FLYERS CRUISE PAST EDMONTON, 4-1
The Philadelphia Flyers rode a spectacular two-goal performance by Jakub Voracek, the stellar goaltending of Steve Mason and a 4-for-4 performance on the penalty kill to sail to a 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. It may not have been a flawless 60 minutes of hockey for the Flyers but it was a game where they got off to a quick start and the lead never felt in serious jeopardy.
Voracek came a goal post away from a natural hat trick in the first period. The team also got single goals from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Luke Schenn in the second period. Mason took care of the rest, turning back 35 of shots shots to earn his first win since Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Other standout performers for the Flyers included defenseman Michael Del Zotto and captain Claude Giroux. Del Zotto, who worked a give-and-go with Voracek on the sequence that ended in Voracek’s second goal and played strong all-around hockey (six hits, three blocks, one takeaway, zero charged giveaways in a team-high 23:17 of ice time). Giroux got the secondary assist on Voracek’s second goal and won 20 of 26 faceoffs (77 percent) on a night where the Flyers as a team went 44-for-67 on the penalty kill.
For Edmonton, a spectacular counterattacking solo effort by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the second period was the club’s lone offensive highlight. The team hit the post twice in the third period but generally had few answers for solving Mason. Goaltender Viktor Fasth was a bit leaky at times, finishing with 21 saves on 25 shots.
The Flyers did all of their damage at even strength in this game. The club did not get a single power play in the game. The last time that happened was a road game against the New York Islanders on March 15, 2012. The last time the Flyers did not have a power play in a home game was on February 21, 2008 against the San Jose Sharks.
At Monday’s practice in Voorhees, Flyers head coach Craig Berube said main issue with the team’s recent penalty killing struggles was failure to clear the defensive zone or get shot blocks at key moments. In this game, Mason when the team’s best penalty killer when they needed him to be but many of the club’s 19 blocked shots came on the penalty kill.
Voracek, who has points in 11 of 12 games this season and points in six games in a row, recorded his sixth multi-point effort of the young season. His first goal, scored at 3:59 of the first period, was a wraparound where he caught Fasth napping. Mark Streit, who sent the puck behind the net to Voracek after claiming a loose puck on a blocked Nicklas Grossmann shot attempt, got the primary assist. Grossmann got the second.
Several minutes later, Voracek made a strong cut around the net to his backhand and elevated the puck on his backhand. This play was very similar to a goal he scored earlier this season against Anaheim, except this one ticked off the goal post and stayed out of the net.
At 16:04 of the first period, Voracek notched his second goal of the night on the give-and-go with Del Zotto. The front end of the play was beautifully orchestrated, and the back end was a bit of self-made good luck as Del Zotto’s shot attempt was blocked and went directly to Voracek in the left circle. The Czech winger quickly shot the puck past Fasth to extend the Flyers lead to 2-1.
At 4:09 of the second period, Bellemare scored a dirty-but-good to build a 3-0 cushion for Philadelphia. All three members of the fourth line received a point on the play. Zac Rinaldo won a battle in the corner and passed it out to a wide open Chris VandeVelde. Fasth made the initial save but never got firm control of the puck. Bellemare swatted at the puck and put it between the netminder and the post.
As play neared the midway point of regulation, Nugent-Hopkins scored a highlight reel goal. With Grossmann getting caught on a pinch and Rinaldo back to help defend, Nugent-Hopkins got the puck from Jordan Eberle near the blueline. From there, he turned on the jets, fending off Rinaldo. As Nugent-Hopkins cut to his left on his forehand, Mason moved right with him but Nugent-Hopkins got just wide enough to snap home the puck at 9:54. Justin Schultz got the secondary assist.
The Flyers restored their three-goal lead at 12:01 of the second period. Brayden Schenn forced Edmonton’s Matt Hendricks off the puck behind the Edmonton net and then centered the puck out to brother Luke in the right circle. Fasth never got fully squared for the shot and the defenseman’s shot sneaked in under the goaltender’s arm.
Luke’s goal mark the second time this season that one Schenn brother set up a goal for the other. A few weeks ago in Dallas, Brayden converted the rebound of a shot by his brother. Tonight’s goal marked the third time since the Flyers acquired Luke from Toronto that both brothers got a point on the same goal.
In the third period, the Flyers killed off minor penalties to Streit and Nick Schultz. Shots in the final period were 10-10, as Mason and company sealed the win. Edmonton outshot Philly for the game by a 36-25 margin.
One down note in an otherwise upbeat night for the Flyers: Michael Raffl left the game in the third period after blocking a shot. Turned awkwardly, Raffl skated off in obvious discomfort. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said after the game that Raffl had a lower-body injury and would be re-evaluated tomorrow.
The Flyers will hold a noon practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees on Wednesday. On Thursday, the team hosts the Florida Panthers at the Wells Fargo Center. POSTGAME NOTES AND QUOTES
* Carlo Colaiacovo made his Flyers debut, skating 16:50 of ice time over 25 shifts. The veteran defenseman finished at plus-one on the night. He attempted five shots, putting one on net and getting blocked four times.
* Colaiacovo on his first game in Philadelphia: “For the most part I thought it was pretty good, pretty sound. I said I wasn’t going to be nervous but the first shift I was definitely nervous and then after the first shift I calmed right down and got myself into and just felt good to be out there again.”
* Craig Berube on Colaiacovo: “It is what I expected. He’s a good puck mover from going on the past. Probably played him too much but he did a good job.”
* Jakub Voracek on his extremely strong start to the season: “I felt pretty good but most importantly I’m year older again, more experienced, I’m in the spot where I can get the puck the most. It’s important to me and I feel pretty good about our line, so that’s very important.”
* Steve Mason on Voracek: “I’ve kind of grown up with him being in the Columbus organization with him and he knew he could be a special player if he put everything together and he’s starting to do that. When he’s going, he can take over a hockey game. He’s getting rewarded with the points right now and from our standpoint we just hope he keeps it going.”
* Apart from Claude Giroux’s dominant 20-for-26 night on faceoffs, most of the Flyers other centers and substitutes had good games on the draw. Vincent Lecavalier went 9-for-12 (75 percent) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was 5-for-7 (71 percent). Meanwhile R.J. Umberger went 3-for-3 and Brayden Schenn was 1-for-1 when they had to step in to take a faceoff.
* With their 4-for-4 performance on the penalty kill, the Flyers moved to 17-for-17 in the six home games they have played thus far. In six road games, they are just 12-for-20 (60 percent).
* Giroux when informed that club has yet to be scored against on the penalty kill at home: “Thanks for jinxing it.”
* Berube on the penalty kill in this game: “There were only a couple of times when we didn’t get the puck out when we should have, but I felt the guys were doing a better job being in the shooting lanes, and forcing them not to shoot or shoot it wide, just forcing them to pass it again. That’s important. Anytime you shoot a puck from the middle of the ice, on a power play on the back end, it’s a dangerous shot because you have screens and deflections and all that stuff so it’s important that the forwards are doing a good job, getting in the shooting lanes, putting pressure on them. Making them put it back down the wall. They did a good job of that tonight.”
* Michael Del Zotto on his greatly improved play in recent weeks: “As each day goes on, [I am trying] just coming out with a good mindset. Work hard and try to get better each day. I’m still new to the team trying to gain chemistry and get used to guys. Get some chemistry on and off the ice with them and that’s pretty much my mindset. Getting better each day.”
This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.