New coach. New goalie. New result.
Carter Hart, the 20-year-old goalie who the Flyers hope will one day be a franchise cornerstone, stopped 20 of 22 shots in his NHL debut Tuesday night, sparking a crisp 3-2 win over Detroit at the energized Wells Fargo Center.
“I had a blast tonight,” Hart said after becoming the youngest goalie in Flyers history to win his NHL debut -- and the youngest in the league to win his debut since Carey Price in 2007. “It was a night I’ll never forget.”
“He’s got ice in his veins,” left winger James van Riemsdyk said. “He’s very poised and tracks the puck real well.”
Van Riemsdyk (two points), Radko Gudas, and Shayne Gostisbehere (two points) scored for the Flyers, who snapped a four-game losing streak and gave interim coach Scott Gordon a victory in his debut with his new team.
Gordon, the former Phantoms coach who once directed the New York Islanders, replaced the fired Dave Hakstol on Monday.
The Red Wings cut the deficit to 3-2 when Jacob De La Rose scored from out front with 18 minutes left in the third period as he beat Phil Varone to the puck and whipped a shot past Hart.
They would not get closer.
Hart was named the first star of the game and received a thundering ovation as he skated back on the ice. The crowd, which cheered loudly on almost all of his saves, gave him a standing ovation.
“It was a dream to be out there and have the fans cheering and get all the support from the boys," said Hart, whose team played terrific defense in front of him.
Hart’s parents traveled from Edmonton to be at the game, and his former billet, Parker Fowlds, traveled from suburban Seattle to be there. Hart affectionately calls the 78-year-old Fowlds his unofficial “grandpa.”
“I’m just lucky to get to share this experience with people who have supported me my whole life, and have sacrificed a lot for me," he said.
Hart had to make just one save (on Tyler Bertuzzi) in the game’s first 11-plus minutes, and made eight stops in a first period that ended with the Flyers ahead, 1-0.
The Flyers “did a really good job of shutting things down, and collapsing in front of the net and tying up sticks and any loose rebounds," Hart said.
Van Riemsdyk deflected Claude Giroux’s shot past backup goalie Jonathan Bernier to give the Flyers the lead with 1:27 left in the first. Bernier was a late replacement for Jimmy Howard, who suffered a back injury in warm-ups.
The Flyers seemed to have a heightened sense of urgency, playing in front of a new coach and a goalie making his highly anticipated debut. They also managed the game better and made smarter decisions with the puck.
“Obviously, when there’s changes like that, it gets everyone’s attention and we seemed to be pretty sharp,” van Riemsdyk said.
With Oskar Lindblom in the penalty box for slashing, Detroit tied it as Dennis Cholowski scored from the high slot with 15:48 remaining in the second. Hart appeared screened by Thomas Vanek in front.
A little less than five minutes later, Gudas blasted a shot from above the right circle past Bernier for his second goal in the last 55 games, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead. The goal was set up by Travis Konecny, who missed more than half of the first period after taking a hit from Michael Rasmussen and going to the locker room for repairs.
Gostisbehere took a slick feed from Nolan Patrick (second point in 15 games) and scored from the slot to push the lead to 3-1 with 4:43 to go in the second. It was Gostisbehere’s first goal in 16 games.
Hart, who dominated the Western Hockey League, went through the typical growing pains of a first-year pro this season with the AHL’s Phantoms. He struggled in the first five weeks, then got his game in order. He went 4-1 with a 1.80 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in his last five outings at Lehigh Valley.
That, and injuries to Brian Elliottt and Anthony Stolarz, prompted a call-up -- much sooner than expected.
Hart said “my heart was racing” when Detroit pulled the goalie for an extra skater in the game’s final 1:50. He made a big stop on Martin Frk with seven seconds left to protect the lead and ignite the crowd.
“It’s been a while since we’ve heard some ‘Let’s go Flyers’ chants, so it’s pretty nice,” Gostisbehere said. “The kid is giving us something right now. He’s giving us some energy, a jolt, something this team desperately needed.”
Hart, perhaps the Flyers' most hyped prospect since Eric Lindros, became the sixth goalie to play for the team this season, an unwanted franchise record. He became the second-youngest goalie to ever play for the Flyers. Maxime Ouellet was 19 when he played in 2000-01.