For the first time in three opportunities in this slow start to the 2013 season, the Philadelphia Flyers were able to win the second part of back-to-back games. After a disheartening 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals last night, the Flyers were able to bounce back against the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night, winning 5-3.
Kurtis Foster, Braydon Coburn and Danny Briere all collected their first goals of the season in the first period, and Ilya Bryzgalov proved himself once again, making a season-high 39 saves.
Joni Pitkanen, Eric Staal and Patrick Dwyer scored for the Hurricanes, who couldn’t maintain momentum from a 1-0 win over Ottawa on Friday. Dan Ellis, who recorded that shutout, was pulled after giving up four goals in just over one period. Cam Ward finished up by allowing one goal on 12 shots the rest of the way.
Right from the drop of the puck, the Flyers, looking to avoid a franchise-worst 2-7 start, appeared to have more jump than the visitors, something which head coach Peter Laviolette noted: “I thought we came out hard and got a good start under our belt. That first shift I think was real important. It set the tone.”
The Flyers opened the scoring at the 5:08 mark of the first period as Foster took a cross-ice pass from Matt Read and lit the lamp on the power play for his first goal of the year as well as with the Orange and Black. The momentum would not last as former Flyer Pitkanen would receive a pass just inside the circle from Staal, and beat a slow Bryzgalov to the near side from the left circle for his first goal of the season.
Almost immediately following Carolina’s goal, Tom Sestito hit ‘Canes forward Jeff Skinner, and led to a Sestito-Jay Harrison fight.
Play then began to slow down until Brayden Schenn hit Jakub Voracek with a pass that sent Voracek on what became a 3-on-1 rush against Ellis. Ellis made the initial save, but Braydon Coburn alertly moved to the top of the crease to put in the rebound for his first tally this yeat.
Just 58 seconds later, the Flyers would go on their second power play of the game, and Briere would cash in from a pass along the goal mouth by Claude Giroux.
“It feels like finally we’re getting results from all the work that we have been putting in since the beginning of the season,” Briere said about a power play that roared to life with goals on all three opportunities. “It felt good to finally get on the board and get some big goals. It’s a step in the right direction.”
The Hurricanes quickly made it a one-goal game as Staal was able to take a Luke Schenn turnover deep in the Philadelphia zone, take one stride to the right and beat Bryzgalov through the five-hole.
The second period was all Philadelphia, as the hosts expanded their margin from one to three.
Mike Knuble officially celebrated his return to the team by beating Ellis only 52 seconds into the period. Read made a great play to strip Carolina’s Justin Faulk and dish to the 40-year-old for his first marker here in almost four years. The fourth red light caused Carolina to pull Ellis for Ward.
The Flyers scored their fifth goal of the evening on the power play at 12:43, as Giroux broke out of his goal-scoring drought to blast a shot from just outside the left circle. Kimmo Timonen and Briere assisted Giroux’s goal while rookie Tye McGinn provided a perfect screen.
The Flyers took three penalties in the second – Timonen for cross checking, Ruslan Fedotenko for tripping and Briere for slashing – but were able to kill both easily, as Bryzgalov stood tall in net continually and his teammates blocked shots.
The third period continued to be a weak point for the Flyers. Dwyer pulled his team within two goals as he scored at 3:29 on the power play on a one-time pass from Jordan Staal after a Voracek tripping penalty. Laviolette immediately called a time-out to try and get the Flyers to focus, but was unsuccessful.
The Flyers played an undisciplined final period that saw them take two more penalties, yet Bryzgalov continued to play big for the Flyers as he made save after save as he helped the Flyers kill off three more short-handed situations.
Captain Giroux was quick to point out at the effort in the third period. “We have to do a better job in the third period. We got the win, but were not satisfied with the way we played. I think we are a better team than that.”
If not for turnovers by his defense, it’s safe to say that Bryzgalov did not let in a “cheap” goal. “It’s not my job to make the statement, we win that’s most important,” the cryptic Bryzgalov said referring to the defensive turnovers and lapses. “We get these 2 points.”
The defense did step up for Bryzgalov, blocking 32 shots in all.
“He has been playing very good this year,” Giroux said of Bryzgalov. “He’s in the zone and playing very well.”
The Flyers themselves only had seven shots blocked, a big difference from the night before.
A scary moment occurred with 1:24 remaining in the game as ‘Canes forward Jiri Tlusty hit Bryzgalov backward into his net as he was sprawled out to make a save. Bryzgalov was slow to get up, but remained in the game and shut the door the rest of the way.
There were plenty of good signs in ending a three-game losing streak, but there is more work ahead. The Flyers continue their home stand on Tuesday night at home versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Notes: Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, who was on the receiving end of an elbow from Capitals defenseman John Erskine on Friday night, missed the game, and was later revealed by GM Paul Holmgren to have been diagnosed with a concussion. No return date has been announced…Erskine was given a three-game suspension for the hit by the National Hockey League, as told by Brendan Shanahan just before the drop of the puck…The Flyers were outshot 42-24 and gave up 91 shot attempts in total to Carolina…Nicklas Grossman and Luke Schenn led the Flyers with six blocked shots each. The 32 blocked shots were the most by a Flyers team since the 2005-06 season…The three stars of the game were all Flyers: Briere (1st), Read (2nd), and Bryzgalov (3rd)…The 39 saves by Bryzgalov were his most as a Flyer and most since he stopped 45 against Dallas for Phoenix in March, 2011.