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Flyers 4, Golden Knights 1: 10 things we learned from a franchise first in Sin City

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Some observations from a Philly takeover in Vegas.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers spotted the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead, but stormed back to score four unanswered goals to earn their first ever win against the new franchise in Vegas on Sunday night.

It was far from pretty, but here are 10 things, in no particular order, that we learned from the Flyers’ 4-1 win in Vegas.

Couturier continues to be en fuego

The Flyers’ top pivot had another dominant game on Sunday night in Vegas, and that has just become the norm for the 25-year-old. He had a hand in each of the Flyers’ three non-empty net tallies with a goal and two assists on the night, he won 10 of 17 faceoffs, and he was his usual sound defensive self.

His two assists were both outstanding, but in very different ways. First, he either luckily or smartly banked a shot off Andrew MacDonald’s skate to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead. Couturier navigated himself to open ice in front of the Vegas net and made himself available for the pass from Travis Konecny.

Later in the second period, on the Giroux goal, Couturier drove the net with a power move to create a rebound rebound for Claude Giroux to ram home to make it 3-1. Couturier took on the defender aggressively and was rewarded.

The man is just scorching right now and man is it fun to watch.

Michal Neuvirth was ridiculous

On a night where the Flyers coach Dave Hakstol needed good to great goaltending to earn points, Michal Neuvirth found a way to be even better.

Neuvirth, who became the first NHL goalie to earn a shootout win in relief on Saturday, was outstanding in turning aside 38 of 39 shots on Sunday night. The Flyers were given the run-around for much of the game by Vegas, who badly outshot and out-chanced the Flyers but were unable to solve the man wearing the big pads.

The Flyers’ netminder stood tall long enough for the Flyers to find enough offense to back him up and they were able to do just that with a quick three minute stretch to end the second period that saw them score twice.

Neuvirth was outstanding in relief of Brian Elliott on Saturday night and he carried that momentum into Vegas, and boy, did the Flyers ever need it against the Golden Knights.

Flyers score twice in final 2:58 of second, steal momentum

Up until the tail end of the second period the Flyers were getting their own tails kicked. Vegas controlled shots 27-14 through two periods. But it was the Flyers who were more opportunistic with their chances.

First it was the Couturier line with a good shift that started with a near goal from Travis Konecny on a coast-to-coast rush. He wouldn’t score, but would find Couturier in front for a shot that glanced off Andrew MacDonald’s skate and in to give the Flyers their first lead at 2-1 with just under three minutes left in the second.

But the Flyers weren’t done there, and neither was Couturier. The center decided on one final rush as he got the puck near center ice and drove hard at the Vegas defense. His move paid off and his weak shot found the pad of Marc-Andre Fleury and went right to the tape of Claude Giroux, who put home the rebound.

Scoring with six seconds left in a period was a huge boon and a deflating moment for the Golden Knights when all was said and done. If Couturier doesn’t start that rush, who knows if the Flyers would have been able to hold on.

Top trio does it again

There may not be a better line in hockey right now that Giroux, Couturier, and Konecny, and if there is, then that group has to at least be on the shortlist.

Another night and another seven points piled up for the Flyers’ ever-dangerous trio that has taken off ever since being assembled by Dave Hakstol. The Flyers’ first goal tied the game and was a thing of beauty as the three men hooked up for a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play that couldn’t have been drawn up any better.

Konecny was flying all night and picked up the secondary assist on the MacDonald goal, and the primary assist on a gorgeous feed to Couturier late in the first period. The second-year forward was all over the ice and has taken his game to new heights with six points in his last five games (all helpers).

Flyers make two-goal lead stick

The Flyers haven’t played all that well with leads this season, and have seen both aggressive and passive styles get them into trouble when leading.

That wasn’t the case on Sunday night, as the Flyers found a nice balance between working pucks in the offensive zone and hemming themselves in their own zone under siege.

Early on, the plan was clearly to get pucks deep. Once pucks got deep the Flyers could setup their forecheck and pinch their defense to tighten up space in the neutral zone for Vegas. Once time and space for the Golden Knights was taken away, the Flyers started to get some good cycle game going with the big bodies of Jake Voracek and Michael Raffl shielding the puck behind the Vegas net.

It ended up looking like a master plan, as Vegas’ speed wasn’t as evident as the third progressed and many of their shots were from bad angles that did little to worry the locked-in Neuvirth.

The Flyers found a nice middle ground in this one between simply surviving the third period with a lead on the second half of a back-to-back and trying to generate their own offensive push in order to protect their lead.

Go ahead and throw out the advanced metrics for this one, folks

Nobody should ever hate more ways to evaluate a hockey game, but some games just can’t be explained through data and that’s what we had in this one.

The Flyers were mauled in every possession category, every expected goals category and shots generated category. Heck they were even dominated in the traditional box score nearly everywhere but the final score.

We see it a lot where the Flyers will dominate a game and suffer some crushing defeat, but this was one where they were on the other end of things and made the most of their limited chances to bring home a massive win and two points.

Vegas is for real

Though a 4-1 final doesn’t show it, the Golden Knights are a force to be reckoned with right now in the Western Conference. Watching them live shows that they’re no fluke.

Vegas is a deep team that can roll all four lines and three defense pairs in any situation and plays a high-pressure style that takes advantage of their speed and depth. For large stretches of game time the Golden Knights would beat Flyers to the puck and maintain possession through sometimes multiple line changes.

Vegas carried play for much of this game and were unlucky not to earn at least a point in a type of game like this that they dominate. The good news is that for them it’s just one game and they’re still a virtual lock to make the postseason and have a chance to do some major party crashing out west.

Bellmare eats his words, kind of

The Flyers declined to protect Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in the expansion draft this summer and the veteran forward ended up in Vegas.

He told reporters this week that he’d have show his former club they should have protected him, but didn’t have one of his better games. Bellemare blew a two-on-none scoring chance with a blind pass to nobody in particular in the first just after Vegas grabbed the first goal, and a second there would have been a killer for the Flyers.

Then, on the Flyers’ third goal, Bellemare was late getting back and marking Claude Giroux, who buried a rebound off a Sean Couturier net drive to put the Flyers up 3-1 very late in the second on a goal that really sapped all of Vegas’ momentum.

The Andrew MacDonald bashing takes a night off

Nobody might dislike what MacDonald brings on the ice more than I do, but even I can admit that he had himself a nice little game on Sunday night.

Besides scoring what ended up being the game-winning goal, MacDonald was second in ice-time to Ivan Provorov, was out on the ice for two Flyers goals, and held his own against an aggressive Vegas forward group. He was in great position drawing a defender when Couturier’s shot hit his skate and into the net.

MacDonald is far from perfect, but on nights where he keeps things simple in his own zone and limits the turnovers, he can be just fine. Now if we could just get Hakstol to get his minutes down into that third pair range we’d be cooking.

So about those E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES chants

Yeah, to hear that chant —multiple times— throughout the game very clearly through the TV broadcast was damn cool. There was a large contingent of Flyers fans that made the trip to Vegas and the T-Mobile Center for this one and you could definitely feel their presence.

The Eagles are World Champions and the Flyers haven’t lost since. Coincidence? I think not.