OTTAWA, Ontario – Considering he had only one full practice with the Flyers and hadn't played in an NHL game for 10 months, Cal Pickard had a solid debut with his new team Wednesday night.
Pickard made 31 saves – he stopped 20 of 21 shots at even strength – as the Flyers outlasted Ottawa, 7-4, at the Canadian Tire Centre. It was Pickard's first NHL win since April 4, 2017, when he was with hapless Colorado.
"We're happy for him," said Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who was Pickard's Team Canada teammate in the 2017 World Championships. "He's a goalie who battles and competes; he's a goalie you want to play for."
Pickard, 26, plucked off waivers from Toronto on Oct. 2 because of injuries to Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon, made some big early saves that allowed him to get into a flow. He was sharp in the first period, turning aside 13 of 14 shots.
"I got a few shots right off the bat, and it was good to get some early work. I felt good," Pickard said. "It was nice to get out there, play behind the Flyers, and be part of the team. And getting seven goals of support is always nice."
With the Flyers clinging to a 4-3 lead in the dying seconds of the second period, he made perhaps his most critical save of the night, denying Cherry Hill's Bobby Ryan from close range.
"It's a save he stays with. He fights and battles on it, and that was a huge save in the hockey game," coach Dave Hakstol said.
Because starter Brian Elliott, 33, is coming off core-muscle and hip surgeries, his workload figures to be reduced more than in the past. That means Pickard or often-injured Neuvirth, when he is healthy, will play an important role.
Pickard is "very calm, but we obviously have to give him some help on the penalty kill," said defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, whose team allowed three power-play goals in seven chances. "But he played the puck really well and was sound for us back there."
"There's one goal he obviously wants back," said Hakstol, referring to Brady Tkachuk's second-period tally from above the right circle, "but when you haven't been in much of a game rhythm, some of those things are probably going to happen. I can look past that pretty easily and look at the real good saves he made for us."
In parts of four seasons with Colorado and Toronto, Pickard had a 2.78 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. He was superb last season with the AHL's Toronto Marlies, compiling a 2.31 GAA and .918 save percentage.
Now, he is hoping to stay in the NHL.
"He brings a real competitive spirit," Hakstol said.