season, the Flyers enter the All-Star break at 29-14-5, good enough for second place in the Atlantic Division.
On the Flyers’ second shot, Giroux picked up the puck at center with a full head of steam. Slowing down at the hash marks, he provided a hard fake to his backhand that Scott Clemmensen bought. With Florida’s netminder out of the way, Giroux moved the puck back to his forehand and slipped the puck over the goal line for the decisive marker.
Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped just one of the Devils’ three attempts on November 3 in his only other shootout decision of the season, made two saves tonight to give Philly the additional point. After former teammate Kris Versteeg bobbled his attempt into the corner on Florida’s first try, Bobrovsky stopped Stephen Weiss and Mike Santorelli to end the game.
Mikael Samuelsson and Tomas Fleischmann scored for Florida in the loss, while Clemmensen made 35 saves. The Panthers have dropped five of their last six games, but thanks to the point beyond regulation, fell into a tie atop the Southeast Division with Washington.
As for the action in the game, Tom Sestito was flagged with the game’s first penalty after a listless few opening minutes. The huge forward left his feet to nail Keaton Ellerby in the corner of Florida’s zone to earn himself a charging minor at the 2:19 mark of the first period. Samuelsson put home a shot from the point to give Florida the lead 30 seconds later.
Bobrovsky made a pair of phenomenal saves on Weiss in the slot, but couldn’t find a Samuelsson shot through traffic after he scrambled back to the crease. Although Bobrovsky argued that he was interfered with on the play, it was to no avail.
Fighting to get the game tied, call-up Ben Holmstrom drew an interference minor on Erik Gudbranson. Racing towards the net in hopes for a rebound off a Harry Zolnierczyk shot from the boards, Holmstrom never touched the puck before Gudbranson dropped the forward into the end boards.
Schenn tied the game, as he received some good fate on a shot from the top of the circles.
A shot aimed high on Clemmensen hit the goalie’s shoulder, popped up over his head, and trickled over the goal line before Ellerby pushed Sean Couturier into the net to knock it off its pegs.
“It was a pass from Mez, walked off the wall and I just put it on net,” stated Schenn about the goal. “The puck popped up in the air and the goalie didn’t know where it was. Reader crashed the net and luckily it went in.”
After a lengthy video review, the goal stood for Schenn’s third of the season 10:34 into the first period.
Later in the first period, after several minutes of Flyers’ offensive pressure, Voracek gave Philly their first lead after he executed a give-and-go with Sestito in the Panthers’ zone.
Carrying the puck into the zone, Voracek tapped a pass to his right, where Sestito caught the puck on his backhand. Sestito kept the puck on his backhand before he dished it back to Voracek, who snuck in his eighth goal of the season from the bottom of the circles short-side on Clemmensen while fighting off Gudbranson. The goal came with 2:01 left in the opening period and the 2-1 edge stood at intermission.
The Flyers failed to click on two chances on the power play in the second period, and it proved crucial as Fleischmann finished a play that was set up by Versteeg to tie the game at two late.
After breaking up a Voracek pass in the Panthers’ zone, Weiss threw an outlet pass off the boards in the neutral zone to Versteeg to send the former Flyer on a breakaway against Bobrovsky. Versteeg never shot the puck, as he skated through the slot and eluded a diving Talbot. While skating into the corner to his left, Versteeg backhanded a pass back to Fleischmann, who was wide open in the slot. With Bob out of the play due to Versteeg’s fake, Fleischmann caught the pass on his forehand and moved it to his backhand before completing a spin-o-rama for his 16th goal of the season.
For the first part of the third period, the Flyers nearly gave the Panthers’ the go-ahead goal many times. After a fortunate non-call on a blatant trip on Versteeg in the Flyers’ zone, a Fleischmann shot off of Andrej Meszaros’ skate nearly bounced in for a Panthers’ lead.
Minutes later, Wayne Simmonds accidentally backhanded the puck to Shawn Matthias at the side of the net, where the Panthers’ forward almost backhanded the puck in for his ninth goal of the season halfway through the third. Later on, Read tripped Ellerby in the Panthers’ zone to give Florida their second power play of the game.
Luckily for Philly they survived the two minutes after a barrage of scoring chances from Florida. After a Timonen shot early in the man advantage, the Panthers had painfully close scoring chances highlighted by a Fleischmann shot off the pipe and a Jason Garrison shot blasted just high after he was able to walk into the slot.
After the Flyers dictated play for the final two minutes of regulation, the teams skated to a shootout after a goal-free overtime.
To start the shootout, Schenn took his first shootout attempt in the NHL. Without any move prior to his shot, Schenn had his shot easily denied by Clemmensen on the five-hole attempt. Next was Versteeg, who looked real nifty until he lost the puck into the corner.
The issue of the Flyers’ struggles in the shootout were talked about often this week, as their last game was a 6-5 shootout loss in a game they most likely should have won. Not many of the players, or even Peter Laviolette, seemed concerned about the point they missed on Sunday. Ironically, the Flyers were given a chance to redeem themselves for Sunday’s loss and they converted tonight in Florida.
Notes: The Flyers have won four straight against the Panthers, all of which have taken place in Florida…With Schenn’s power-play goal in the first period, the Flyers have scored a power-play goal in each of their last three games. They’re 6-for-16 on the power play in the last three games…Sestito’s assist on Voracek’s goal in the first period is his first point as a Flyer…Tonight was the first time the Flyers entered the third period tied since their 2-1 win against the Hurricanes on January 10, where they entered the final 20 minutes tied 1-1…This is the first time all season the Flyers have had consecutive games go to the shootout. It’s the first time the Flyers have had consecutive games go to a shootout since they had four straight go to a shootout from March 17-24 last season…The Flyers improved to 18-1-1 when leading after the first period this season…With a pair of assists tonight, Weiss recorded his eighth multi-point game of the season…The Flyers improved to 2-0-0 against the Panthers and to 7-5-1 against the Southeast Division this season (WSH 1-1-0, FLA 2-0-0, WPG 0-2-0, CAR 3-1-0, TBL 1-1-1)…The Flyers improved to 29-14-5 plus tonight. They were 31-12-5 after 48 games last season.