Early offensive outbursts powered Philadelphia past the Oilers and Panthers to a winning record.
By Josh Kaz
The Flyers broke a two-game skid with some home cooking this week, earning a pair of 4-1 victories over the visiting Oilers on Tuesday and the Panthers on Thursday.
Top winger Jakub Voracek stretched his points streak to seven games and a league-leading 19th point during the week.
More importantly, however, goalie Steve Mason picked up a pair of needed wins to improve on an 0-4-1 start to the year.
The orange-and-black also continued to stanch the bleeding on their blue line, dressing journeyman Carlo Colaiacovo for his first career start in Philadelphia.
Colaiacovo is the tenth defenseman to suit up for the Flyers this season, and showed that he could still find his NHL form, even as an unsigned 31-year-old. In 16:50 of ice time against Edmonton, Colaicavao registered a shot, a hit, and was a plus-1.
Michael Del Zotto, another late, cheap, blue-line signing, continues to play a valuable role for the club. Against the Oilers, Del Zotto picked up an assist while leading the Flyers in hits (six) and ice time (23:17). Against the Panthers, Del Zotto earned his first goal as a Flyer on three shots; he also blocked four more, had two hits, and was a plus-1 in 23:18.
One of the things that many of the Flyers players and coaches have stressed lately is getting off to a better start, and in each contest, the team certainly did that.
In the Oilers contest, it was Voracek who got the Flyers on the board just 3:59 into the game with a wraparound on goalie Viktor Fasth. He ripped a second goal past Fasth with about four minutes left in the period as well: after setting up Del Zotto, who was cutting to the net, Voracek buried the subsequent rebound.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence, and a player with a lot of confidence and that kind of skill is pretty dangerous,” Claude Giroux told CSNPhilly. “I’m just enjoying playing with him. It’s a lot of fun.”
Philadelphia carried that two-goal lead into the second period Tuesday, and added onto it with a goal at 4:09 of the second, when Chris VandeVelde’s shot from the circle hit Pierre Edouard Bellemare and trickled into the net.
The rest was left up to Mason, who played very well, stopping 35 of 36 attempts including 10 in the third. The only goal to slip past him came on a terrific individual effort from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who used his speed to blow by the Flyer defense and beat Mason on the glove side.
“It was nice to get it,” Mason stated about the win after the game. “Took a lot longer than I originally plan but you stick with the process and keep working hard and good things happen.”
Luke Schenn added a fourth goal (and his 100th career point) when his brother Brayden Schenn set him up from behind the net. It was the first time Brayden had assisted on one of Luke’s goals, returning the same favor from Luke of only a couple weeks earlier.
Brayden Schenn has quietly picked up nine points on the season, putting him into third place for scoring on the team. On Thursday, he assisted on two goals against the visiting Panthers within the first seven minutes of the game: a tip-in from linemate Sean Couturier and Del Zotto’s first goal as a Flyer.
Early in the second period, Bellemare added his second goal in as many games and third of the season on a feed from Colaiacovo, who knocked his first point as a Flyer on the play. The defense emerged against the Panthers: three Flyers defenseman picked up a point against Florida, three logged 20-plus minutes, and the pairing of Mark Streit and Nicklas Grossmann was a combined plus-4.
“We’ve had two really good games, and for myself, I just want keep it going and get better every day,” Colaiacovo told CSNPhilly. “It feels great [to pick up my first point]. Any way I can contribute offensively or defensively and help the team win is what I’m trying to do.”
Florida’s Nick Bjugstad cut the lead to 3-1 with a power play marker, but Voracek responded just 39 seconds later, finishing on a two-on-one with Giroux for his league-leading 19th point.
Mason recorded a second straight win Thursday, and again looked good in doing so, making 34 saves on 35 shots.
More importantly, the team played well in front of him. The wins made four straight at home for the Flyers, who earned points in six of their seven home games this season, and improved to 6-5-2.
- Top-line winger Michael Raffl left the Oilers game early after blocking a shot. It was later reported that he will miss six weeks with a lower-body injury. He was replaced on the top line by VandeVelde.
- For six games in a row, the Flyers have given up 30 or more shots: Edmonton outshot the Flyers 36-25, and Florida outshot Philadelphia 35-30.
- Philadelphia killed off seven of eight penalties in both games; Bjugstad’s power play goal was the first the Flyers had allowed at home all season.
- Edmonton played a penalty-free game, the first in which the Flyers had not earned a power play since March 15th 2012. The Flyers haven’t scored a PowerPlay goal in five games and are just 1 for 21 in their last 8 games.
Drop The Puck:
The Flyers will look to extend their winning streak Saturday, when they go on the road against the Colorado Avalance, facing former Flyers Danny Briere and Max Talbot.