Wrap: Flyers Down Jets, 4-2
Continuing their winning ways at home and taking aim at the upper reaches of the Metro Division, the Philadelphia Flyers skated to a hard-fought 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets at the Wells Fargo Center in a seesaw match on Saturday afternoon.
The Flyers took the lead early in the game and never looked back, although they had to play through some sloppiness in the first period -- both teams were guilty, but it was only costly to the Jets -- and then withstand a heavy push by Winnipeg early in the second period before stabilizing the game. The Jets scored late in the second period and early in the third to cut a 3-0 defit to a single goal. Thereafter, Philly went on to have a dominant third period, as they often do, closing the game out with 200-foot authority and an insurance goal.
"I thought in the first period it was a little sloppy on both sides. In the second, they had a real strong push. When you look at their top two lines, they are big skilled, fast, lines so they were tough to handle in the second but I thought, in the third once they made it 3-2 on their powerplay goal, we played the best we played all night," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said.
"When the game was on the line, we played the right way, we make the right plays defensively, we made the right plays with the pucks and we were on our best when the game was on the line tonight and I thought that was a real positive sign."
Scott Laughton (11th and 12th goals of the season) struck twice in the first period to send the Flyers to intermission leading 2-0. In the second period, Sean Couturier (19th) built a 3-0 edge but Josh Morrissey (5th) got back in the final two minutes of the frame to cut the gap to 3-1. Patrik Laine (26th) scored on the power play early in the third period to make it a 3-2 game but a Tyler Pitlick goal (7th) restored a two-goal margin at 4-2.
Vigneault said of Laughton, "I thought he played one of his best games tonight, the 200-foot game real solid defensively and both our first two goals are his line, driving to the net, going hard. Him going to the net on the second one, Pitlick stopping there. They did a lot of right things and got rewarded for it and he blocked a couple of big shots. You need your team to do that and he obviously did that tonight."
Carter Hart was excellent goal for the Flyers. He stopped 27 of 29 shots and had little chance of stopping either one that got past him. Connor Hellebuyck, who had an uneven performance, took the loss with 26 saves on 30 shots.
"We made sure they didn’t get too many second opportunities and a lot of big blocks. The one in the first period Brauner blocks a shot on the line and then we go down and score. That’s the hockey that we’ve been playing lately. It’s sometimes not always pretty, but it’s effective and the guys are really buying in right now," Hart said.
The Flyers struck quickly, taking a 1-0 lead at 2:06 of the first period. A great rush by Ivan Provorov under pressure helped make it possible. Laughton found a seam and sniped one past Hellebuyck.
At 9:03, it became 2-0. The sequence started with a 3-on-1 Flyers rush as Sean Couturier exited the penalty box -- Winnipeg was slow to react to Hellebuyck's stick tapping. Laughton had plenty of space to wheel over the middle in the offensive zone, and Tyler Pitlick took a D with him to the net. The puck found its way into the net. Justin Braun assisted on both goals.
Winnipeg was on its heels early but started to generate more attack over the latter part of the first period. Hart was very sharp, making 10 saves including several tough ones. Arguably his toughest was a reaction save off a deflected puck. The Jets nearly scored on a Patrik Laine laser off the post.
Overall, the first period was an energetic one for the Flyers, although not always crisp with the puck or airtight defensively. But everyone had their feet moving consistently; second and third efforts were made as needed, and there was plenty of pucks on Hellebuyck. First period shots were 12-10 in Philly's favor, attempts were 20-18 in the Flyers favor.
Per Natural Stat Trick, scoring chances were 10-4 in Winnipeg's favor (high danger chances were 3-2 Winnipeg). Expected goals were 0.67 Winnipeg, and .0.47 Flyers but actual goals were 2-0 Philly and that's what mattered most in the frame.
The ice was tilted -- the wrong way for the Flyers -- early in the second period. Hart had to come up big several times as Winnipeg racked up 10 shots in the first 5:39 of the period (they had 15 overall). A strong shift by the Flyers' fourth line helped to stabilize things, and Philly finally got some forecheck going. A few other shifts in the D-zone were largely contained to the perimeter. Laughton painfully blocked a shot but soon returned to the ice.
At 14:50, Voracek made a good play to keep a puck alive near the Winnipeg net, and Couturier potted a goal. With 1:56 left in the second period, a scrambled coverage came back to bite the Flyers and Morrissey was able to skate right down Broadway to take a feed from the dangerous Mark Scheifele (40th assist) and fire home a shot that Hart had little to no chance of stopping.
With the puck on its edge, a Laine power play one-timer at 3:00 of the third period made it a 3-2 game. The flyers top line restored order. They did everything but score -- the post got in the way of a Couturier tap-in -- in generating a massive scramble around the Winnipeg net and an eventual power play at 7:21. Philly generated seven of the period's first eight shots, but Winnipeg the only goal. Then, on their 10th shot of the frame, Philly struck paydirt on Pitlick's double-doink goal at 9:34.
