Claude Giroux, Cal Pickard lead Flyers past Coyotes, complete 3-0-1 trip
Cal Pickard, playing because of an injury to Brian Elliott, excelled in the net as the Flyers defeated Arizona to finish a 3-0-1 west coast road trip.
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Flyers regained their mojo out West.
They finished a 3-0-1 road trip by snapping the Arizona Coyotes' five-game winning streak Monday with a 5-2 victory at the sparsely filled Gila River Arena.
Goalie Cal Pickard, playing because of an injury to Brian Elliott, stopped 35 of 37 shots, and Claude Giroux had a pair of goals and an assist as the Flyers evened their record at 7-7-1.
"Before the road trip, we thought this could be a good thing for us," said Giroux, whose team went out West after an embarrassing 6-1 home loss to the Islanders. "Get on the same page, play as a team. We did a really good job of that."
The Flyers tightened their defense dramatically on the trip and outscored their four opponents, 16-10. They scored five goals against the league's stingiest defensive team, Arizona.
Taking a slick pass from Wayne Simmonds, Giroux scored on a forehand-backhand move to give the Flyers a 4-1 cushion with 13 minutes, 25 seconds left in regulation.
With just under six minutes remaining, Michael Grabner sliced the deficit to 4-2 on a shot that appeared to deflect off a Flyer in front, but Oskar Lindblom added an empty-net goal with 1:49 to go.
The Flyers got a gift goal late in the second period to take a 3-1 lead. Sean Couturier was the beneficiary.
A loose puck caromed to Couturier in the right circle with 2:55 left in the second, and the Flyers' center scored into an empty net — empty because goalie Darcy Kuemper collided with teammate Grabner on the side of the goal and couldn't get back in time.
"At first, I was looking to make a pass. I wasn't expecting an open net," said Couturier after collecting two points, firing five shots, and winning 69 percent of his faceoffs. "Once I saw it was open I just shot as hard as I could."
Pickard made key saves on high-quality chances by Clayton Keller (spin-around shot from the slot), Brendan Perlini (point-blank from deep inside the left circle), and Derek Stepan from the doorstep in the second period.
"It's good to get in a rhythm, for sure," Pickard said of playing in the last two games. "I'm starting to get a little more comfortable, and I think my last two were my best so far."
The Coyotes had gotten to within 2-1 earlier in the second.
The Flyers have tried numerous players on their penalty kill in the first 15 games, but it doesn't seem to matter. Not much works.
Fifteen seconds into their first power play of the night, the Coyotes cashed in. With Christian Fischer screening Pickard, Alex Galchenyuk scored from the right circle, cutting the Flyers' lead to 2-1 with 18:46 left in the second period.
First-period goals by Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere (two points, six shots) staked the Flyers to a 2-0 lead.
With 7:26 left in the first, Giroux took a pass from Couturier and scored from the high slot after both teams took turns giving away the puck. Travis Konecny set a screen in front of Kuemper, and Giroux's shot also sneaked past a pair of defenders. (Konecny went to the locker room in the third period after a hit by Kevin Connauton, but he returned late in the game.)
The Flyers scored first in all four games on the trip – after allowing the opening goal in 10 of the first 11 games.
"You can control the game a little more when you have the lead," said Giroux, who now has six goals. "At home early this season, we weren't getting the first goal and then we're just chasing the whole game."
Added Giroux: "They came at us hard (at the start.) That's their game and they've been very successful lately because they put a lot of pressure on teams and they get chances out of it."
When they had first-period opportunities, Pickard bailed them out.
"He did the same job as he did for us in San Jose," said coach Dave Hakstol, referring to Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss, a game in which Pickard was outstanding before allowing a goal late in regulation. "He's a battler. He did that right from the drop of the puck (Monday). There were spots in that game where he made key saves and that's what you need from your goaltender."
With 50 seconds remaining in the first, Gostisbehere's point drive deflected off Stepan's stick and past Kuemper while the Flyers were on the power play. Arizona entered the night with the league's best penalty kill (92.1 percent success rate) and had scored shorthanded goals in four consecutive games.
"I've seen it first hand," former Flyer Nick Cousins, now an Arizona left winger, said of the Flyers' power play. "They've been together for a while and they read off each other pretty well.
The Flyers' power play has struggled, however, and was in a 1 for 18 funk before Gostisbehere scored his second goal of the season.
The Flyers began their trip with hard-earned wins in Anaheim and Los Angeles, then lost a late lead and dropped a 4-3 overtime decision at San Jose. They will begin a season-high five-game homestand Thursday against the same Coyotes.
There was lots of chippy play at the end of Monday's game and don't be surprised if that carries into Thursday.
The Flyers never trailed on the trip other than after San Jose's overtime goal….The Flyers blocked 22 shots, including four by physical defenseman Christian Folin (plus-2), who now leads the Flyers with a plus-6 rating…..Lindblom and Nolan Patrick each had six points during the four-game trip. Before scoring the empty-net goal, Lindblom missed some time in the third period after blocking a shot with his foot and going to the locker room.