Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Quality Win Against Stanley Cup Champions, Quick Hits



The Philadelphia Flyers extended their winning streak to three games in a row with a hard-fought 3-2 overtime victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The win improved Philly’s season record to 4-3-2 after going winless (0-2-2) through four games and put an end to the Kings’ six-game winning streak.

The Flyers played one of their best first periods of the season and scored the game’s first goal for just the second time in nine games. First period tallies by Michael Raffl and Chris VandeVelde were sandwiched around a Tyler Toffoli shorthanded goal for Los Angeles.

The narrow Philadelphia lead held until 5:01 of the third period when former Flyers captain Mike Richards tied the game at 2-2 on a scramble around the Philadelphia net. The Flyers cinched the win at 2:36 of overtime when goaltender Jonathan Quick and the puck slid over the goal line on a semi-breakaway for former LA forward Brayden Schenn.

For the third straight game, Ray Emery played a strong game in net for the Flyers. Emery stopped 38 of 40 Los Angeles shots to earn the win. Quick, who faced a slew of quality chances for the Flyers in the first and third periods, finished with 40 saves on 43 shots.

Five keys to Philadelphia’s win over the Kings:

1) The team got the strong start it needed against a club that entered the game allowing just 1.50 goals per game.

2) Strong back pressure from the forwards and containment by the Flyers defense were evident for significant portions of the game. Philadelphia spent a little too much time in its own end of the ice in the second period but Emery had the answers. Additionally, the Flyers came up with 18 blocks.

3) This was a game where the Flyers improved conditioning came to the forefront. Key players had quick recoveries between shifts and the club still had fresh legs in the third period and overtime. The Flyers hung in well against an LA time that could have ground them down with their 40 credited hits.

4) The Flyers top three lines all stepped up at different times, and the club got three even strength goals from a variety of sources. Jakub Voracek (two assists, five shots, one nifty takeaway on the backcheck) played a superstar caliber game while extending his team leading point total to 13 points in nine games.

5) While the Kings were playing with Anze Kopitar — a huge absence for Los Angeles — keep in mind that Philly is without both Braydon Coburn and Andrew MacDonald on defense. To compensate, players such as Mark Streit (plus-three, three blocks, 24:25 of ice time) and Nicklas Grossmann (plus-one, five hits, one block, 20:49 of ice time) stepped up. Additionally, Sean Couturier’s line did a solid overall job of checking Jeff Carter’s line despite Carter’s 12-for-17 night on faceoffs that largely came against Couturier (3-for-15).

The Flyers generated 20 shots in the first period alone, outshooting the defending Stanley Cup champions by six shots. Patience paid off at 5:24 of the opening period as Michael Raffl got himself to a scoring area near the bottom of the right circle and a blocked Claude Giroux shot attempt came right to the Austrian forward. Raffl got rid of the puck quickly and found the net.

The goal was Raffl’s third in two games and fifth of the season. He is now tied with Wayne Simmonds for the team goal-scoring lead. Giroux and Voracek earned the assists.

For his part, Simmonds has run into a lot of tough luck of late, going pointless in the last five games despite a slew of quality chances and near-misses. On this night, Simmonds generated five shots on goal — he has 16 in the last five games. Just as important, he was strong on both the forecheck and backcheck, and delivered three credited hits.

Most of the early pressure belonged to the Flyers. However, at the 13:08 mark, the Flyers’ second power play of the opening stanza — and what proved to be their final one of the game — went awry.

An attempted pass from Matt Read to Michael Del Zotto bounced across the ice and eluded Del Zotto as he tried to play it with his stick. Toffoli claimed the disk and went off on a breakaway well ahead of Del Zotto, elevating the puck over Emery to tie the game at 1-1 on the unassisted shorthanded goal.

With just 44 seconds remaining in the opening period, the Flyers reclaimed the lead. Moving around the net, Voracek made a tremendous feed to VandeVelde in the slot and VandeVelde made no mistake. An easily overlooked part of the goal was the hockey sense Claude Giroux showed by not touching the puck as defenseman Nick Schultz sent around the walls. Giroux knew there were no LA players in the vicinity and that Voracek was in a better position to make a play.

VandeVelde’s goal was just the second of his NHL career in 51 games and his first as a Flyer in 23 games with the team over parts of the 2013-14 and current seasons. However, he had a beautiful assist last game against Detroit and, like Raffl on the first goal, got himself into a scoring area to be the beneficiary of a good chance.

Los Angeles was the superior team in the second period, although Philly had its moments. The Kings generated 10 shots to seven for the Flyers, which is not a huge disparity but the territorial play was definitely in LA’s favor. Six charged giveaways by the Flyers — many near the blueline or the neutral zone — did not help. However, Philly did a good job at mostly keeping LA to the perimeter in the offensive zone, and Emery took care of the rest.

The third period was fast-paced and exciting, with both clubs have runs of momentum. At the 5:08 mark, a struggling shift for the Flyers fourth line (VandeVelde, Jason Akeson and Zac Rinaldo) and the defense pairing of Luke Schenn and Shayne Gostisbehere ended with the Kings tying the game after the fourth line was on the ice for one minute and two seconds.

With the Flyers collectively scrambling around, Philly ended up with four players on the right side of the ice as Richards claimed the puck near the opposite side of the crease and tapped it in ahead of Emery. Drew Doughty, who made a strong play to draw multiple Flyers toward him and Kyle Clifford earned the assists.

Both teams had their chances to win in regulation. It should also be noted that referees Dan O’Halloran and TJ Luxmore put the whistles away in the third period and did not call any penalties on either side, despite a few pretty obvious ones. The Kings outshot the Flyers by a 15-14 margin in the third period.

Early in overtime, some airtight checking by Couturier on Carter and some puck support by Matt Read near the defensive blueline created a turnover and brought a roar from the crowd. The noise would get much, much louder at 2:36 of the extra frame.

Los Angeles defenseman Jake Muzzin turned the puck over to Brayden Schenn, who went off on a semi-breakaway, a half-step ahead of Muzzin’s stick checking attempt. Quick absorbed the puck but the goalie and the puck both went over the line with Schenn and then Simmonds (with the puck already over the line) jamming away.

The play was initially ruled no-goal on the ice. However, when reviewed in Toronto, the call was overturned. Schenn was awarded his third goal of the season — and second straight game-winning goal — and the Flyers had a victory.

Both Quick and Richards argued with the officials that Schenn and/or Simmonds had interfered with the goaltender. Quick, who did not talk to the media after the game, received a 10-minute misconduct.

Next up for the Flyers is a two-game road trip to Florida. The team will hold an optional skate tomorrow morning and then depart for a game in Tampa Bay on Thursday. On Saturday, Philly opens its November schedule with a game in Sunrise against the Florida Panthers. The Flyers next play at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 4, facing off against the Edmonton Oilers.

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