CHICAGO – Twenty nights after they opened their seasons in one of Europe’s largest and most beautiful cities, Prague, the Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks met Thursday in a more familiar site.
With the same result.
Oskar Lindblom, Claude Giroux, Kevin Hayes, and James van Riemsdyk scored goals, and goalie Brian Elliott was outstanding as the Flyers defeated the Blackhawks, 4-1, at the United Center.
For Giroux and van Riemsdyk, it was their first goals of the season.
“I think everyone in our group knew it was just a matter of time,” coach Alain Vigneault said after the Flyers’ first road victory in four tries this season. “If we stick with the process, do the right things, sooner or later you’re going to get rewarded. It was good for G and it was good for James, to hit the back of the net and now we move on and we focus on our next game” Saturday against visiting Columbus.
The Flyers (4-3-1), who lifted their record over the .500 mark, had scored a 4-3 win over Chicago in Prague on Oct. 4.
The Flyers played in their fifth time zone in eight games. The Blackhawks played their seventh straight home game since their loss in Prague.
Chicago cut the deficit to 2-1 one minute into the third period as Brandon Saad got behind van Riemsdyk and Shayne Gostisbehere, and Robert Haag made a bad pinch in the neutral zone.
Before that goal, the Blackhawks attack had all the life of a rock. But Saad got the crowd back into the game and Chicago swarmed the Flyers net for the next few minutes.
Hayes quieted the fans. He scored on a breakaway to restore the Flyers’ two-goal lead, at 3-1, with 14 minutes, 57 seconds to play. Joel Farabee got an assist, his first career NHL point.
About two minutes later, Farabee appeared to score his first NHL goal as he scored on a rebound of his own breakaway shot. But the play was reviewed and Hayes was offside, so the goal was negated. It was the second time during the game that Hayes was offside and it took a point away from the 19-year-old Farabee.
“On the first one he was too slow, on the second one he was too fast,” Hayes cracked.
Giroux looked at the bright side, saying Farabee was lucky because in a way, he will have two first goals.
“I didn’t even realize the second (erased goal) was even close to being offside,” said Farabee, who had four shots and three takeaways while playing a strong two-way game. “I didn’t see Kevin on my right side. Yeah, I would have liked it, but at the end of the day when you’re winning, you’re happy, so let’s keep this rolling.”
With 3:16 remaining, van Riemsdyk, ahead of the pack, secured the win with his first goal of the season.
Chicago had a 16-5 shots advantage in the third period, but Elliott (23 saves) stood tall.
Fifty-nine seconds into the second period, Giroux’s first goal of the season gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead. From behind the net, van Riemsdyk fed defenseman Travis Sanheim deep in the offensive end, and his shot was redirected over the shoulder of goalie Robin Lehner.
Late in the second, Giroux had a shorthanded breakaway but missed the net.
The Flyers had a 13-1 shots domination in the second period, and Chicago fans booed their team as the session ended. The Blackhawks had 5:27 of power-play time after the first two periods and zero shots with the man advantage.
The Flyers, coming off a 6-2 win Monday over Vegas, put two shots behind Lehner in the first period, but only one counted as a goal.
Lindblom converted Travis Konecny’s two-on-one pass to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 6:55 left in the first. It was his fifth goal, tops on the Flyers, and it gave Konecny a team-best 11 points and at least a point in seven of the Flyers’ first eight games.
“I’m playing with great players who give good passes,” said Lindblom, whose line, with Sean Couturier and Konecny, has been the Flyers’ best unit (by far) in the first eight games. "With that pass, I was pretty sure I was going to get it on net. Those goals are greasy, but I like this.”
Lindblom’s goal, his ninth in the last 13 games over parts of two seasons, was scored a half-minute after the Blackhawks botched a two-on-one of their own.
Earlier in the period, Hayes redirected a great feed from Farabee into the net to put the Flyers ahead, 1-0, but the Blackhawks challenged for offside. After a video review, Hayes was clearly a stride offside, so his goal and Farabee’s first career point were erased.
Elliott was solid in his first two starts, and he continued his strong play in the opening period Thursday as he stopped all seven shots, including close-range chances by Dominik Kubalik, Andrew Shaw, and Alex DeBrincat.
“He battles real hard,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said before the Flyers’ fifth straight win over Chicago in the last three seasons. “He had a whale of a game the other night [against Vegas] and made some quality saves and gave us a chance.”
The Flyers were trying to sweep the season series (minimum: two games) in back-to-back years against Chicago for the first time since 1997-98 and 1998-99.