LAS VEGAS – The odds on the Flyers making it two straight wins over the Stanley Cup finalist Golden Knights on their home ice?
Probably not something on which you would bet your house.
But anything is possible in Sin City and that’s exactly what happened Thursday night in the Flyers’ season-opener at T-Mobile Arena.
Philadelphia came out and simply dominated this game, to the tune of a 5-2 decision, and made it look easy.
The Golden Knights have lost only 11 of their first 42 home games but the Flyers have now inflicted two of those.
Wayne Simmonds sure looked healthy in scoring a pair of goals, rookie Mikhail Vorobyev was an astonishing plus-3 and goaltender Brian Elliott made it look like he’s fully recovered from a pair of surgeries since the Flyers’ last visit here in February.
It was all Flyers in the second period, with the visitors getting three goals in a span of 4:19 for a 5-1 lead.
By the 10:11 mark, starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was yanked in favor of Malcolm Subban. Fleury allowed the five goals on just 16 shots.
Simmonds’ second goal of the game started the parade at 2:58 while the Flyers were on a power play. He punched in a short shot from the left side of the net.
Then came goals by Robert Hagg (6:11) and Scott Laughton at 7:17.
Vegas picked up a shorthanded goal from ex-Flyer Pierre Edouard-Bellemare in the third period to close the lead to 5-2.
After an injury-plagued 2017-18 season, Simmonds said it was nice to be able to play at full speed again.
“I think just being able to get to where I need to go is going to make a big difference this year,’’ Simmonds said.
The Flyers took the Knights’ best punch in the first 10 minutes, then retaliated with a pair of their own to take a 2-1 lead after one period.
Vegas came out flying and had one of their first shots bounce off both posts before skittering out.
Finally, on what appeared to be the end of a Flyers’ shift, Fleury started a rush, with Jonathan Marchessault wristing a shot past Elliott at the 6:37 mark.
“We weathered their storm in the first 10,’’ Simmonds said. “I thought we did a good job after that. The building was bump. I thought we did a really good job controlling our emotions. Focused on the game and the task at hand.’’
Elliott really played well in that opening stretch when the pressure was on.
“Unbelieveable,’’ Simmonds said. “He held us in there. That was key in the first 10 (minutes). Without him we might be down 2-0, 3-0. He stood on his head the first 10 minutes.’’
Elliott, overcoming some offseason medical issues (hip operation) of his own, said he was ready for the test. And he got some timely assistance from his defense.
“Whenever there was a scramble, there were two or three of our guys in front of me,’’ he said. “That’s what you like to see.’’
The lead didn’t last long.
Oskar Lindblom made sure of that with a goal that should make some highlight reels.
Lindblom rushed in, deked past Fleury, then slid a backhand shot from below the end line off defenseman Nick Holden’s left skate at 11:24.
Not content with that, the Flyers made it 2-1 with 1:17 left in the period.
Hagg’s shot squirted through Fleury’s pads and slid along the goal line. As it came to a stop, Simmonds pounced on the unguarded puck and scored one of the shortest goals of his career.
Penalty kill efficient
The Flyers worked throughout the preseason to improve their penalty kill and for one night that seemed to be the case.
The PK was good in this game, especially in the third period when it had to kill off a five-on-three for 1:18.
Coach Dave Hakstol paired Laughton with Jori Lehtera on one unit and Sean Couturier with Michael Raffl on another. That group managed to kill off one power play in the first period.
“It (PK) is big,’’ Laughton said. “To provide energy for your team and momentum changes. That’s huge, to kill off a big penalty. I think we were pretty good in the preseason and we want to keep that going.
“I’ve been working at it. Watching the video, trying to get better at it, block more shots. Limit their opportunities with down-ice pressure.’’
Added coach Dave Hakstol: “You never want to be in that (five-on-three) situation. Got some real good saves from our goaltender. The three guys out there battled hard.’’
Bottling up the middle
Also key to this game was the way the Flyer bottled up the middle, especially against the Knights’ top line of William Karlsson, Marchessault and Reilly Smith.
This prevented Vegas from getting any speed into the Flyers’ zone.
Many of the Golden Knights’ shots came from wide angles, allowing Elliott to channel them off to the side.
Said Elliott: “We kept things to the outside and we collapsed when we needed to. It was a good one for us.’’
The Flyers are trying to get balanced scoring from all their lines and for one game, they almost achieved that.
Ironically, the only line that didn’t get a goal was the top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny.
But the Flyers will take that any day.
Laughton believes that it’s important to get scoring from more than just a top line.
“It’s big,’’ he said. “From the get-go we were good. We knew they were going to come out hard.’’
Between the lines
Mr. Las Vegas, aka Wayne Newton, and rapper Lil Jon took part in the ceremonial opening faceoff at center ice. . .Healthy scratches for the Flyers were Jordan Weal, Dale Weise and defenseman Christian Folin. . .Jake Voracek assisted on the Lindblom goal and the second Simmonds goal.
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