ISN'T THAT SPECIAL
Flyers power play and penalty kill dominate in 6-3 victory over Red Wings
DETROIT – For a good 20 minutes Wednesday, the Flyers game went something like this:
Penalty. Penalty. Penalty. Penalty. Penalty. Penalty.
Sure there were a couple of goals mixed in there – one each way, and both immensely important to this game – but that’s not the story. The first part of the story is the Flyers found themselves shorthanded six consecutive times in the same amount of time it takes to play one period.
“We needed to stay out of the penalty box,” coach Craig Berube said. “You can’t go to the box five times in a period and give up five-on-threes. You’re going to get in trouble.”
And the Flyers appeared to be in a lot of trouble, for after Tomas Tatar scored his second goal of the game on a two-man advantage, one that probably shouldn’t have counted as Mikael Samuelsson kicked the puck loose from Steve Mason’s glove to get it to Tatar, the Flyers were in a bit of a jam.
Down two goals, in their own house of horrors (the Flyers had one win in Joe Louis Arena since 1988), and facing the knowledge that they had not won a game all season when trailing after two periods, the specter of the outcome didn’t appear to pleasing.
Then something happened.
Sean Couturier, who has been unstoppable lately for the Flyers, made an instinctual play without looking. He took the puck below the goal line and threw it blindly to the front of the net.
|The Flyers celebrate Claude Giroux's power play goal that tied the game 3-3. THe power play has been successful 30 percent of the time in the last 12 games.
Almost as if he was a Jedi, he knew Matt Read would be there.
Pass on the tape, Read only had to wait until surprised goalie Jimmy Howard went down, before tucking it in for his ninth goal of the season (tied for the team lead by the way).
It only made it a one goal deficit. And yes, there was another penalty that followed, but that’s when the second part of the story was told.
For in the third period, the Flyers were excellent. They scored four times – including twice by Couturier, who had a career-best four-point game, and they won for the first time all season when trailing after the second intermission 6-3.
The win moved them into a virtual tie in points for third place in the Metropolitan Division, which happens to be a playoff position. Yes, the New York Rangers have the tiebreaker for now, but who would’ve thought that less than one month from an embarrassing shutout loss at the Wells Fargo Center to New Jersey that prompted a closed-door, players only meeting that the Flyers would be in this spot at 13-13-2?
But back to the story…
Where to pick it up though? We could talk about the power play (as we did prior to the game on this Website) and how it went 3-for-3 (Now 12-for-40 in the last 12 games – 30 percent) against the No. 2 ranked penalty killing unit in the NHL.
Or we could delve into the Couturier line once again, after all, with a combined Eight points tonight, Couturier, Read and Steve Downie now have 25 points in the last nine games together.
Or we could focus on the penalty kill and the goaltending, which kept the Flyers in the game until the third period outburst.
The guys did a great job killing,” Berube said. “A great job killing.”
Aside from the two-man disadvantage goal that shouldn’t have been allowed, the Flyers were excellent holding Detroit without a goal on the other six tries.
Steve Mason was a big part of it too, finishing with 32 saves as he ran his Flyers start streak to 25 consecutive games without allowing more than three goals in a game.
But the power play was precise too. And, special teams can make all the difference.
Downie scored on the first power play, taking another nice feed from Couturier, skating into the high slot and snapping a shot off defenseman Brian Lashoff and past Howard for his first goal as a Flyer this season (and technically, his first as a Flyer since 2008).
The second power play goal though was proof that the worm had turned in the contest as Claude Giroux rifled a shot from the right circle past Howard to tie the game.
After Couturier scored the game-winner (more on that one coming up) Scott Hartnell took a feed from Giroux on the power play and in a no look, turn around shot went top shelf for his sixth goal of the season.
“It’s a great feeling,” Hartnell said. “We got a big goal late there [in the second period] and we were killing a lot of penalties. You get into dressing room between periods and there was a calm confidence. We knew that if we were going to keep moving our feet there’d be more power plays – and that was the difference.”
Couturier, who on most nights is now playing more minutes than any other Flyers forward, went hard to the net and set up shop in the crease and was able to redirect a Downie pass into the net for the winning goal.
“We’ve been having great chemistry,” Couturier said. “We’re finding each other and creating space for each other out there. We’re keeping it simple, putting pucks on net and creating chances.”
He makes it sound so A-plus-B-equals-C, but that’s how things are clicking for that line right now.
“They have a little bit of everything,” Berube said. “[Couturier] is a big center who plays his position really well. You got some speed with Read who takes the puck wide and has some good hands and then there’s Downie who is strong on the puck and on the walls. He does the little things around the net and makes plays.”
And it’s gotten the Flyers right back into playoff contention – where they felt they should be all along – and they want to see if they can stay there, which is a whole different story yet to be told.
NOTES: Berube wasn’t too happy with a couple penalties after the game: “I know some of the calls were penalties, but I didn’t like Zac Rinaldo’s call. He’s just trying to get the puck and the guy steps on his stick. That’s just a weak call. I can understand making that call when it’s 5-on-5, but it’s already 5-on-4 and you give them a 5-on-3. [Braydon Coburn’s] penalty too. They’re fighting for the puck there and it’s.. I don’t know. To me, when you are down and they give you another one, it’s cheesy, but that’s the way it goes. They’re penalties.”… The six goals was the highest output of the season and most since scoring seven in Montreal last April… Giroux’s goal was his 310th point as a Flyer, moving him past Paul Holmgren for 25th on the Flyers all-time list… It was the Flyers first win this season when allowing more than two goals. They were 0-10 coming in… Berube was asked about not winning in Detroit, and he said he played in the last win in Detroit (prior to 2011) in Nov. 1988. He said he had three points in the game. Then he said to look it up. So I did – and he was a bit off. He played in Detroit the season before in February of 1988 and had a goal and an assist in an 11-6 Flyers win, but he didn’t even play in that November, 1988 game. As a matter of fact, the only three-point game of Berube’s career came in Jan. 1998 when he was a member of the Washington Capitals. He had one goal and two assists in a game against – the Flyers.
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