Strong play on special teams fuels Flyers' win over 'Canes

Strong play on special teams fuels Flyers' win over 'Canes
February 2, 2013, 9:45 pm
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Though it might be hard to comprehend, you’d have to go back to March 23, 2009, against New Jersey to find the last time the Flyers went 3 for 3 on the power play.

Through the first eight games of this lockout-shortened season, the Flyers' special teams have had a heavy hand in six defeats.
 
In their ninth game Saturday, against the Carolina Hurricanes, special teams actually won it, 5-3, at Wells Fargo Center.
 
Their PP units were a perfect 3-for-3, too.
 
“Most times this year, it’s been the other way around with special teams costing us,” Danny Briere said.
 
“Finally, the penalty kill was great. … The power play gave us some big goals. Definitely the difference in the game.”
 
The Flyers’ beleaguered special teams gave them a much-needed lift with the PK units killing off five of six penalties, as well.
 
“When we had a chance to score we did and finally got the power play going,” Flyer captain Claude Giroux said. “That’s one of the main reasons why we’ve struggled this season.
 
“The power play wasn’t working. We’ve been working hard the last three days. We had a lot of penalties in the third period and did a good job killing them.”
 
So many things went right. So many “firsts,” as well.
 
First goal for Briere. Ditto for Kurtis Foster. Even Mike Knuble, in his second stint as a Flyer, notched his first goal.
 
“We came out and got a good start under our belt,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “That first shift was real important. We set the tone. We went down in that end and really pounded it at the net on the forecheck.
 
“A little bit of penalty trouble in the third set us on our heels a little bit. But I like the way we started.”
 
The only downer was intermittent sloppy play, accompanied by the fact the Flyers sat on a 5-2 lead in the third period and nearly paid for it.
 
At one point that stanza, Carolina had a 12-1 shot advantage as goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (39 saves) had some very timely saves over the final 40 minutes.
 
“He sure did,” Knuble said. “In the second period, they were coming to life a little bit. If he has any kind of off five, seven-minute segment and gets off-centered a little bit, that’s a 5-4 game going into the third period.
 
“He was tremendous. He was seeing everything and gathering his rebounds. Just solid in there. As players, we felt he had to do too much work. We have to make it easier on him. They had too many quality chances.”
 
The Flyers began with vim ‘n vinegar, not looking at all tired on a back-to-back situation.
 
Though his mobility remains in question, the biggest reason why the Flyers signed Foster in January was because of his right-handed cannon from the point.
 
Foster made good use of it at 5:08, taking a cross-ice feed from Matt Read, skating into the right circle and burying a shot on starting goalie Dan Ellis during the first power play of the game.
 
After Joni Pitkanen tied it, the Flyers came back with two goals just a minute apart to make it 3-1.
 
Braydon Coburn notched the first off a Jakub Voracek rebound, then Briere scored off a power play scrum moments after Bryzgalov faced two shorthanded chances.
 
“We need some more presence in front of the net, trying to find some loose pucks and getting to the gritty areas,” Briere said.
 
“That's what the coaches have talked about. This was a great play by Claude [Giroux], threading the needle right between the legs. The goalie was able to make the initial save and I was able to find the rebound.”
 
The 3-1 lead should have held to intermission but didn’t.
 
For the second game in succession, Flyer defenseman Luke Schenn had a brutal turnover that led directly to a goal.
 
On Friday in Washington, Schenn muffed a puck coming back to him off a neutral zone faceoff draw for a breakaway goal by the Caps’ Wojtek Wolski.
 
This time, he was stripped near the Flyers’ net by Eric Staal, who then made a brilliant move on Bryzgalov, making it 3-2 at 15:58.
 
Schenn had a maddening game: five hits, four turnovers and six blocked shots.
 
Knuble’s goal just 52 seconds into the second period was crucial. Ellis went behind the net to do the customary puck exchange with his defenseman, but instead put it on Read’s stick.
 
He tossed to Knuble and it was 4-2.
 
The mistake angered Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller, who yanked Ellis for Cam Ward.
 
Before the period ended, the Flyers got their third power-play goal when Giroux wristed the puck from the left circle to ice it.
 
“Power plays sometimes just click, sometimes doesn’t click, a little bad bounce, you get a clear and gotta go back [to get it],” Giroux said.
 
“Just making the right plays. When everyone knows what they’re doing on the ice, it makes it a little bit easier. We’ve been working hard on it.”