Carter Hart will make many memorable saves in what is expected to be a long, productive career.
But he will have a difficult time topping the acrobatic stop he made on Taylor Hall while the Devils were on a five-on-three power play for a full two minutes in the Flyers’ home opener Wednesday night before a percolating, sellout crowd.
With the Flyers dominating the second period but clinging to a 1-0 lead, Hall appeared to have an open net. Hart, however, did the splits while moving from right to left and somehow used his glove to swat away Hall’s shot from deep inside the right circle.
“It was a game changer,” center Sean Couturier said after the Flyers defeated New Jersey, 4-0, “and it just gives the guys confidence in front of him to play better and be there for him.”
Hart said of the game’s most pivotal save: “I kind of lost the pass in the middle there, then I saw him [Hall] winding up from the side. Stuck my arm out there. Hopefully, it would hit me.”
Later in the Devils’ power play, Hart robbed Nikita Gusev from the left circle.
Those two saves – and the excellent work by the penalty killers and the power-play units – propelled the Flyers to the victory and their first 2-0 start since the 2011-12 season, which happens to be the last time they won a playoff series.
“I have to be honest; it’s big ... by everyone,” said center Scott Laughton, one of the Flyers’ penalty killers. “Hartsy made the save of the year already. ”
When the penalty kill ended, the Wells Fargo crowd erupted, producing cheers that were louder than at any point in the team’s sad-sack 2018-19 season. Seconds later, Hart received a standing ovation as he skated off the ice at the end of the period.
Hart finished with 25 saves and his first NHL shutout in 33 games.
Coach Alain Vigneault was asked whether killing the five-on-three created lots of energy on the bench.
“You know what, I don’t just feel the bench. I feel the whole building,” he said. “I mean, everybody could sense the vibes in this building tonight, from start to finish. It was a great atmosphere, and it’s something I want to be a part of, the players want to be a part of. Everybody. It’s lifting, and it’s a lot of fun.”
In the opening minute of the third period, Kevin Hayes (power play, first goal as a Flyer) and Couturier scored 24 seconds apart, increasing the lead to 3-0. Travis Konecny (two points) made it 4-0, giving him three goals and five points in the first two games.
Hayes’ goal was set up by Claude Giroux’s faceoff win. The Flyers are 3-for-8 on the power play in the first two games.
The Flyers’ power play was 2 for 4, and their penalty kill was 5 for 5. It’s early, but the Flyers seem to have grasped what new assistants coaches Mike Yeo (penalty kill) and Michel Therrien (power play) are teaching them.
The Flyers got a second-period power-play goal from Ivan Provorov (two points). They controlled the second period and at one point held a 15-3 shots domination in the session (and hit the post twice) before the Devils (0-2-1) got their two-man advantage and had a handful of Grade A chances that were snuffed out by Hart.
For the second straight game, the Flyers took control with a dominating second period.
“I think we are just buying into the system right now and trying to press on offense as hard as we can, and then be responsible in the neutral zone,” said Konecny after the Flyers outshot the Devils, 34-25. “I think it’s limiting chances in our zone.”
After a first period in which the Flyers might have felt the effects of not playing since Friday and traveling more than 4,000 miles to get home, they looked much sharper in the second
stanza, firing a barrage of shots at Cory Schneider and taking over the play.
Provorov, from just above the left circle, whipped a blast past Schneider as Oskar Lindblom set up a screen in front. It was the Flyers’ second power-play goal on the young season, and both came from the second power-play unit.
During a first-period break, a video tribute to former Flyer Wayne Simmonds was shown on the gigantic, new scoreboard .