The team found its stride for an evening against the visiting club from Chicago while honoring its recently traded defensive anchor.
By Josh Kaz
“Kimmo, Kimmo, Kimmo!” chanted the Flyers faithful as the clock ran down to zero.
Philadelphia had just defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1, but the fans rose to cheer Kimmo Timonen, their beloved, former defenseman, after what was likely his final game in Philadelphia.
In the off-season, the 40-year-old Timonen discovered multiple blood clots that shut him down for more than eight months of what would have been the final season of his 22-year NHL career.
About a month ago, Timonen was cleared to play, but with the Flyers’ playoff hopes diminishing, he and Flyers’ General Manager Ron Hextall agreed that a trade was in the best interests of both parties.
The Blackhawks have picked up a solid 7-1-1 record in the nine games since acquiring Timonen, who has been averaging 12:27 minutes of ice time per night in a support role.
Prior to the game, when asked how he would feel if given a nice ovation, Timonen choked up and struggled to get through the answer, finally just saying, “It would be great.”
In a classy move, Chicago’s head coach Joel Quenneville iced Timonen with the starting six, and as soon as he skated out, every fan in the building stood up and gave him a respectful, long, and loud ovation.
Timonen waved to the fans in mutual appreciation.
When the game got underway, the Flyers showed a glimpse of what the season could have been had they mustered a sustained effort for the duration. For inexplicable reasons, the Flyers have played very well against good teams of late, picking up an 8-2-5 record versus teams currently in playoff position.
Philadelphia scored the game’s first goal 7:20 minutes into the opening period and never looked back. Nick Shultz made a nice play to create a turnover in the offensive zone, which led to Matt Read setting up Wayne Simmonds for his 28th goal of the season.
Ryan White added to the Flyers’ lead in the middle stanza, deflecting Carlo Colaiacovo’s shot from the point for his fifth goal of the year. Prior to this season, White had scored just five career goals in parts of five seasons with the Montreal Canadiens.
Less than seven minutes after White’s tally, it was Claude Giroux’s turn to light the lamp. Jake Voracek made a perfect pass to Giroux, who simply redirected his pass past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, giving the Flyers a commanding 3-0 lead.
Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw shaved the margin to 3-1 early in the third period on a power-play deflection, but the Flyers responded with a power-play goal of their own. Read sprung Michael Raffl with a nice pass for a two-on-one; Raffl subtly faked a pass, and then wristed his 19th of the year past Crawford. Steve Mason took care of the rest, stopping nine of 10 third-period shots and 34 of 35 overall for his 15th victory of the season.
“I’ve gone through a lot of games and won a lot of medals and All-Star games, but [the standing ovation] was one of the coolest things you can experience as a player,” Timonen told reporters after the game.
“I just want to say thanks to the fans, that was awesome.”
- Timonen didn’t pick up a point in his team’s 4-1 loss, but the sports writers in attendance nonetheless named him their third star of the game.
- The Flyers lost Simmonds (lower-body injury) and Andrew MacDonald (upper body) to injuries tonight; both will be shut down for the final seven games of the season.
- Giroux’s goal tonight was, incredibly, his first even-strength goal at home for the season.
- Both the Blackhawks and the Flyers went one-for-two on their respective power plays.
- Simmonds’ goal tonight was his 100th as a Flyer.