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Flyers crack into win column with emotional victory over Kraken

The Flyers won their first game of the season and their first game ever against the Seattle Kraken.

Flyers' right wing Nicolas Aube-Kubel gets up-ended after checking Seattle's Kraken center Ryan Donato during the third period on Monday.
Flyers' right wing Nicolas Aube-Kubel gets up-ended after checking Seattle's Kraken center Ryan Donato during the third period on Monday.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Anyone who tries to say your first game as a head coach against your former team isn’t emotional is lying, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said before Monday night’s meeting with the expansion Seattle Kraken.

Unfortunately for former Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, the emotions he walked away with were not happy, victorious ones. In an extremely chippy game for two organizations with no on-ice history, the Flyers dominated the Kraken 6-1.

Before the game, Vigneault admitted to watching the Kraken for reasons other than film study. He was “intrigued,” he said. But his time studying the new opponent paid off because his team came out well-prepared. The Flyers outshot the Kraken 27-25, won 61% of the faceoffs, and finished with one more hit than the Kraken’s 25 in a game full of fights.

50 for Hart

Carter Hart’s first win of the season and 50th win of his career was well-earned. Although Hart didn’t face as many shots as the Kraken goalies, he made some big saves.

Early in the first, he stopped Joonas Donskoi on a breakaway. A few minutes later, Hart faced a slap shot from Adam Larsson. He stopped it, but Jordan Eberle immediately got his stick on the rebound. In that split-second, one emotion ran through Hart.

“Just desperation,” he said. “Just try to get over there and throw my body at it.”

Hart dived and managed to deflect the puck in the air, where his defensemen knocked it away.

“I think the breakaway save, followed up by that save — it’s got to be a save-of-the-year candidate,” Flyers defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “That was something special. Almost immediately, it seemed to turn from there.”

Less than a minute later, the Flyers scored their first goal.

“I think it started with Carter’s save and after that it gave us some wings and we were all over them,” said Derick Brassard, who scored the third Flyers goal.

Hart faced eight more shots before he gave up one at the end of the second period. In all, he gave up just one goal on 24 shots.

Rolling from the top

No one from the Flyers’ top line walked away from the season-opening loss satisfied. Even though the line accounted for two goals, Travis Konecny said they could do more. Sean Couturier had two assists, and Claude Giroux and Konecny each scored. However, they each finished even /from a plus-minus standpoint

“I thought they did some real good things in the last game, too,” Vigneault said, “but there were definitely some areas, and we talked to them a little bit about it, in our zone, as far as D-zone coverage and puck management that they could do a little more efficiently. “They went out tonight and had a real good night for us.”

Giroux opened the scoring off an assist from Konecny, who followed up his first assist of the season with a goal less than a minute later. The top line cleaned up its game, especially on defense, Giroux said, and each member of that line finished in the positive.

“I think we were just more direct today as a line,” Konecny said. “We were shooting the puck and if the shot wasn’t there, then don’t force anything.”

The top line’s play was infectious and it showed in the score. Second-line center Brassard added his first goal as a Flyer before the end of the period. His linemates scored the sixth, with Joel Farabee netting Cam Atkinson’s rebound. Even the defense got involved, with Ryan Ellis and Justin Braun scoring.

Kraken heads

For the first period, the Flyers and Kraken faced off in a nice, friendly game of hockey.

Then Nic Aubé-Kubel crosschecked Adam Larsson in the second period. Shortly after, Nate Thompson roughed up Nathan Bastian. The Kraken players took offense, and suddenly fights broke out all across the ice. It culminated with Nick Seeler squaring off against 6-foot-7 Jamie Oleksiak. While Oleksiak had size, strength, and reach on him, Seeler had emotion. As he was escorted to the penalty box, he yelled to the crowd, and the fans went wild.

Following the game, Seeler called it “just one of those things” that happens in a game. He said he respected Oleksiak for sticking up for his teammates. Seeler’s teammates said the same about him, giving him shout-outs for his toughness in the postgame news conference.

While Seeler might not be back next game if Rasmus Ristolainen returns, he endeared himself to the fan base, judging by the huge cheer that went up when his fighting major was announced. Vigneault also liked what he saw and said he expects Seeler to contribute more this season.

Both Thompson and Bastian were hit with 10-minute penalties for misconduct following that round of fights. They then left the ice again in the third after another fight. This time, Thompson was the decisive winner. By the end of the game, the Kraken had 46 penalty minutes to the Flyers’ 40. Bastian and Thompson combined for 52 of those minutes.

“I was just saying to Seels on the way in that I’ve never heard the building that loud in like a long time,” Konecny said. “Then Thommer did a good job and it’s just like, you can hear that atmosphere in the rink and that’s us on the bench, too. We’re feeling that.”

What’s next

The Flyers host the Boston Bruins in a 7:30 p.m. game Wednesday night. The game will be broadcast on TNT. ... The Flyers will look to get Ristolainen back in the lineup. He has been day-to-day with an upper-body injury. They’re also waiting for Patrick Brown to come back from COVID-19 protocols and for Zack MacEwan to receive his U.S. work visa.