Heading into Saturday evening, the Philadelphia Flyers knew they needed so make some drastic changes. Falling to last place in the Eastern Conference, the team was off to its worst start in 17 years. To make matters worse, the injury bug has bit the team in the worst way possible. The team will be without Scott Hartnell for 4-8 weeks and defenseman Andrej Mezaros for about a month. Adding on to these losses, the Flyers may be without Wayne Simmonds for an extended period of time. Simmonds took a nasty elbow to the face from Washing Capitals defenseman John Erskine on Friday during the Flyers 3-2 loss to the Capitals. The NHL has given Erskine a three game suspension for the incident. Simmonds was tied for the team lead in scoring at the time of the injury and has arguably been the Flyers best player so far this year. It is unknown how serious the injury is but Simmonds was forced to leave the game against the Capitals. There was no shortage of controversy against the Flyers as they headed into their game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Flyers knew they had to come out strong against the Hurricanes on Saturday and they did just that. The Broad Street Bullies capitalized on a power-play opportunity just 5:08 into the hockey game. With Jussi Jokinen off for interference, Matt Read fed newly signed Flyer Kurtis Foster who absolutely blasted the puck by Hurricanes netminder Dan Ellis. It was his first goal as a Flyer and it came after a breakaway for Canes forward Jordan Staal who was robbed by Ilya Bryzgalov. Jordan Staal is still looking for his first goal as a Hurricane and was playing in a building where he has had good past success. In last year’s playoffs with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Staal put up 9 points in just 6 games against the Flyers.
It didn’t take long for the Hurricanes to respond, however, as the Hurricanes capitalised on a turnover by Bryzgalov. Bryz went out to play the puck and ended up playing it in the corner to a Hurricane forward. Eric Staal would pick up the puck behind the net and find a wide open Joni Pitkanen who would beat Bryzgalov with a wrist shot. Things would take a nasty turn when Flyers forward Tom Sesito dished out a questionable hit on a Carolina player. Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison would later take exception and drop the gloves with Sesito. The first period still had lots of goals to be scored though.
The Flyers would regain the lead 14:27 into the game when a Jakub Voracek shot produced a rebound that went right to defenseman Braydon Coburn who put it into an empty net for his first goal of the season. About a minute later, the Flyers would score on the power-play when Claude Giroux centered the puck and Daniel Briere was able to jam in his first goal of the year. Giroux’s assist was his first point in 4 games and was a nice relief for the captain. The Flyers wouldn’t go into the intermission with a two goal lead though as Eric Staal capitalized on a Luke Schenn turnover to put in his second goal of the game. The Hurricanes captain undressed Bryz with a nice move to the backhand which opened up the Flyers goaltender.
The Flyers went into the second period up 3-2 and added to the lead early on in the second period. Mike Knuble would take advantage of a miscommunication error between Canes defenseman Justin Faulk and goaltender Dan Ellis. Knuble would tuck in the puck in on a wrap-around and help establish another two goal lead for the Flyers. It was Knuble’s first goal since signing with the team and the goal brought Cam Ward in to replace Dan Ellis. Matt Read would pick up an assist on the play which gives him 7 points on the year, tops on the team. Read led all rookies in goal scoring last season and is playing with tremendous confidence this year. Read would seem like a prime candidate for the sophomore slump this year as he literally came out of nowhere last season. It may have seemed too good to be true for the undrafted forward but his play this season dictates otherwise. He has a terrific wrist shot and is very crafty with the puck. Read sees regular power-play time on the second unit and will likely see even more even strength minutes with some of the injuries on the team.
Claude Giroux would strike in the second period when he used his wicked wrist shot to put a puck by Cam Ward on the power-play. The goal put the Flyers up 5-2 and in complete control of the game.
The Flyers penalty kill troubles in recent games would resurface in the third period when Patrick Dwyer beat Bryzgalov off a beautiful pass from Jordan Staal. The goal came off the rush on the power-play and put the Hurricanes within two. The Flyers would kill off their 4 other third period penalties to ensure a 5-3 victory.
- In the absence of Wayne Simmonds, rookie Tye McGin played on the first line. The rookie was even slotted on the first power-play unit where he provided the screen on Giroux’s power-play marker
- Heading in to Saturday’s game, the Flyers power-play was operating at a 12.5 success rate and was 24th in the league. That changed Saturday as three of the goals scored against the Canes were with the man advantage
- Ilya Bryzgalov was phenomenal once again making a season high 39 saves. He made several key saves in the second period when the Hurricanes were pressing. Heading into Saturday, Bryz had a 2.31 goals against average and a 9.18 save percentage. Those are impressive stats considering the Flyers struggles to begin the year
- The Flyers were stellar in the shot blocking department. They had 32 blocked shots in the game which frustrated the Hurricanes offense. Grossman and Luke Schenn led the way which 6 blocks apiece. This shows their dedication and passion for the team. All the players knew how crucial this game was and they weren’t afraid to make sacrifices for the team