GLENDALE, Ariz. — James van Riemsdyk might have looked calm and collected as he netted the Flyers’ first goal of an eventual 5-3 win against the Arizona Coyotes, but the attitude on the team was anything but.
One game removed from their 10-game skid, the Flyers had to have a sense of “urgency,” van Riemsdyk said, and he started it out by scoring just over a minute into the game.
The Coyotes, who are in the middle of their own losing streak, now extended to five games, showed a similar sense of urgency, responding 39 seconds later with a goal of their own.
Despite the Flyers controlling the pace and out-shooting the Coyotes through the first period, the two teams stayed locked until Scott Laughton ended the stalemate in the second period, scoring in his 400th game, all of which have been played with the Flyers.
“It was a special moment,” Laughton said. “I love it here.”
The Coyotes, once again, found a way to respond, helped by an unlucky bounce when Ilya Lubushkin pushed Martin Jones’ glove with the puck into the goal.
This time, the Flyers didn’t wait to grab the lead back. Forty-one seconds later, Patrick Brown intercepted a pass from goalie Karel Vejmelka and sent it into the unattended net for his first goal as a Flyer. Van Riemsdyk added an insurance goal on the power play shortly after when he deflected Travis Konecny’s shot into the net a minute later.
Even with the two-goal lead, the Flyers didn’t let up. Claude Giroux made it a 5-2 game midway through the third, which served the team well when Lawson Crouse’s wrist shot beat Jones to get the Coyotes back to within two goals.
Throwing it back-to-back
On the Coyotes ‘90s throwback night, the Flyers posted back-to-back wins as well as numerous other statistical back-to-backs.
Van Riemsdyk’s first goalgave him scores in two straight games. That comes after an 11-game scoring drought for him, which he snapped against Vegas on Friday night. It’s also the first time he’s scored in back-to-back games since March 13-15 of last season.
“I think he’ll get on a roll now,” Laughton said. “He can score in bunches and it’s huge for our team to get him going.”
“He’s a natural goal-scorer,” Konecny added.
In the second period, van Riemsdyk scored again on the Flyers’ second power play, giving the Flyers back-to-back games with a power-play goal, something they have done only three times this season. It was also the team’s fourth goal of the night, making it two straight games the Flyers have scored four or more goals. That hasn’t happened since the Flyers’ hot start, when they scored six goals against Seattle and then six Boston on Oct. 18 and 20.
Konecny, who assisted on Laughton’s goal as well as van Riemsdyk’s power play goal, has helpers in back-to-back games. Laughton said Konecny is the type of player who drives plays, so he just has to “go to the net with your stick down.” Konecny now has five assists in his last four games.
Keith Yandle, who picked up an assist on that second goal, also has two power-play assists in two games.
Together, all the positive statistics helped the Flyers win their second game in a row for the first time since their back-to-back victories in the Oct. 27- 28 games, also on the road, at Edmonton and Vancouver.
The two-game streaks may be young, but they’re a positive turn from the 10-game losing streak the Flyers snapped with their Friday-night win against the Golden Knights.
Truly special units
Rather than killing the mood, the Flyers’ power play is finally giving the team momentum, as it is intended to do. More than that, it is now putting points on the board.
While the first man advantage featured lots of passing and just two shots on goal, the Flyers followed it with more shots and time in the offensive zone at full strength.
The second power play looked more efficient, and it resulted in a goal. The Flyers are now 5-for-14 in their last five games after going without a power play goal in the five games before despite 12 opportunities.
“I think we just have a mindset of attacking and we don’t need to waste time setting up all the time and trying to have perfect plays,” Konecny said.
Interim head coach Mike Yeo said this “quick attack” mentality emphasized by new assistant coach Darryl Williams isn’t ground-breaking, but it’s made the difference.
The penalty kill, which has looked good most of the season, held strong despite difficult circumstances. The Coyotes’ second power play of the game was preceded by a delayed penalty that had the Flyers a man down. They weren’t able to get a stick on the puck, which meant that the same unit, which included penalty killer Sean Couturier, was out there for an extended shift. Despite that, the Flyers held off the Coyotes until the first period ended.
When they returned for the second period, the Flyers easily killed off the remaining seconds and then went on to dominate the rest of the period.
“I thought we put a ton of pressure on them and did a good job when they tried to enter the zone,” Laughton said. “So we’ve got to keep our penalty kill strong and I think our special teams have been a difference these last two games.”
No hope, no problem
When it comes to the Flyers’ performance, Yeo doesn’t want there to be any “hope” involved. Instead of sitting back and hoping things go their way, the Flyers should make sure the bounces go their way.
The go-getter attitude is especially important with the Flyers in the midst of five games in seven days, which has prevented Yeo from implementing more than minor changes.
The Flyers’ energy carried them to the win, just as it did the night before just off the Las Vegas strip. They chased hard after loose pucks and supported their teammates as they battled on the boards. They communicated better and didn’t let up even after building a lead.
“I think the last couple games, we played a lot more structured hockey,” Jones said. “We’re supporting the puck better. It’s allowing us to get in on the forecheck and be more effective. When there are loose pucks, we’re in better position to jump on them.”
The Flyers return home for their third and final game against the New Jersey Devils, a 7 p.m. matchup on Tuesday. The Flyers lost the previous two meetings.