This time, the Flyers showed up with some moxy.
This time, they engaged in puck battles, initiated contact, and made their presence felt in scrums.
This time, they didn’t go away quietly.
Friday night at Wells Fargo Center saw a different Flyers club during a 2-1 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils
Claude Giroux scored the game-winner.
“Competitive,” Max Talbot offered. “And we played a smarter game after getting caught quite a bit in Jersey. Not only we played hard but smart.
“This was a must-win. We lost the last one. Tonight was about coming back and staying in the race.”
The Flyers remain seeded 11th in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff berth.
Though shootouts are goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s nightmare, the tall Russian had a key poke check on David Clarkson in the shootout. He is now 4-6 lifetime with the Flyers in shootouts and 1-1 this season.
Bryz had 27 saves.
“There were some more tricky shots early on in the game and we gave up a couple of good scoring chances in the third plus the 5-on-3 opportunity,” coach Peter Laviolette said of his goalie. “Throughout the game, he was terrific.”
Laviolette changed up three lines and the result was a very strong game from Talbot’s unit with Matt Read and Simon Gagne. Past losses aside, Gagne has been a top-six forward on this club since his arrival.
“Since I’ve been here, most of the time, we win the game by three goals or you lose by four or five goals,” Gagne said.
“You need to play those tight games and tonight was the step in the right direction. We had to go to the shootout to get those two points but that’s what we have to do.
“Do your job. The goalie did his job at the end.”
This was also the Flyers' first win (1-5) when tied after two periods.
“That’s something we talked about, as well, when the game is tied or we're down a goal and we need a goal,” Talbot said.
“Stay patient. Don’t go off [on your own]. Tonight was the best example. We waited and played smart and did the right things.”
The Devils seemed to have a burr up their spines at the start of the third period as they came out pretty hard. A couple saves from Bryzgalov and a sliding block by Kimmo Timonen to break up a 2-on-1 pass kept it at 1-1.
The Flyers had two power plays after that and did nothing with them against goalie Johan Hedberg.
Brayden Schenn’s unnecessary charging call on Peter Harrold left them shorthanded the final 1:42 of regulation, but they survived and then had a wild overtime where Scott Hartnell had two chances.
Laviolette said the mood in the dressing room prior to the game was very good. No doubt it was partially influenced by general manager Paul Holmgren’s rant on Thursday morning with the Flyers (see story).
Holmgren played the part of Teddy Roosevelt with a hockey stick, talking about winning puck battles after the 5-2 loss in Newark on Wednesday.
“It can be effective,” Laviolette said of the tongue-lashing the GM gave. “Through the course of times, probably a lot of cases where it has been effective.
“I thought it was better [tonight]. Positionally, we were a lot better and competitively we were a lot better.”
This time, they genuinely competed.
“We have to show the right attitude,” Gagne said. “Be positive. Don't be negative. Don't be yelling at guys more. Find a way even if we do mistakes. You don't want to be negative.
“You want to stay positive and show the right attitude as a veteran. If we stay like that, I think the younger guys will play better.”
Though they were outshot 4-1 early, the Flyers at least had jump in their skates and were moving their legs in what was a rather chippy period.
You know the story in hockey. Come off a great penalty kill and you use the momentum to generate offense.
That’s what happened when the Flyers had a 5-on-3 Devils power play to kill for 1:32 past the midway point of the period.
Talbot and Nicklas Grossmann were outstanding during that kill. Talbot said the key to it was taking away Ilya Kovalchuk’s shot from distance and clogging up lanes.
Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias each had shots blocked while Bryzgalov twice had saves on David Clarkson.
Fans gave them a well-deserved ovation when the kill was over and the Flyers responded with Talbot scoring his third goal of the season at 15:21.
Credit there goes to Gagne, who patiently came into the zone on an odd-man rush, drew Hedberg out of the net, then ripped a diagonal pass through the slot to Talbot at the right post.
“I could have taken the shot, but I saw Max by himself on the side of the net so I decided to make a pass to him,” Gagne said. “I knew he was good enough to put that in. It was a good feeling to get that first goal for us.”
Talbot had to settle the puck with his skate, but still had time to put the puck into an empty net for his second goal in three games.
“We had a 3-on-2 and Reader [Read] made a great play to Gags [Gagne],” Talbot said. “Obviously, Gags took the goalie with him and gave the puck to me back door and I shot it and put it in.”
Patience worked there.
“It's not just patience,” Danny Briere said. “It was a big component I think in our game. Obviously I thought we played better winning battles. We did a much better job.
“We were hungrier. You've got to give Bryz a lot of credit. I think the turnover of the game was that 5-on-3 early in the game. Being able to kill that was huge.”
Clarkson, who always seems to have a good game against the Flyers, broke his 13-game goal drought at 6:09 of the second period to tie the game.
Clarkson fought off Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn in the slot to get a difficult redirect on Bryzgalov, who was screened by both players.
Bryzgalov had a double key save in overtime on Marek Zidlicky and Elias, trapping the puck under himself, spread eagle on the ice.
“It’s nice to see us finally win a shootout,” Briere said. “To get it done, it’s been a frustrating part of our game the last few years. We’ll take it.”
This time, the Flyers showed up with some moxy.