In his 700th game, Sean Couturier ends Flyers’ scoring drought in 3-0 win over Coyotes
It was Couturier’s 178th career goal, which places him above Jake Voracek for 18th in Flyers history.
For more than seven periods, the Flyers could not get a single puck past an opposing goalie. But with the clock ticking in his 700th game, Sean Couturier converted a pass from Travis Konecny for a goal in the third period of the Flyers’ 3-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
It was the first Flyers goal since the two goals in the first period of the Vancouver win on Oct. 28. Couturier scored one of those, as well.
With the help of Couturier’s goal, later goals by Scott Laughton and Claude Giroux, and Carter Hart’s shutout, the Flyers came out on top in what wasn’t a dominant performance over a team that’s now 0-9-1.
The first period was characterized by consistent goalie play and inconsistent five-on-five play. Momentum swung back and forth with the two teams taking turns controlling the puck. Both the Flyers and the Coyotes had great looks that came close, but the goalies stopped the 13 shots they each saw.
The Coyotes took over the momentum in the second, keeping the Flyers in their defensive zone through most of the second. Until the Flyers went on a power play, the Coyotes dominated the shot count. They doubled the Flyers’ shot attempts (including missed and blocked shots) in the first six minutes. The Flyers picked it up toward the end of the period, but some unlucky bounces kept the score at zero.
The Flyers gained some momentum from all the chances they created at the end of the second and played a cleaner game in the third. It helped set up Couturier’s goal. Players from unlikely places started giving the Flyers looks, with Nic Aube-Kubel and Rasmus Ristolainen getting some good shots. Laughton and Giroux turned their chances into goals in the final 2 minutes, 9 seconds.
Giroux’s was an empty-netter on a pass from Couturier, who said he thought it would be nice to give to Giroux since he already has two empty-net goals himself.
Couturier ends scoring drought
With seven minutes left in the second period, the Flyers thought they prevented their scoreless streak from extending to seven periods. Joel Farabee, Derick Brassard, and Cam Atkinson fought in front of the net to poke the puck past goalie Karel Vejmelka. It broke free and Atkinson slammed it in. Then the goal was called back because the referees determined Vejmelka had covered it first.
They had another good chance before the clock ran out, but it went off the post, and the streak continued on.
The drought lasted for seven more minutes before Couturier put one past Vejmelka’s glove off assists from Giroux and Konecny. It was Couturier’s 178th career goal, which places him above Jake Voracek for 18th in Flyers history.
Couturier now has a team-high 10 points in eight games, as well as four goals. He has 453 points in his career, which has been spent entirely with the Flyers. He was the team’s first-round pick in 2011 and played his first NHL game in the Flyers’ season opener Oct. 6 that year at Boston.
“Time flies,” Couturier said. “Still remember like it was yesterday, my first game. Like I said, time flies. Just trying to enjoy it the most I can. Hopefully many more.”
“Can you give him a round of applause?” Atkinson added.
Missing the mark
With the Coyotes controlling the momentum, it was a win every time the Flyers got the puck out of their defensive zone. However, they ruined their own transitions with their poor passing.
The Flyers had seven giveaways to the Coyotes’ three by the end of the second. In addition to giveaways, they also had a lot of passes that were placed slightly off their marks, keeping their teammates from being able to make the next play easily. There were passes that were just far enough out of reach the recipient couldn’t shoot. Or ones that went past the blue line, pulling everyone back into the neutral zone.
One particular missed pass by Couturier lead to a Coyotes breakaway. The score remained at zero, thanks to Hart, the Flyers’ best player on this night.
“We gave up some chances or turned the puck over at times,” Couturier said. “We had Hartsy there to bail us out and some [defensemen] to break plays up.”
Home is where Hart is
The Flyers were home for the first time in three games. But while the arena was loud with Flyers fans’ cheers and boos, the Flyers struggled to find a rhythm for the majority of the game — except for Hart.
Over and over, the fans’ gasps turned to cheers as great shots by the Coyotes turned to great saves by Hart. Eighteen minutes into the game, Hart faced back-to-back shots from either side of the goal, but made a diving stop just in time. Once his teammates got something going and put points on the board, Hart continued to hold strong.
“It was huge,” Couturier said. “It allows us to stay calm and weather the storm. He made some big saves all night and kept us in and we found a way to kind of help him out there in the third.”
Hart ultimately faced 29 shots and stopped every one. It was Hart’s third career shutout. While “two points is all that matters,” Hart said, “it’s always nice to “put a zero up on the board.”
The Flyers practice Wednesday before flying to Pittsburgh to play their first game against a Metropolitan Division opponent Thursday night.