PHILADELPHIA – The Flyers’ engines usually start slower than your car on one of those zero-degree mornings.
In fact, in the first 45 games of the season, the Flyers had led only eight times after the first period heading into Saturday’s contest against the New Jersey Devils.
So when the Flyers burst out to a rare 3-0 lead, heads turned.
Philadelphia is now 7-0-2 when they lead after one period, so it’s easy to see why good start numbers are an important statistic.
The Flyers wound up beating the Devils, 3-1, their second consecutive weekend win over their closest Metro Division rivals.
Often, the Flyers look sluggish in the first 20 minutes.
But they came out of the locker room on Saturday like they were going after a five-alarm fire, getting three goals past New Jersey goalie Keith Kinkaid by the 12:15 mark.
That ended the day’s activities for Kinkaid, who appeared to strain his groin when Ivan Provorov scored at 12:15 for a 3-0 lead.
That fast getaway made all the difference.
“We haven’t been starting games the way we would like,’’ said Valtteri Filppula, one of the three goal-scorers. “But today was a good start and it’s obviously nice to get rewarded. It’s definitely nicer than chasing.’’
It was a short workday for Kinkaid, who hobbled to the locker room.
In came Ken Appleby, the 22-year-old rookie to make his NHL debut. Appleby was recently called up because No. 1 starter Cory Schneider was out with the flu.
The Flyers got off on the right foot with a goal from Travis Konecny at 3:29. Shayne Gostisbehere’s pass from just inside the blue line caught Konecny in stride at the top of the right circle and he buried a shot for his third goal in the last seven games.
Then Filppula made it 2-0 at 8:30. Radko Gudas made a good play to keep the puck in along the half-wall, giving Michael Raffl the opportunity to find Filppula in front.
Goalie Michal Neuvirth, making consecutive starts for just the third time this season and first since Nov. 4, kept the Devils off the board until a power-play goal by Jesper Bratt at 8:12 of the second.
Neuvirth held on after that for his 100th NHL career win.
Getting out in front of the Devils was a key.
“We talked after practice yesterday that we need a good start,’’ Provorov said. “We can’t be sleepy in the first. I think that’s what we did today.
The Flyers had been outscored, 38-30, in the first period this season before Saturday’s three quick goals.
What’s the key to a quick start?
“I think it’s just doing the little things, taking care of the puck,’’ Provorov said. “If we take care of the puck and move it forward, we don’t have to play defense and that helps us create offense.’’
Neuvirth didn’t have to stand on his head early in the game and that built his confidence.
“It’s nice to play with a lead and guys knew exactly what to do in the third period,’’ Neuvirth said. “A great effort, the whole 60 minutes.’’
Gostisbehere’s play to Konecny helped light the fuse.
Defenseman Robert Hagg had eight hits for the game, raising his season total to 159, which is now No. 1 in the NHL. . .Travis Sanheim was scratched for the ninth time in the last 10 games. . .The Flyers have won nine of their last 11 home games.
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