Wrap: Flyers Beat LA, 4-1; Phantoms Blank Amerks, 4-0
In their next-to-last game before the NHL All-Star break and bye week, the Philadelphia Flyers earned a 4-1 win over of the LA Kings. at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night. A three-point game from James van Riemsdyk and a pair of goals by Travis Konecny led the way.
Konecny (16th) opened the scoring early in the first period and then bagged a second goal (17th) early in the middle stanza. Both goals were assisted by James van Riemsdyk. Later, Joel Farabee (power play, 5th) parked in front of the net and got a fortuitous deflection goal that built a 3-0 lead through 40 minutes.
In the third period, Dustin Brown (10th) briefly cut the gap to two goals but van Riemsdyk (power play, 13th) made it a three-goal game again.
Tonight's a game where you get that goal and then the power play comes up big for you at the right time. When they make it 3-1, we get our second power play and we're capable of scoring right away. So, that sort of blows any momentum that they're thinking of getting. Puck management and timely goals are a big part of this one tonight," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said.
Brian Elliott earned the win, stopping 34 of 35 shots. Jack Campbell took the loss, with 21 saves on 25 Flyers shots.
"I think just our start [was better than in the Flyers' New Year's Eve loss in LA]. We didn’t take penalties early. They buried two power play goals on us when we were in their building. I think just a smarter game all and all. Teams play well in their own building, you got to play well to win games on the road and tonight we played a good home game," Elliott said.
The Flyers went 2-for-2 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill; a big turnaround from when the Flyers got humiliated in LA on New Year's Eve on perhaps Philadelphia's worst all-around special teams night of the season despite eventually scoring a power play goal.
In need of spreading the depth down the middle a little more, the Flyers moved Claude Giroux back to center for this game. He started the sequence that resulted in the give-and-go goal off the rush between eventual scorer Travis Konecny and James van Riemsdyk Even beyond the goal, the line had an excellent first period.
"I thought after the last game that I was going to keep Hayesy with G. But after watching the game, I just felt that it was probably … I was looking for something else and putting G back in the middle was an option that we had and it worked out tonight. We're going to come back with that also next game, but it was it was good for them too. They got us good momentum at the beginning and I thought they played a real strong game," Vigneault said.
Giroux, who played the majority of his NHL career at center and has periodically moved back into the middle this season, said he considers it a fairly minor switch for him to make as needed.
"I feel a little bit more to play defensively, but at the same time you need to create some offense. I have been taking a lot of faceoffs even if I am at the wing, so it is not a big adjustment," Giroux said.
Travis Sanheim was also an early standout, along with partner Phil Myers. The two, with whom assistant coach Mike Yeo did video work leading into this game, carried it through for a strong all-around night.
Additionally, the Flyers welcomed Justin Braun back in the lineup. He logged 18:14 of ice time, recording a blocked shot and two credited hits.
LA had the better of the play in the opening few minutes of the first period. That is, until Konecny struck for a give-and-go goal off the rush at 3:48. Giroux started the rush in the defensive zone and Konency and van Riemsdyk worked the play nicely.
On Thursday against Montreal, the Flyers scored first only to give the goal right back. This time, Philly used it a springboard to take over the game until the third period.
At the 53-second mark of the second period, the Flyers gambled and lost on a very questionable coach's challenge of a goaltender's interference ruling on van Riemsdyk in the crease that caused a would-be goal to be disallowed. Philly killed the penalty in good shape, and the low-percentage challenge ended up being a non-factor.
"No one's gonna ask me about my bad coach's challenge?" Vigneault said with a sheepish green at the end of his press conference.
There was no disallowing the Flyers goal at 3:44 of the second period as Konecny struck again. Couturier forced a turnover behind the LA net. JVR claimed the puck and made a perfect pass-out to an open Konecny, who made no mistake.
At 10:34, the Flyers made Drew Doughty pay for carelessly high-sticking Farabee behind the LA net. After the Flyers' top unit generated heavy pressure but not a goal, the second unit delivered. A simple point shot by Matt Niskanen with traffic (Farabee) in front bounced in off Farabee's skate. He has tallies in back-to-back games. Sanheim earned a secondary assist on the goal.
"It definitely feels good. It just helps with the confidence part of the game. The plays that I’m making in the neutral zone and D zone, I have a little more confidence just because it’s in the back of my head that I can produce. It definitely feels good. Obviously, that was a good team win and we needed that one," Farabee said.
Through 40 minutes, the Flyers had a 22-20 edge in shots on goal and a marked advantage in quality of opportunities. Philly was a bit sleepy in the third period, especially at the beginning.
Elliott stoned Jeff Carter on a breakaway in the opening 90 seconds of the third period to keep the Flyers ahead, 3-0. On breakaways, Carter often uses the backhand move he tried on this play but Elliott said afterwards that he simply reacted to the play in front of him and wasn't anticipating any particular type of shot.
At 5:06, Brown beat Matt Niskanen off a counterattack and then scored upstairs to make it a 3-1 game. LA continued to push until Nikolai Prokhorkin took an awful offensive zone hooking penalty. The Flyers promptly restored a three-goal lead on a nice deflection by van Riemsdyk. Giroux and Kevin Hayes earned the assists.
Elliott made 14 saves overall the third period to finish with 34. Midway through the period, Michael Raffl received a heavy hit from Brown behind the Flyers' net in the third period. He finished his shift but eventually left. Vigneault said after the game that Raffl has an upper-body injury and will re-evaluated on Sunday.
With the Carolina Hurricanes idle and the New York Islanders losing in regulation to the Washington Capitals, the Flyers moved back into lower wildcard position (and Carolina dropped from the upper wildcard spot to below the playoff cutoff line) and to within two points of the Islanders (who hold a tiebreaker edge plus two games in hand) in the race for third place in the Metro Division. The Blue Jackets won easily over New Jersey on Saturday, and are ahead of the Flyers in the standings via regulation wins tiebreaker.
WRAP: PHANTOMS BLANK AMERKS, 4-0
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms completed a five-game homestand sweep on Saturday as they blanked the Rochester Americans, 4-0, in a strong all-around performance at the PPL Center on Saturday night. The homestand included three shutout wins plus a game where the Phantoms held an opponent to a single goal.
J-F Berube notched a 20-save shutout for the Phantoms. Greg Carey scored power play and even-strength goals (11th and 12th), while Max Willman (2nd) and Mikhail Vorobyev (power play, 7th) rounded out the scoring. The Phantoms scored twice in the first period and once apiece in the second and third.
Morgan Frost and Cal O'Reilly worked a tic-toe power play hookup with Carey to open the scoring at 5:48 of the first period. Willman buried a shot past veteran Andrew Hammond (18 saves on 22 shots) to extend the lead. Kyle Criscuolo and Chris Bigras got the assists.
David Kase -- who played a strong game after being a healthy scratch on Friday -- set up Carey for his second goal of the game. Later, Isaac Ratcliffe and German Rubtsov made it back-to-back games with points as they assisted on Vorobyev's goal that closed the scoring. The play was originally ruled no goal but reversed after a video review.