Scott Hartnell went just 1 for 7 on the power play in Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Maple Leafs. (USA Today Images)
Updated: 11:42 p.m.
They had energy. They were sharp much of the game. As was their goalie, Steve Mason.
The only troubling carryover from exhibition play that doomed the Flyers in their season opener Wednesday night against Toronto was … their power play.
Seven opportunities. One goal. Thirteen scoring chances.
“Yeah, we had our chances,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux after a 3-1 loss. “(Jonathan) Bernier played well but we had the offense. It’s a tough loss but we did a lot of good things out there and most of the game, we dominated.”
Bernier -- 31 saves -- was superb in goal, even denying Wayne Simmonds on a penalty shot.
The goals on Mason weren’t his fault. Two saw breakdowns in front of him. Did we mention he became the eighth different starting goalie for the Flyers in the past 11 seasons?
“You make the initial save and do your best to get into position for the next shot,” Mason said. “They made some good plays on rebounds.”
This was a back-to-back for Toronto, which was without one of its top forwards -- David Clarkson (suspension). The Leafs were very strong in the final period. Once they took the lead, they hunkered down.
“It's never easy to come into this building, especially on a back-to-back,” Bernier said. “We got in to a little bit of a PK problem but we came back from it, and that's what a good team does.”
Dave Bolland broke a 1-1 tie just 2:30 into the third period with an uncontested shot on Mason as Matt Read pretty much lost sight of him in the slot.
The Flyers then had consecutive power plays, failed and visibly sagged as Toronto’s PK momentum kicked in.
“Yeah, it seemed after that it wasn’t like the first period,” Vinny Lecavalier said. “We had trouble getting in there and keeping position. They played back more when they went up 2-1. They played a good road game.”
There were a couple of surprises in this one.
Jakub Voracek, who spent time in practice on the third line this week, stayed there working with Sean Couturier and Max Talbot.
His spot on the top line with Scott Hartnell and Giroux was taken by Brayden Schenn.
“We’re trying to get a balance on scoring throughout [the lineup],” explained coach Peter Laviolette. “We threw 75 attempts at the net and 30-plus shots. You’d like to walk away with more than one goal.
“Having Brayden up there and trying to get him going, I thought he played good on that line. That line generated some chances. Again, you’d like to see one or two of them drop in on five-on-five.”
Poor opening periods have been the Flyers' nemesis during the regular season in past years, but that wasn’t the case here.
Despite being outshot early, they rallied off a couple of very strong power plays and had the puck in Toronto’s end most of the opening period.
So dominant were the Flyers early, that Toronto went 12:13 without a shot.
“Defensively, we were responsible,” Giroux said.
Hartnell, in perhaps the best shape of his life as a Flyer, had an excellent chance off the rush that period on a pass from Giroux, but his quick redirect kissed the left post. He had seven attempts at the net in the game, yet just one official shot.
Actually, the Flyers had a number of good scoring chances and were finally rewarded on their third power play of the game with 6.9 seconds left in the period.
Schenn, who had briefly fought Joffrey Lupul (check on Giroux), got out of the box in time to camp out in the slot. Lecavalier sent him the puck from behind the net, and Schenn one-timed it past Bernier.
“Anytime you score a goal and help contribute to the team is obviously a plus and a bonus,” Schenn said. “There was some pretty nifty work by Vinny down low, which just goes to show you how good he is.”
Mason had a very strong second period, facing nine shots, and he nearly escaped unscathed. He stopped Lupul in the crease around the 12-minute mark, had a nice kick save on Phil Kessel after Kimmo Timonen turned it over at the blue line and two stops on Bolland.
Kessel, however, seemed determined to score after that save and put in a late rebound to tie it. That goal began with a bad, errant long pass by Max Talbot in neutral ice that quickly got turned back up on the Flyers.
To make matters worse, Talbot didn’t get back quick enough and defenseman Nick Grossmann got tangled up with Nazem Kadri after Dion Phaneuf’s shot became the rebound for Kessel.
Still, the Flyers caught a break with 3.1 seconds left as Simmonds stole a puck for a breakaway and was awarded a debatable penalty shot after being tripped by Paul Ranger.
Simmonds attacked Bernier with a weaving attempt to get him moving, then tried to go five-hole and was denied.
“It would have been the difference in the game I think,” Simmonds said.
Not as much as the failed power play chances.