PHILADELPHIA – A Gordie Howe hat trick is always a great way to get a home crowd energized.
But when it’s executed by one of the slightest-built players on the roster, it can really get the house rockin’.
Such was the case Friday when Travis Konecny came up with the legendary Howe hat trick – which is a goal, an assist and a fight – to lead the Flyers to a badly needed 4-0 win over the New York Rangers at the Wells Fargo center.
Goaltender Calvin Pickard picked up his first shutout of the season, kicking aside all 31 shots fired his way.
Konecny scored at 13:21 of the first period when his close-range shot eluded goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
In the second period, Konecny (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) took on a much bigger Ranger defenseman Ryan Strome (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) after Strome flattened TK’s teammate, Sean Couturier.
Finally, Konecny added an assist on the first of two Couturier goals with 5:41 left in the third period.
In all, the Flyers peppered Lundqvist with 46 shots to snap a four-game (0-3-1) winless streak.
The WFC was already in a festive holiday mood when the game began. Konecny first got the crowd into it with his goal, then came the fight which was a barn-burner.
“I reacted,’’ Konecny said. “I saw ‘Coots’ laying there, so I jumped on the opportunity.’’
What about the Howe hat trick? Was he thinking about it when Couturier went in for the kill with 5:21 remaining?
“It wasn’t crossing my mind until after,’’ he said with a smile. “It was my first and could be my last.’’
Giroux’s assist on the Konecny goal was the 481st of his career, moving him past Brian Propp into second place on the Flyers’ all-time list for helpers.
“It’s always nice when it (strong play) pays off,’’ Konecny said. “Sometimes it takes a full 60 minutes to get that one bounce. It’s nice that we got it past them early.’’
What does it say about a skill player like Konecny when he’s willing to drop the gloves in defense of a teammate?
“It’s nice to see TK get involved that way,’’ Couturier said. “It was a late hit (by Strome). He didn’t like it. That’s the type of team spirit we need, supporting each other. Battle for each other.’’
The win moved the Flyers back to .500 in the standings at 10-10-2.
Pickard improved his season record to 4-1-2. It was the fourth shutout of his career.
The goalie agreed the Flyers really needed this one.
“It was great for everybody after the last few games,’’ he said. “We really keyed in on this one. It was a great game from all 20 guys. And we got rewarded for it.
This game was much closer than the final score would indicate. It was 1-0 all the way until Couturier scored his first goal.
The Flyers are 6-1-1 when they score first, so the players realize it’s often futile to chase the game from behind.
“We’ve been having good starts for awhile, aside from our last game (a 5-2 loss at Buffalo),’’ Konecny said. “We’ve been having these starts where we get a lot of shots on net. There’s that extra step today where everybody is going and we’re on the same page. We flipped a few things around and some guys are going today who look really good.”
The Flyers knew they had to get traffic in front of Lundqvist in order to be successful.
“Well, it’s Henrik Lindqvist,’’ Konecny said. “You have to have guy’s in front of him or pucks aren’t going to go in.”
Coach Dave Hakstol wasn’t pleased with the loss at Buffalo on Wednesday night and decided to shake things up.
He switched around his left wings, moving Dale Weise to the second line with Nolan Patrick and Jake Voracek and slid Oskar Lindblom down to the fourth line with Scott Laughton and Tyrell Goulbourne, recently called up from the Phantoms.
Hakstol liked what he saw of the overall team effort.
“Against these guys you have to get the puck deep, then work to get it back,’’ Hakstol said. “They have such good team speed, you have to find a way to put pressure on them. Our guys did a good job of that for 60 minutes.’’
Jordan Weal added an empty-net goal with 2:02 to play. . . .Lundqvist’s career record against the Flyers now stands at 35-17-4.