After a tough loss to New York on Thursday and an embarrassing showing against Boston on Sunday, the Flyers returned to Wells Fargo Center as they looked to get back on track against the New York Rangers. In a bit of a reversal from their last meeting, it was the Flyers who got a star returning in Captain Claude Giroux, while the Rangers were playing without two players (Kaapo Kakko and K’Andre Miller) due to COVID protocol and Artemi Panarin due to…let’s just call it personal reasons.
Philadelphia came out buzzing at the start of this one, as they generated two quality chances within the first two minutes, and put up eight of the game’s first 10 shots overall. New York took a coach’s favorite penalty (too many men) at 5:31, which gave us our first glance at the Flyers’ new-look power play.
The new units gave some good lucks but were ultimately unable to convert and the game remained scoreless. However, about a minute after the penalty expires, the Flyers constant pressure paid off, as Erik Gustafsson scored his first of the year on a shot from about 6 feet inside the blue line. Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere drew the assists as Philly took a 1-0 lead 7:48 in.
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About three minutes later though, the Flyers put their strong start on the line when Sean Couturier took a holding penalty, sending New York to their first PP. Sure enough, New York won the opening faceoff out of the timeout, Adam Fox sent it across to Mika Zibenajad, who fired a shot on goal from the point, which Brian Elliot stopped, but left a rebound for Chris Kreider to pound home, tying us at one 9:32 in. That goal took a little bit of the wind out of the Flyers’ sails, and neither team was able to find sustained pressure until some dude named Jonny Brodzinski (who my sources tell me is a real guy who plays for the Rangers) slashed Gostisbehere with 5:47 remaining.
After an inauspicious start that saw Elliott make a key-save on a Zibenajad short-handed break-away, the second unit came on and cashed in. Gus fired one off the boards, but Ghost crashed in and potted the rebound for his first PP goal in 29 games for a 2-1 lead with 4:29 left. The other assist went to Giroux, his second of the night
Once again though, the Flyers decided to give New York a chance to respond immediately by taking a penalty with 3:40 left. Elliot made a key save on Blackwell and the Flyers were able to muddle through and kill it off. That would just about do it for the first, as the Orange and Black skated off with a 2-1 lead. An impressive start to be sure, but they had had similar starts in their last two games, only to fall apart in the ensuing periods.
On to the second, we go. Elliot came up with the first big save of the period as he robbed Strome with the right pad 90 seconds in. A Rangers turnover led to a strong chance by Couturier and New York took a penalty seconds later, sending the Flyers back on the Power Play 2:54.
Mr. Power Play himself, James Van Riemsdyk scored yet another power-play goal (his seventh PPG of the year and ninth overall) off a cross-ice feed from Joel Farabee to make it 3-1 at 4:05, with Couturier drawing the other assist. The hits kept on coming for the Rags, as they took two more penalties mere moments later to set the Orange and Black up with a golden chance to seize control of the contest. Igor Shesterkin was up to the task though, and the Flyers ultimately failed to capitalize.
The penalty parade continued, this time with the Rangers getting a chance on an interference call against Connor Bunnaman. It was deja vu all over again, as the Flyers were able to win the faceoff and Strom passed to Zibenajad who once again worked the puck to Kreider alone on the doorstep. 3-2 Flyers 8:03 into the second.
The game really opened up after this with turnovers and scoring chances at both ends. Both goaltenders were strong though, as no one could find the net until Giroux picked up his third assist of the game, as he snuck a pass through multiple Ranger sticks to Kevin Hayes, who absolutely roofed it from in tight at 14:37. Philippe Myers would draw the other assist and that 4-2 score would hold for the rest of the period.
New York would begin the third with 29 seconds of power-play time that carried over from a pretty ugly hit by Carsen Twarynski, but the Flyers were able to kill it off. Since we can’t possibly sit back and enjoy ourselves for one period, however, the Blueshirts made it 4-3 as Kreider completed the hat trick off a goal-mouth scramble at 3:27.
Once again, the goal gave New York a burst of energy, and they took the play to the Flyers for the next several minutes. Elliot was up to the task though, making several good saves, including a key stop on Buchnevich as well as the rebound chance by Fox with 12:33 left.
Farabee took the Flyers’ fifth penalty of the night with 9:15 elapsed, and once again, it was nervous time from the Wells Fargo Center. The penalty kill did the job with relatively little drama and that kill seemed to stem the tide for the Flyers.
Then the Rangers committed a couple of turnovers in short-order, with one eventually leading to the seventh. Flyers power play of the evening, with 5:38 left. They were unable to score though and at the tail end of the penalty, Zibenajad broke in on Elliot, but Moose once again kept his team in the lead.
When New York pulled their goalie with just about 2:00 left it was officially time to begin the pacing and nail-biting throughout the Delaware Valley. Raffl had two chances at the empty net, but missed by inches missed both times. It wouldn’t matter though, as the Flyers were able to keep the Rangers at bay, and held on to beat New York, 4-3.
Giroux earned the first star on NHL.com with three apples in his return and he wins the first star on my list too. A special nod also to Ivan Provorov who played his 331 straight games with the Flyers, the most by a defenseman to start a career with one team.
Overall, it was about as good a game an offensive game as we’ve seen the Flyers play all year. They put up 39 shots (8 more than their next best game), four goals, and had great chances all over the ice. The defense left much to be desired, but when you’re missing five regulars from your lineup, you take what you can get.
All-in-all, tonight was a really good effort and an encouraging step forward as the Flyers get set to head to Buffalo on Saturday afternoon.