One is the loneliest number.
So says Three Dog Night, if anyone knows who that group was.
Anyway, one was a lonely number for Zac Rinaldo this season. As in one lone assist in 43 games this season … until Thursday night.
Rinaldo finally mated his assist with a goal during the Flyers' 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Wells Fargo Center (see game recap).
“It feels great to get that monkey off my back,” Rinaldo said. “It’s about time, too.”
The goal came on a nice backhand rebound of his own shot.
“I walked over the blue line and shot it,” Rinaldo said. “I was praying to God that puck came back to me. It came back to me and I threw it on net and it went in for me.”
It hit a stick as it snuck inside the left post on goalie Peter Budaj. A wobbly puck, too
“It did, it did, a good bounce,” Rinaldo said. “I’m not going to complain about it.”
Rinaldo played just 4:53 in the game with four shots. He actually finished with the most shots on the Flyers in this game despite playing the fewest minutes.
Almost half those minutes -– 2:15 -- were played on the penalty kill, which doesn’t afford all that much offense.
Rinaldo has played in a number of different roles on top, middle and bottom lines and the PK lately.
“He’s played good hockey,” coach Craig Berube said. “We’re using him killing penalties at times. His physical skating I think really rubs off on our team. He can really skate. He’s been physical and not taking penalties, which is important.”
He got the club riled up by fighting Brandon Prust after the Flyers made it 3-0 in the second period. As he went to the penalty box, Rinaldo raised his arms high, imploring the fans to make noise and get into the game.
“We’re feeding off each other,” Rinaldo said. “I’m doing a good job getting the crowd into it. And I’m going to keep them into it and they got to keep me in the game, too.”
Several of his teammates spoke about how great it’s been during this 10-game home win streak to have fans cheering and not booing them like they were in October and November.
Asked about the impact of fans booing earlier and how it’s been turned around, Rinaldo was stunned.
“What’s that? he asked.
“I thought you said the booze affected us,” Rinaldo replied, as laughter erupted. “No, no, no, the booing obviously sucked. If we’re not working hard, they’re going to tell us.
“Guys respect that. Some guys take it differently. But the fans are behind us. We worked for the fans to get back on our side and we have them on our side now and we’re not going to stop.”
There was less than two minutes left to play. The Canadiens were deep in the Flyers’ zone and trailing by a pair of goals.
So why didn’t Canadiens coach Michel Therrien pull Budaj out of net?
The answer won’t please Habs fans.
“In the third period we got four shots on net,” said a clearly displeased Therrien. “And when you have momentum, when you’re creating a lot of chances, there’s a reason why you could take your goalie out, especially when you’re down by two goals.
“But when you have four shots on net and you’re down by two goals, there’s no reason.”
Nice at home
The Flyers have won 10 straight at home. That is their longest home winning streak since an 11-game streak from Oct. 27–Dec. 5, 2003. All 10 wins have been in regulation, and they haven’t done that since a 14-game regulation home winning streak from Feb. 10-April 4, 1985, when they actually won the last 14 home games of the regular season before making a run to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Flyers were 4 for 4 on the penalty kill, giving them their sixth consecutive perfect game in that category. They are 19 for 19 in that stretch.
The Flyers have swept both games in four of their last five back-to-backs. They are 9-1 overall this season in that situation. They’ll play another back-to-back this weekend, facing Tampa Bay on Saturday before meeting the Rangers on Sunday in New York.
Sarah Baicker contributed to this report.