Philadelphia Flyers fans were given a chance to celebrate the career of Kimmo Timonen tonight at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers players were far more concerned with dominating the defending champions.
Michal Neuvirth posted his second consecutive shutout as the Flyers both outplayed and outscored the Chicago Blackhawks for a 3-0 victory. Particularly in the third period against a late barrage, Neuvirth was stellar, flashing a quick glove and expert positioning. His big stop on Marian Hossa after the future Hall of Fame forward torched Matt Read on a rush was just one of many huge saves.
As they did in the opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Flyers skated with a Stanley Cup contender right from the start. While neither team was able to get on the board in the first period, Philadelphia got the better of play in terms of puck possession and scoring chances. Claude Giroux rang one off the post during an early power play, and Sean Couturier misplayed a glorious chance in the slot later in the period.
But their hard work would be rewarded quickly in the second. After Brayden Schenn drew a high-sticking penalty in the neutral zone, the new-and-improved Philadelphia second power play unit finally beat Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. It was Sam Gagner who did the honors, fooling Crawford high from the right faceoff circle for his first goal as a Flyer. Michael Del Zotto and Brayden Schenn earned the assists.
Philadelphia didn't stop there. After withstanding a few minutes of heavy Chicago pressure immediately following Gagner's goal, Philadelphia drew two penalties to help stem the tide, and then killed a penalty of their own. Once the game moved back to even strength, the Flyers were back in form and pushing to extend their lead. It was Giroux who finally broke through, collecting a loose puck on the doorstep and flipping it past Crawford to make the score 2-0.
Chicago turned the tide in the third, dominating the first half of the period with an aggressive forecheck used to combat the Flyers' neutral zone pressure. But Neuvirth was up to the task, helped by the clean sight lanes provided by his defensemen. Philadelphia's defense tightened up as the period progressed, and they were even able to extend the lead to three before the final buzzer, courtesy of a Matt Read rebound goal.
The Flyers enter their first extended break on the season with three strong performances and only one clunker to their record. After grabbing three points from expected contenders Tampa Bay and Chicago, it's fair to wonder if the roster tweaks by Ron Hextall and the system adjustments by Dave Hakstol may have been enough to make Philadelphia a legitimate playoff threat. For now, the team will enter the five-day break satisfied with their play and confident in their new coach and new players.
Morning observations and analysis from last night's game can be found here.
Comment of the Night
You know who has as many points this season as Crosby?
Literally anyone. Anyone in the world.