After losing the last two games in embarrassing fashion and a back-to-back set of matinee games the Flyers welcomed former head coach Peter Laviolette and the Nashville Predators to the Wells Fargo Center. The Predators were coming off of a loss on Thursday night to the Islanders and hadn't lost back-to-back games all year. With a bitter ending to his tenure here in Philadelphia, it seemed like Laviolette's team would put a world of hurt on the Flyers in this Saturday matinee.
The temperature outside was falling, as was the snow. I hope you were able to put on your Kashmir sweater as the Flyers picked up the pace early on to start this game. The new look top line of Michael Raffl, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds made its mark early on in the game as Simmonds deflected a Michael Del Zotto shot past Pekka Rinne for the goal. The goal was similar to the one scored on Thursday by Simmonds as the puck bounced before going up and over the left shoulder of Rinne for a 1-0 Flyers lead.
The Flyers kept at it after the goal with a few more great chances in close on Rinne. Pekka gobbled up all the pucks however, like a selfish child during an easter egg hunt, and wouldn't allow another one of the Flyers' 13 first period shots to get past him. On the other end, Rob Zepp didn't see many pucks shot his way in the first period. Unfortunately for Zepp, of the three shots on goal that the Predators had, one of them found its way off of Braydon Coburn's stick and into the net. A bad breakout pass by Del Zotto found the stick of a waiting Colin Wilson who entered the zone and fired a shot from the circle that deflected off Coburn and into the net. After essentially dominating the first period, the Flyers headed to the locker room tied at one.
The second period opened up with a Flyers power play continued from a late slashing penalty by Shea Weber, but the Flyers couldn't convert. Minutes later Chris Vandevelde was defending the puck along the boards when his elbow made contact with a Predators' head and he headed to the box. VandeVelde wasn't alone in the box though, his good friend Zac Rinaldo who made his return to the lineup today also joined him. Rinaldo was given a 10 minute misconduct for mouthing off, which is probably the most productive thing he could do at this point on the ice.
Nashville couldn't score on the ensuing power play as the Flyers penalty kill continued its improved play. Later in the period a strong forecheck by Ryan White and R.J. Umberger lead to another Flyers goal for this new line. Umberger and Schenn both got assists on White's goal, his second in as many games as the Flyers retook the lead 2-1. The Flyers continued to put pressure on the Predators but couldn't put anything past Rinne and headed to the locker room with a one goal lead against a great team.
The whole "leading after two periods" almost shouldn't even count, because the Predators came out in the third and scored just 23 seconds into the period. Craig Smith's shot beat Zepp five-hole and the game was once again tied. This time the rest of the period was controlled mostly by the Predators. After totaling just seven shots on goal through two periods the Preds threw 10 shots at Zepp in the third, and Zepp stopped nine of them. The Flyers killed off another big penalty more than halfway through the period after Andrew MacDonald was called for hooking. Zepp and company were able to thwart the rest of Nashville's attempts in regulation, and the game headed to this foreign concept of "overtime".
Neither team really got much going in this extra session, with the best chance probably coming off a Flyers' stick back into Zepp after a communication breakdown. Surprise, surprise, another shootout.
Jakub Voracek shot first for the Flyers who displayed a beautiful set of hands and patience as he roofed one top shelf on the backhand attempt. Zepp then out-waited the Predators' first shooter, and it was Simmonds' turn. Simmonds had recently connected on three of his four attempts this season, including two shootout winners. Wayne waited but didn't deke this time, instead he opted to shoot a wicked wrister past Rinne. Zepp came up with a great glove save for the win and a nifty celebration by Zepp highlighted a great game.
Gibble Me This:
- The Flyers playoff chances looked like they were crushed and climbing the stairway to heaven after the last two defeats. This win will keep them alive, for now. I hate being optimistic at all, but I can't quit you Flyers.
- Rinne played great and was able to keep the Flyers to just two goals. When the levee breaks you might be able to get more past him, but it didn't this game.
- I gotta whole lotta love for Rob Zepp after that brilliant shootout performance.
- Zac Rinaldo's boneheaded penalty will hopefully have Craig saying "babe, i'm gonna leave you" once and for all. His decision to play him at all left me dazed and confused.
- Del Zotto's communication breakdown that lead to the first Nashville goal was caused by Laviolette's great neutral zone system.
- Craig Berube shuffled his lines and pairings this game, and it paid off. Simmonds looked great with Giroux and Raffl as they controlled possession throughout the game. Hoping this line can ramble on.
- Coburn and Del Zotto also meshed very well. They were able to play top minutes with a partner that they could count on which probably prompted a big "thank you" to their coach.
- The new second line has good pieces, but it might take a little bit of time for Read and Couturier to find chemistry with Voracek. I'm not sure how many more times it'll take.
- A third pairing of Grossmann and MacDonald looked predictably bad. MacDonald's contract is making Hextall look more and more like a fool in the rain.
- James Neal took a slashing penalty in the second period because of course he did. It almost looked like achilles last stand.
- The Flyers are now four points behind the Bruins who play in Chicago tomorrow. They no longer look over the hills and far away.
- Led Zeppelin.