Flyers storm past Avalanche
No Marty Biron? No problem.
No Marty Biron? No problem.
Backup goalie Antero Niittymaki, subbing for the flu-ridden Biron, stopped 29 shots, and the Flyers' power play continued to dominate as they defeated the Colorado Avalanche, 5-2, tonight at the Wachovia Center.
The Flyers got power-play goals from Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne as they won their fifth straight game and raised their record to 13-1-3 in their last 17 contests.
In their last seven games, the Flyers are an eye-opening 14 for 33 on the power play, a 42.4 percent success rate.
The power play had been just 3 for 28 in the Flyers' first five games, a success rate of 10.7 percent.
"At the beginning of the year, we weren't doing a whole lot of things right. We were trying to push offense too much," said Mike Richards, who had a stranger-than-fiction goal and two assists tonight.
"To tell you the truth, I think we thought it was going to be too easy after last year's playoff run," he said. "We were just getting outworked. Now we are starting to work a little bit harder and we are getting some bounces, and the wins are coming."
Colorado had won five straight games against the Flyers since 2002.
The Flyers played Colorado for the first time since the Avalanche handed them a 5-2 loss on Oct. 16. After the game, coach John Stevens called the Flyers' effort "unacceptable" and the captains called a players-only meeting that turned around the season.
The Flyers were 0-3-1 at the time. Since then, they are 17-4-5.
Colorado, coming off a 3-2 upset of the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings on Monday, took a 1-0 lead on Paul Stastny's power-play goal midway through the first period.
Just six seconds after Darroll Powe was called for hooking, Richards won a face-off, but the puck went off the back boards and trickled past Flyers defensemen Ossi Vaananen and Kimmo Timonen - each of whom was tied up by a Colorado player - and caromed to Stastny in front. Stastny tapped it into an open net.
A little over two minutes later, the Flyers tied the game on a power-play goal of their own. That gave them five goals in their last seven power-play chances.
Richards patiently held the puck as he skated through the left circle. As he reached the goal line, he fired a pass out front that Knuble knocked into the net for his 100th goal as a Flyer.
"We had a bouncing puck out there," said Knuble, who has 201 career goals. "Everybody started getting out of position and started circling around, and that is when a power play can be dangerous.
"I kept my stick on the ice and [Richards] snapped an incredibly hard pass right on my tape, and all I had to do was shovel it toward the net."
The Flyers took a 2-1 lead in the first period on a pretty two-on-one in which Jeff Carter scored on a one-timer after taking a perfect pass from Gagne.
It was the Flyers' NHL-leading 12th shorthanded goal. Last season, they had 13 shorthanded goals in the entire campaign.
"Just being aggressive on our opportunities," Carter said after scoring his 22d goal of the season.
Joffrey Lupul, reenergized since being moved to Carter's line, made a deft stop-spin move to get Daniel Tjarnqvist to skate past him, then fired a right-circle shot just underneath the crossbar to give the Flyers a 3-1 lead with 8 minutes, 36 seconds left in the middle period.
A little over a minute later, Richards scored one of the most bizarre goals of his career.
The Flyers' captain took a shot from the slot that sailed off the glass, then bounced ever so slowly off the top of the net and crossbar before glancing off the back of goalie Peter Budaj's glove and into the net.
That gave the Flyers a 4-1 lead, but Colorado got to within 4-2 as David Jones deflected a point shot into the net with 1:21 left in the second period.
Gagne concluded the scoring with a power-play goal at 2:14 of the final period.