Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Emery Steals One, Phantoms Win, Quick Hits

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EMERY STEALS FIRST HOME WIN OF SEASON FOR THE FLYERS

It wasn’t pretty but the Philadelphia Flyers will gladly take Saturday night’s 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. The victory, Philadelphia’s first win on home ice in four tries this season, pushes their record through eight games to 3-3-2. It was also the Flyers’ eighth consecutive win over Detroit at the Wells Fargo Center.

Detroit is one of the NHL’s best puck possession teams, and gave the Flyers fits for two-plus periods in trying to generate any sort of attack (especially at 5-on-5). Goaltender Ray Emery held the fort to keep the Flyers to within one goal, even as the Red Wings racked up a 20-5 shot advantage through nearly 35 minutes of minutes of play (finishing with a 37-17 shot edge).

The much-maligned Flyers defensemen also deserve credit for generally boxing out well, keeping play to the outside and blocking a slew of shots. As a team, Philly blocked 31 Detroit shot attempts.

Nicklas Grossmann led the way with a monstrous game. In 18:03 of ice time, the big Swede blocked six shots, doled out five hits, and did a good job at staying with his checks. He even scored a rare goal, which proved pivotal to the turnaround the Flyers had in the final 20 minutes of the game.

Through the first 38-plus minutes of the game, scoring chances for Philly were few and far between. Despite Detroit’s territorial dominance, however, Riley Sheahan’s goal at 15:23 of the first period stood as the game’s only tally. On that play, Flyers captain Claude Giroux skated toward defenseman Mark Streit’s already well-marked check and Sheahan was left all alone in front to score the game’s first goal.

At the 18:21 mark of the second, one of the unlikeliest tandems on the Flyers’ roster combined to tie the game. After Michael Raffl claimed a puck deep in Detroit territory, he passed it to Chris VandeVelde in the right corner. Seeing a wide open lane to pinch in from the point and go for the net, low-scoring defensive defenseman Grossmann shocked everyone but himself and VandeVelde. Receiving a perfect pass on the tape, the big Swede chipped the puck upstairs over countryman Jonas Gustavsson to knot the score at 1-1.

In the third period, play was much more even than the first two periods. The Flyers, although outshot 13-9 in the final stanza, finally started to generate some attack zone pressure of their own. It paid off.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare brought the crowd to its feet with a tenacious penalty killing shift in which he occupied the puck in the offensive zone corner against multiple Red Wings for a good 15 seconds. The successful kill helped to generate some momentum for the Flyers.

At 6:01, Jakub Voracek made a great pass from the offensive right side boards to Raffl, who was speeding into the slot. Taking the puck in stride, Raffl went in one-on-one against Gustavsson and finished off the play to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead. Michael Del Zotto earned the secondary assist.

Right off the hop, however, the Flyers gave up a scoring chance to the Red Wings. Emery saved their bacon. However, Emery had little chance moments later. Just 42 seconds after Raffl’s goal, the sublime talents of Pavel Datsyuk re-tied the score at 2-2.

When Blair Jones lost a puck battle at the blueline and rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere had a broken stick, Datsyuk slipped behind both Gostisbehere and Streit to receive a pass from Darren Helm. The superstar Russian center scored a dazzling backhanded goal from in close.

Detroit entered the game with a perfect 21-for-21 performance on penalty kills for the season. On this night, they killed off each of the Flyers’ first four power plays, although Philly had some sustained pressure on the second one. Finally, on Philly’s fifth man advantage of the game, the Wings run of penalty killing perfection came to an end.

Voracek put the puck toward the net from inside the right point, and Brayden Schenn deflected it from the right circle hash marks past Gustavsson to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead at 11:05. Streit got the secondary assist on the play.

After the Flyers took the 3-2 lead, they did a good job at protecting the lead. Most notably, the Giroux line had a couple of excellent shifts where they kept the Red Wings on their heels.