Laughton won a left circle draw cleanly to Braun, who rotated the puck to Robert Hägg. Pitlick then got the first of two deflections and the puck went into the net. Braun collected his third assist of the game on the play.
Laughton, who took a puck to the cup back in the second period and one to the face late in the third, narrowly missed an empty net opportunity for a hat trick. Nevertheless, the team had little difficulty taking the late two-goal lead over the finish line.
"We came out and got a lead early and rode it all the way to the end of the game. I thought we had a better job of closing gaps and not giving them as much space in the third. I thought in the second we weren’t really giving our D support, so we had a tough time getting out of the zone. Other than that, clean game I guess and continue to move forward," Laughton said.
The Flyers return to practice on Monday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. On Tuesday, they will host the San Jose Sharks at the Wells Fargo Center.
Quick Hits: February 23. 2020
1) The best part of Saturday afternoon: Flyers left winger Oskar Lindblom, who is undergoing treatments for Ewing Sarcoma, was at the game. He surprised his teammates with a visit to the locker room afterwards.
"I just saw him after the game, he smiled and looked beautiful. It makes everybody feel good when he comes around. There is no doubt that we’re all behind him and his teammates are obviously checking up on him on a regular basis and so is the whole staff. But to see him live is beautiful," Alain Vigneault said.
2) Congratulations go out to Flyers director of sports medicine, Jim McCrossin, who worked his 2,000th game in the NHL on Saturday. McCrossin is legendary within his profession (if there were an equivalent of a Wayne Gretzky or a Mario Lemieux in the realm of trainers and medical staff, McCrossin would be theirs), and is extremely well-liked and well-respected by players of the past and present.
3) Phantoms Update: The Lehigh Valley Phantoms sustained a 2-1 road loss to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday evening. Rookie goaltender Kirill Ustimenko was the bright spot for the Phantoms, stopping 36 of 38 shots. The Phantoms, playing for the third time in four nights, largely left their legs on the bus (especially in the first period). Ustimenko stopped 19 of 20 shots in the first period to keep his team in the game. The Crunch finally extended the lead to 2-0 midway through the third period. Lehigh Valley was outshot in every period (20-9, 8-6, 10-9) of the game.
Carsen Twarynski (5th goal of the season) scored in the final minute of the third period, but the Phantoms could not find an equalizer. Shayne Gostisbehere, who played in his second and final rehab game before rejoining the Flyers, assisted on the goal. Morgan Frost, who did not record a shot on goal, saw a four-game point streak come to an end.
4) The 43rd edition of the Flyers Wives Carnival is today at the Wells Fargo Celter, beginning at 11 a.m. ET. Following is a press release from the Flyers, will full details:
he 43rd-annual Flyers Wives Carnival is set to roll through the Wells Fargo Center this Sunday, February 23 starting at 11 a.m. The fan favorite event hosted by Flyers Charities will be returning its staple attractions, in addition to a slew of fresh features.
New this year, fans can take their turn in the AAA Car Care Crane, a human-sized version of the classic prize-grabbing arcade game. After getting securely harnessed and suspended above a large pile of prizes, participants will attempt to secure Flyers goodies such as t-shirts, bobbleheads and even game tickets.
Additionally, children attending the Carnival will have their chance to get their burning Flyers questions answered in an official Kid’s Press Conference. With a pre-purchased ticket to one of two 30-minute time slots, participating children will sit in front of GM Chuck Fletcher, Head Coach Alain Vigneault, Kevin Hayes, and Shayne Gostisbehere for an open-forum press conference.
On the main concourse of the Wells Fargo Center, fans can test their golf, ping pong, and gaming skills with activations from Top Golf, SPIN Philadelphia, and N3rd Street Gamers. The main concourse is also fans best chance to catch Gritty, who will be roaming the arena and popping up in special areas like the Gritty C.O.M.M.A.N.D Center.
Fans will still have the chance to celebrate their fandom and meet their favorite players, coaches and alumni with Carnival classics such as Sign & Snap sessions, Mystery Pucks, Shot on Goal, and the iconic Ferris Wheel. More than 100 items will also be available in the official Carnival auction. Marquee items of the auction include an autographed Flyers-themed Harley Davidson motorcycle, a 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE, and the players’ favorite things baskets.
Funds raised from the Flyers Wives Carnival benefit Flyers Charities and its mission to support a multitude of worthy non-profit organizations that provide educational and recreational resources to underserved youth, engage in important medical and healthcare research, and promote countless community investment initiatives to positively influence the community. These organizations include the American Cancer Society, Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Michael’s Way, Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army, Simon’s Heart and many more.
The Flyers Wives Carnival is presented by Comcast NBCUniversal, Telemundo 62, and NBC Sports Philadelphia.