Flyers quench 10-game winless drought in the desert, beating the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-3
Behind a revitalized power play and clutch goaltending from Carter Hart, the Flyers finally found a way to win.
LAS VEGAS — For the Flyers’ power play in the heart of the Mojave Desert, when it rains, it pours.
Early in the third period during Friday night’s game in Sin City, former Golden Knight Patrick Brown sent winger Mark Stone to the sin bin by drawing a hooking call at the perfect time.
With the score even at 2, center Sean Couturier sent a slap-shot from the top of the right face off circle past goalie Laurent Brossoit on the power play. He notched the Flyers’ third goal of the night in their 4-3 victory over the Golden Knights, quenching the team’s 10-game winless drought.
In turn, Couturier ended a drought of his own — the goal marked his first since Nov. 6, which came against the Washington Capitals.
Roughly six minutes later, on the Flyers’ third power play of the night, winger James van Riemsdyk snapped a goalless skid of his own. His unenviable streak dated back to Nov. 13 against the Dallas Stars. To make the night even more joyous for the Flyers, captain Claude Giroux’s assist on Couturier’s goal marked his 334th power play point, passing Bobby Clarke for the most in franchise history.
“I think special teams tonight were probably the difference,” Couturier said. “We went 2-for-3 and we killed a lot of penalties. I think it was a difference-maker in the game. We had Hartsy [Carter Hart] make some big saves when we needed him. For the power play, I think it was just moving the puck quick and getting it to the net.”
The Flyers had scored only two power-play goals in a game once this season, that against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 20.
Fine third line
Through 24 games, nearly half of the Flyers’ 56 goals came from three different players — Giroux (nine) and wingers Cam Atkinson (nine) and Joel Farabee (seven). However, in the midst of their 10-game skid, in which the Flyers averaged 1.80 goals for per game and with Farabee on injured reserve, the Flyers required production from players down the depth chart.
Against the Golden Knights, the Flyers saw contributions from their third-line players in center Kevin Hayes and winger Max Willman. Hayes’ first-period goal on a rebound off Scott Laughton’s initial shot put the Flyers up, 1-0. Willman, who was a healthy scratch in favor of forward Derick Brassard on Wednesday against the New Jersey Devils, scored his first NHL goal in the second period. Through the first two periods, the third line of Hayes, Willman, and van Riemsdyk dominated the possession game, registering seven shot attempts to their opponents’ two when the trio were on the ice, according to Natural Stat Trick.
“Those two are awesome,” Willman said. “They make it easy. Playing with them, they can hold on the puck together. I just tried to get open and use my speed and try to help them out as much as I can.”
In for the kill
Going into Friday night’s game, the Golden Knights’ power play performed worse than the Flyers’ — with a 13.56% success rate. Vegas ranked 30th in the league behind Philadelphia (13.89%, 29th). The Flyers took advantage of the Golden Knights’ man-advantage woes, holding them to one power-play goal on six attempts for the game.
The Flyers’ penalty kill put together one of its better efforts on Vegas’ third power play. On a Willman roughing minor in the second period, the Flyers held the Golden Knights to one shot on goal and cleared the zone five times. Additionally, defenseman Travis Sanheim registered a shorthanded shot on goal, but Brossoit turned the puck aside. The game marked a rebound for the penalty kill after the group gave up a power play goal on three attempts against the Devils on Wednesday.
“I think with the PK, when your goalie’s playing the way that Hartsy was playing tonight, I think it allows you to play a little bit more aggressive in certain situations,” interim head coach Mike Yeo said. “But also have a sense of composure and calmness.”
After posting his best save percentage (.923) in his last five starts against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday, goalie Carter Hart got the start in Vegas. For the 12th time this season, Hart faced more than 30 shots in a game. He stopped 41 of 44 shots on goal, keeping the Flyers in the game at several points throughout the night.
In the first period at four-on-four, Hart’s save set the Flyers up for their first goal. On a two-man rush, Reilly Smith flew through the neutral zone, past the blue line, and put a pass on defenseman Nicolas Hague’s backhand low in the slot. However, Hart’s pad and glove instantly met Hague’s shot. Smith attempted to put a rebound on net, but Rasmus Ristolainen cleared the puck from the crease, springing the Flyers for a breakout from their own zone, which would conclude with Hayes’ goal, putting the Flyers up, 1-0 early in the first.
Ristolainen gave Hart another assist on the penalty kill when he blocked a shot from Stone on a wide-open net with less than nine minutes left in the third period.
“We’re all out there to win,” Hart said. “We’re doing whatever it takes to win. Sometimes that’s what it takes is to lay down in front of a puck and just put your body in front and sacrifice your body for the better of the team. And that’s what we were doing tonight.”
The Flyers head south to take on the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Philadelphia) as they complete the final game of a three-game road trip.