Detroit pulled Gustavsson after a Philadelphia icing with time ticking down to the final minute. With 31 ticks remaining on the clock, Raffl completed the first two-goal and three-point game of his NHL career with an empty net goal from the red line. Del Zotto and Giroux drew the assists at 19:29.

The Flyers will hold practice on Sunday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. On Tuesday, the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings come to town. Notes and Quotes

* Craig Berube was asked to assess the team’s response in the third period. The Flyers coach said, “I think we realized we go play the period the way we can, we might win the hockey game. I thought that there was a lot more life, a lot more energy in the third period than there was in the first two.”

* Gostisbehere made his much-anticipated NHL debut, following Friday’s revelation that defensemen Braydon Coburn (left foot) and Andrew MacDonald (lower body) would be out for the next month. He skated 12:27 of ice time (2:47 on the power play) over 18 shifts, recording one shot on goal, two missed shot attempts, a first-period giveaway and a minus one.

* Gostisbehere looked a bit jittery in his first shift or two and had a few miscues in the game but got better as the game moved along. He skated well and moved the puck efficiently as well as showing a hint of his fearsome shot from the point.

* Asked to describe his emotions over the last day, Gostisbehere said, “It was a whirlwind of emotions of course. Build up is the worst part I’d say, but right when you get on the ice it’s nice and calming to get under your feet and get your feet going and make some plays.”

* Prior to the game, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall spoke to the media about Gostisbehere’s recall. Said Hextall, “He’s here to day-to-day. Let’s get that out there. He’s not here a month and we’ll see tomorrow and the day after that. There are no guarantees for him or anybody else for that matter. We’re going to have to monitor him. Trust me, I will be watching him closely… like a hawk.”

* SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedman reported tonight that the Flyers offered defenseman Ryan Whitney (who is signed to a contract with KHL team HK Sochi but has not played in a game yet) a two-way contract. The player declined, at least for now.

* Grossmann on the dressing room mood after the Flyers were able to get out of the second period tied: “It’s a game of hockey. Anything can happen. Ray had a great game and kind of held us in the game. We knew we had a chance, we just needed to play 20 good minutes. That’s the beauty of the game sometime – you don’t have your best game but you come out with a win. That’s the way we’ve got to look at it.”

* Flyers 2013 first-round pick Samuel Morin was in the pressbox tonight. Recuperating from a broken jaw sustained earlier this month, Morin said he is coming along well. Although still on a liquid diet, it did not look like Morin has lost weight.

* Also in the pressbox tonight was longtime Flyers trainer Dave “Sudsy” Settlemyre. His son, Derek, is the Flyers’ equipment manager but Sudsy hasn’t made it out the games here too often in recent years.

************ PHANTOMS DOWN SENS IN OVERTIME

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms ran their record on the young AHL regular season to 4-1-0 following a seesaw 5-4 overtime road win against the Binghamton Senators on Saturday night. The Phantoms trailed early, built a 4-2 lead and then saw the Sens rally for two goals in the third period to force overtime.

Rookie center Scott Laughton tallied the game-winning goal in overtime for the Phantoms; his fifth of the season. Lehigh Valley got two-point nights from defenseman Robert Hägg (power play goal, power play assist) and center Nick Cousins (power play goal, power play assist) and two assist games from defensemen Brandon Manning and Jesper “Pitbull” Petterson. Andrew Gordon and Austin Fyten notched one goal apiece for Terry Murray’s club. In net, veteran Rob Zepp turned back 36 of 40 Binghamton shots.

The Phantoms lost defenseman Mark Alt to an apparent shoulder or arm injury at 9:30 of the first period when he was on the receiving end of a reputedly questionable hit near the boards. Pettersson jumped to his defense, fighting Hershey’s Matt Puempel. Hulking Phantoms enforcer Zack Stortini then moved in to assist the diminutive Pettersson. Stortini received a third-man-in penalty and automatic game misconduct.

Alt left the ice with the Phantoms trainer and did not return.

The Phantoms complete their weekend three-in-three slate of games with a road game in Hershey on Sunday. Game time is 5:00 p.m. EDT.

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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