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Flyers defeat the Rangers in a special teams bonanza

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This was a really entertaining game at the very least.

NHL: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

After another painful loss to the Boston Bruins in Sunday’s Lake Tahoe game, the Flyers returned home to look for a win against the rival Rangers. With Captain Claude Giroux returning from the COVID list and a struggling team in town, Philly looked to get things back on track and break the “curse” of the reverse-retro uniforms. What happened in the game, what were the overarching themes, and who did all the scoring? Read on to find out.

First Period

The Flyers kicked off the game with a bang with a wide-open Ivan Provorov one-timer that went wide of the net, closely followed by a Shayne Gostisbehere chance from in close. Tenacious forechecking from the Giroux/Hayes/Patrick line forced a number of turnovers early, including one that led to an odd man rush and a subsequent netfront scramble. The Rangers responded to this offensive blitz with a high-danger event of their own; Chris Kreider blew past Robert Hägg for a partial breakaway, but Brian Elliott stood tall on the play.

While the top six looked comfortable early, the shorthanded 3rd and 4th lines were another story. The bottom six struggled to establish the forecheck in the first five minutes and were hampered in the neutral zone by turnovers in transition. Despite this, Philly looked dominant overall, racking up shots (whoa, they can do that?) and generally wreaking havoc in front of the net.

The Rangers took a too-much-man penalty to give the Flyers their first powerplay of the game, but the two units struggled to get the Blueshirts to bite. The orange & black saw some success with point shots and speedy controlled entries, but were unable to produce any movement in the penalty kill in order to open up structure. Thankfully, the Flyers continued to crowd the net, and an Erik Gustafsson shot from the point found its way through behind a partial screen from Carson Twarynski to make it 1-0 for the good guys.

Sean Couturier followed the goal with an unfortunate holding penalty, and the Rangers wasted no time making it 1-1 when Kreider dunked a less-than-stellar Elliott rebound off a one-timer. The following minutes saw some pretty uneventful play aside from a Kevin Hayes breakaway that was thwarted by Igor Shesterkin. The 19/13/28 line continued to put in some good work at even strength before Shayne Gostisbehere drew a slashing penalty.

The powerplay began rather poorly, with a questionable decision by Kevin Hayes leading to a Rangers breakaway that Elliott fortunately stopped. Thankfully, the Flyers responded well; a flurry of offense culminated in a Shayne Gostisbehere goal off a juicy rebound, putting Philly up 2-1. Naturally, Nicolas Aube-Kubel felt this was the perfect time to take a holding penalty. The Flyers eventually killed it off, but only thanks to Colin Blackwell whiffing on a wide-open net. The team exited the first period leading and playing some of their best offensive hockey of the season.

Second Period

The Rangers came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders, with Colin Blackwell and Ryan Strome managing a pair of chances early. Sean Couturier responded with a forced turnover in the offensive zone and a shot from in close, but Shesterkin managed to hold off the big pivot. The Flyers went to the powerplay thanks to a Brendan Smith hook on Coots, and the JVR/Farabee tandem made no mistake, putting the Flyers up 3-1.

The Rangers decided they liked the penalty box, so back-to-back infractions (a high stick and delay of game) put the Flyers on a 5-on-3. Even though neither unit managed to put the puck in the back of the net, the powerplay continued to look fast and aggressive, something the team had been missing until this game.

Connor Bunnaman took a lazy interference penalty and immediately paid for it; the Rangers flashed their skill on the powerplay with a blinding sequence of passes that ended in a backdoor dunk by Kreider. The Flyers had some struggles defensively even after the penalty ended, but Brian Elliott continued to stand his ground and kept the Rangers from evening the score. After the top lines stabilized things, the offensive blitz was back on, and Kevin Hayes made no mistake on a short-side beauty to make it 4-2.

The Flyers took over the game in the second period and never really looked back.
Image via Evolving-Hockey.com

The Flyers went back on the powerplay but failed to convert despite some quality puck movement. Carson Twarynski closed the period with a dangerous hit on Ryan Lindgren that sent him to the box for boarding, but the Flyers held the Rangers off the scoresheet heading into the third period.

Third Period

The Flyers were pressed hard to start the third, and they eventually paid for their conservative play. A Colin Blackwell shot turned into a Chris Kreider hat-trick when Phil Myers couldn’t clear the rebound from the crease. Another strong few minutes of play from the Rangers almost produced a tie game, but Brian Elliott made a save that few 35-year-old goalies could, going cross-crease to shut down Adam Fox.

Michael Raffl managed a breakaway thanks to a nice Aube-Kubel check, but the Austrian grinder was kept off the board by Shesterkin. The Flyers went back to the penalty kill thanks to a Joel Farabee slash, but they managed to kill it. Farabee sprung out of the box, but again Shesterkin came up with a huge save. Claude Giroux hit the post on another odd-man rush. Can you tell this was an eventful game?

Claude Giroux tried to finish the game himself with a breakaway, but the captain only managed to draw a penalty while creating a pair of shots. Unfortunately, Philly failed to expand the lead with the opportunity. As the penalty expired, Brian Elliott made a show-stopping save on another partial breakaway.

Farabee had an opportunity for the empty-netter, but he opted to pass and the chance dissipated. The game ended with a penalty (fitting) and the Flyers picked up the 4-3 victory.

Three Big Things

  1. The offense finally seems to be waking up and playing with a good process. After a messy start to the season where the team struggled to get pucks on net, tonight’s game showed that the forward talent on this roster is good enough to completely break a game open, even when it’s depleted. Giroux tallied three assists in his first game back, Nolan Patrick looked the best he had all year, and Sean Couturier continued to dominate. When this team gets healthy, they’ll hopefully be able to dominate like this with all four lines.
  2. The powerplay consistently found a groove for the first time in a while. The Rangers came into this game having allowed just one powerplay goal over their past nine outings; they allowed a pair on the night. Even when the Flyers failed to score, they pushed the pace of play and challenged New York’s structure until it was on the verge of breaking.
  3. Brian Elliott is decidedly a backup, but he continues to play well in a limited role. Of New York’s three tallies on the night, only the first one was really an eyebrow-raiser (and even then, it wasn’t that awful), and the veteran goalie managed to keep the Flyers in the game with a number of crucial stops.

Victory Tunes

That was a fun game, all things considered. Y’know what else is fun? DJ Kool.

Until next time, good night and good hockey, folks. Go Flyers.