VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Flyers were less than two minutes away from beating the Vancouver Canucks when Ivan Provorov was sent to the penalty box for tripping.
With the penalty kill unit in front of him, Vancouver native Martin Jones held solid, helping the Flyers to a 2-1 win Thursday night at Rogers Arena.
The Flyers got off to a fast start Thursday night — it took 22 seconds for them to get on the board with a Sean Couturier goal. The Canucks took longer to warm up. It took them a full two minutes to score and tie the game on a goal by Quinn Hughes.
However, the Flyers went on their first of many power plays shortly after, and they started with the man advantage as quickly as they did the game. Ten seconds into the power play, James van Riemsdyk found the back of the net and gave them the lead. While neither team scored a goal for the rest of the first, the period leaned heavily in the Flyers’ favor, with them outshooting the Canucks 15-4.
The momentum shifted early in the second period following a series of Canucks power plays. Although they weren’t able to even the score, they controlled the pace of the game and had 14 unanswered shots on goal.
With a more equal showing in the third period, Jones’ performance during the second period helped the Flyers hold on. Jones finished with 27 saves.
“We found a way to scratch and claw and that’s a highly skilled level team with a lot of quickness,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We were able to take some of that away and when we needed a save, we got a save.”
A special night
Almost immediately after joining the Flyers, Zack MacEwen turned around and went right back to Western Canada for the team’s three-game road trip. In the second game, the former Canuck suited up in Orange and Black and celebrated his return to his native country by dropping the gloves with former Flyer Luke Schenn.
The ensuing fighting and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were just two of many handed out Thursday night. Both teams’ special teams had a lot of practice. Between the two teams, there were 10 power plays and 30 penalty minutes served. While the Flyers were the only ones to score a goal with the man advantage, the power plays served to shift the momentum.
Following MacEwen’s fight, the game abruptly shifted in the Canucks’ favor. They evened the shot count.
“We took five penalties, gave them some momentum,” Vigneault said. “They had some real good looks on their power play.
“Obviously we would prefer to take a few less penalties. Our guys are very aware of that.”
The Flyers survived thanks to another Flyer with a personal connection to Vancouver.
Dressed for homecoming
When Vigneault announced that Jones would be in goal, he said the goalie was going home. Jones is from North Vancouver, and like Carter Hart the night before in his hometown of Edmonton, Jones had a great showing in front of his native city.
“I mean, he let a weak one in,” Giroux joked. “But after that, he shut the door. He gave us a chance to win this game, and we did our best in front of him, especially on the PK, to help him out.”
Although Jones did not face many shots early in the game, he withstood an onslaught during the second period, single-handedly preserving the Flyers’ lead. He finished with a 0.964 save percentage.
“He was an all-star tonight,” Vigneault said. “There’s no doubt that he was a big difference in us getting this win tonight.”
After van Riemsdyk got the power play off to a quick start with a goal at 6 minutes, 58 seconds of the first period, he and his linemates helped hold the team’s lead.
While they had a total of five shots on goal in addition to van Riemsdyk’s goal, much of their work did not appear in the stat sheet. They took care of the puck, helping keep it in the Flyers’ offensive zone. Scott Laughton drew a penalty by making a strong effort to get to the puck. Vigneault said he’s loved their speed and efficiency.
Oskar Lindblom, in particular, has been doing work that many people don’t notice, Couturier said. He’s still “finding his legs,” Vigneault said of Lindblom, after his battle with cancer last season, but they’re seeing him progress each game.
“He just needs to keep going, keep doing that and the bounces eventually will go his way,” Couturier said.
Giroux thinks the same goes for the whole line. So far, Laughton has one goal for the season, van Riemsdyk has one and Lindblom has none, but Giroux can see that changing.
“I can see that line breaking through here very soon,” Giroux said.
The Flyers fly to Calgary on Friday to prepare for their Saturday game against the Flames at 10 p.m. NBC Sports Philadelphia+ will handle the telecast.