PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—The off-season facelift the Flyers received came blaring out face first to a soldout Wells Fargo Center in their home opener. A new goalie. A future Hall of Famer. A team sprinkled with new faces and a new identity. And a new captain. The Flyers alerted the chanting throng via the JumboTron Wednesday night that new alchemy can work on one piece of Broad Street.
This home opener came with a special caveat. Opposing the Flyers was the defending NHL Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks—the same Canucks that were one game away from winning the Stanley Cup. Those Canucks. The same team that smoked the Flyers last year.
But this is a new Flyers team—with a new attitude. These are the Claude Giroux-James Van Riemsdyk Flyers—not the Mike Richards-Jeff Carter Flyers. And this fine blend of young stars with sage veterans is off to a great start, remaining unbeaten after an impressive 5-4 victory over the powerful Canucks.
The Flyers, who now seem to be the de facto standard bearers of Philadelphia pro sports, are a glittering 3-0 in the early going.
Giroux (1 goal, 2 assists-3 points), Van Riemsdyk, Chris Pronger, Jakub Voracek and Andrej Meszaros all scored for the Flyers, who fended off furious rallies from Vancouver, which countered with goals from Mikael Samuelsson, Henrik Sedin, Chris Higgins and Daniel Sedin.
“I still think there is a ways to go, and tonight made it hard to get a read on the five-on-five game, but there is enough talent there and we got off on the right foot tonight,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “There were some good tests tonight, like the penalty kill, and our resiliency was another. We just need to stay out of the [penalty] box.”
Each time Vancouver scored, the Flyers had an answer. Daniel Sedin’s goal at 3:39 into the third period evened the score at 4-4, only to have Meszaros respond with the game-winner 61 seconds later. It’s been that kind of tenacity that’s been the watershed point between last year and this season.
“You learn from your mistakes and for us it was all the little stuff,” Pronger said. “We need to work on all the little stuff that we can control. But I like how we responded to pressure. We showed we can rebound quickly from a momentum shift and pounce on that. We needed to bounce back quickly and we did.”
It’s also been assuring to have Ilya Bryzgalov in the net for the Flyers, a rather sore area over the last five years. Bryzgalov surrendered a season-high three goals, though he did come up with a number of sterling saves—especially in the second period when the Canucks outshot the Flyers 14-6.
Bryzgalov finished with 36 saves—while the Flyers saw their shot output drop dramatically after putting 14 first-period shots on Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, to six in the second and seven in the third. After the first period, the Flyers were outshot 31-13.
There were, however, a glaring positives. The Flyers weathered four of five third-period penalties—the one that stung them was Daniel Sedin’s goal.
Vancouver was clearly the stronger, faster team and the Flyers appeared to be dragging in the final 20 minutes. Pronger’s interference penalty at 16:30 meant the Flyers played exactly half of the third period short-handed. They had just survived Voracek’s boarding call when Pronger was whistled.
In the last five minutes of the second period, a swarming Vancouver attack threatened to take control of the game. Higgins’ goal punctuated a barrage of shots, before he finally flicked the puck past Bryzgalov sitting on the doorstep. Pronger slammed his stick on the ice after the play, frustrated as to how open Higgins was.
The second period marked a significant switch in momentum from how strong the Flyers started, when took a 3-1 lead after one period. Giroux and Pronger gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead scoring on power-play goals, and Van Riemsdyk answered Samuelsson’s goal with the Flyers third goal of the period, tapping home a rebound at 17:48 in the first.
“We had to show our resiliency, and I think we did in this game,” Van Riemsdyk said. “We’ve meshed pretty well together so far, and continue to push the envelope. We need to continue not to be complacent.”
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito