Michael Raffl opened the scoring with his second goal of the season in the first period. (USA Today Images)
Craig Berube wanted to try something new for Thursday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.
Why not stick Michael Raffl on the Flyers’ top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek? Well, it worked out just fine.
Raffl and Giroux scored and Voracek registered the primary assist on both goals to help the Flyers snap a three-game skid with a 2-1 victory over the Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
“He’s a quick player,” Berube said of Raffl. “He’s strong on the puck. He’s getting more pucks on the net, not missing the net so much. I just thought I’d try it.”
There seemed to be some chemistry between Giroux, Raffl and Voracek. The trio was constantly buzzing in the offensive zone and combined for 10 of the Flyers’ 27 shots on Canadiens netminder Carey Price.
“We can’t judge chemistry on one game,” Voracek said. “But I’m happy. I think we played solid and that’s important.”
Voracek fed Raffl with a brilliant pass at the 13:57 mark of the first period that led to the Flyers’ first goal of the game (see 10 observations).
It was on a play that Voracek had talked to Raffl about before they took the ice.
“He’s got speed and a good shot,” Voracek said. “I told him before the game to just hang around in the slot and me and [Giroux] will try to feed him in the slot and he had a couple good chances. He buried the first goal. I think he had a great game.”
The addition of Raffl to the top line came one night after the Flyers were embarrassed by the Chicago Blackhawks, 7-2, at the Madhouse on Madison. That loss dropped the orange and black to 2-3-1 on their road trip, leaving a sour taste for the Flyers and making a flight home from Chicago seem even longer.
“I think there’s a lot of character in the room,” Berube said. “They certainly weren’t happy about that loss in Chicago because they wanted to show that they could compete with that team. It didn’t work out the way they wanted to do.
“There’s a lot of character and it’s a good win tonight. They showed up and played a good game.”
Steve Mason, who fell just short of his second shutout of the season after Alex Galchenyuk scored with 55 seconds remaining, mirrored what his coach said after the game.
“It’s a big comeback game for us,” Mason said. ”We got in late last night after a long trip. To be able to come out with that kind of all-around game and really not giving them much the entire 60 minutes, it was a character win.”
Mason was not really tested often against Montreal, but he was sharp nonetheless. He made 20 saves and improved to 11-9-3 this season.
It was an important game for the Flyers’ netminder. Both Mason and Ray Emery had combined to allow 16 goals in the Flyers’ previous three games.
Mason, as usual, credited his teammates for the win.
“It was a great overall defensive effort,” Mason said. “Guys were really working hard in the backcheck. Not giving them opportunities to make plays off the rush because they are such a fast team. The guys did a really great job.”
A major key for the Flyers against Montreal was that they were able to stay disciplined.
Sean Couturier took the Flyers’ only penalty of the game -- a two-minute minor for high-sticking in the first period -- which the team had no problem killing off.
“We’re learning the hard way after Chicago,” Giroux said. “For us to stay out of the box, the momentum stays on our side. We did have that penalty kill and we did a good job.”
Giroux scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal against the Canadiens. He took a nice pass from Voracek while rushing down the wing and fired a wicked wrister past Price that sent Flyers fans into a frenzy.
“It was pretty exciting to play at home again,” Giroux said. “It’s been way too long. To play in front of our fans, it’s always a little boost. We’re right back on the road so we got to make sure we’re ready for Washington.”
The Flyers will have two days off before traveling to Washington to open a home-and-home with the Capitals. The back-end of that series will be played Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Trying to stop Alex Ovechkin will be no easy task. The Russian sniper has five markers in his last three games and leads the NHL in goals with 26.
For now, the Flyers are happy just to get back in the win column.
“I think we did a very good job five on five today,” Voracek said. “Special teams obviously didn’t work out very well, but after that long road trip we’ll take the two points.”