Michael Raffl's first shootout attempt turned into a goal and a 4-3 win for the Flyers. (USA Today Images)
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Michael Raffl was getting ready to take his helmet off so he could get a better view of the Flyers’ impending shootout against the Oilers. And then he heard the coach call his name.
The rookie winger had never taken part in an NHL shootout before. He’d never faced ex-Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. But coach Craig Berube called his name nonetheless, and as the final player to take a turn Saturday night, he scored the goal that won the game for the Flyers, 4-3 (see Instant Replay).
“It’s always nice to score a goal,” Raffl said. “It is a nice feeling. To get the win, it’s even better.”
The Flyers hadn’t had the best time on the shootout this year, carrying a 2-3 record into Rexall Place. Goalie Steve Mason has been solid, but they haven’t found a way to score with any consistency.
Saturday night, Vinny Lecavalier couldn’t connect on his shootout chance. Claude Giroux scored on his. Then it all came down to the rookie Raffl.
And for whatever reason, Berube had faith he could get the job done.
“I don’t know, sometimes you just make decisions,” Berube said. “But I’ve talked to him before about generally going up and asking him. But I’ve heard he’s good at shootouts, and he’s a confident kid. Going third, and the pressure on, I knew in my mind it wasn’t going to affect him. That’s all.”
Raffl, who played hockey in Sweden before signing with the Flyers last summer, said he’d been in shootouts every “once in a while” with his former team. He just wasn’t expecting he’d get called upon by the Flyers just yet.
“He’s a funny guy,” Giroux said. “Right before he went on, I went, ‘Let’s go Raff,’ and he was like, ‘I got this, boys.’ Just the way he said it, he’s a funny guy. Since he’s been called up, he’s done a lot of good things for us.”
It was an exciting end to a game that didn’t start off well for the Flyers. It took just 32 seconds for the Oilers to take an early lead when Braydon Coburn’s ugly turnover gave Taylor Hall all the time he needed to set up a perfect shot on Mason. Less than four minutes later, Ryan Nugent Hopkins helped the Oilers to a 2-0 lead.
The Flyers, and Wayne Simmonds in particular, came alive in the second period, however. Simmonds scored twice on the power play in the middle stanza -- and the Flyers took over from there. In fact, had Bryzgalov not played so well, the Flyers could have easily been up 5-2 after 40 minutes, instead of tied 2-2.
“I think it’s a really good win,” Berube said. “I felt really good about our team after the second goal went in, just the way they acted on the bench. They were confident. They didn’t get down. They were confident. That’s what it’s all about, staying up. They knew they were going to get their opportunities and it ended up working out tonight.”
Nowhere were the Flyers more impressive, though, than on the power play. They made their opportunities count, scoring all three goals on the man advantage. It was Scott Hartnell whose third-period goal ensured they’d escape Edmonton with at least a point, fighting back after David Perron had given the Oilers a late lead with a power-play goal himself.
With the win, the Flyers reclaimed third place in the Metropolitan Division and rose two games above .500 to 18-16-4. And, perhaps better yet, they proved they can claw their way out of a hole when necessary.
“They got a quick lead there, but I think we were playing a good game,” Giroux said. “And the whole key was just to stay composed and not get too frustrated.”