PHILADELPHIA –– Game 1 of the post-Wayne Simmonds era has to be deemed a success and it took a group effort.
Ryan Hartman, the young multi-purpose player who came over from Nashville for Simmonds in Monday’s trade, kicked things off on Tuesday night by running over a pair of Buffalo Sabres – first Rasmus Dahlin and later Jake McCabe.
Those two big collisions, including a shoving match with Buffalo defenseman Zach Bogosian, got the home crowd right into the game.
Then the Flyers picked up goals from Oskar Lindblom, Jake Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, Travis Sanheim and an empty-netter from Claude Giroux.
Throw in some timely goaltending from veteran Brian Elliott and it ended up with a 5-2 victory at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers are now 14-3-1 since Jan. 14 and on this night they kept pace with teams such as Montreal, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Columbus in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
And they are now 21-2-2 when leading after two periods.
Hartman, who only had about five minutes of practice time with his new team on Tuesday morning, said it didn’t take him long to settle in.
“I felt great,’’ Hartman said during the first intermission. “I’m just trying to get the nerves out a little bit. I got the first period out of the way and it’s back to hockey.”
The 24-year-old right winger, who played on a third line with Scott Laughton and JVR, said he tried not to overthink everything.
“There’s always those little things, systematically, that are a completely different game than I was used to,’’ he said. “So, there’s a little extra thinking going on, but as soon as I can just throw that out the window and play hockey then it will be second nature and feel normal again.”
Fans can expect more of the same in the games ahead.
“It (the first hit) kind of put me into the game a little bit,’’ Hartman said. “Any time you can get your adrenaline going a bit, it always helps you when you’re a little nervous.
“I’ve been able to do that (deliver an early hit) throughout my career. It’s got me to this point, so I have no reason to stop. It sounded like they (the fans) loved it. I plan on bringing a lot more of that.’’
His teammates hope that is the case.
“It (losing Simmonds) is like losing one of your best friends,’’ Elliott said. “I thought ‘Hartsy’ (Hartman) came in and set the tone with a couple big hits himself. We got something back in the trade, too.’’
Added Sanheim: “Early on, he made a couple big hits, got us going, I thought he set the tone right away, created a lot of momentum for us. We fed off that.’’
Philadelphia jumped on top with a goal from Oskar Lindblom just 2:48 into the first period.
Lindblom appeared to be attempting a pass to Nolan Patrick but the puck kicked off a Buffalo defender and past goalie Carter Hutton.
Voracek made it 2-0 at 7:52. Defenseman Philippe Myers started the play with a pass to Claude Giroux. Hutton made an initial save but Voracek knocked in the rebound.
In the second period, van Riemsdyk deflected a Robert Hagg shot into the net at 15:13, this just a little over three minutes after a power-play goal by Buffalo’s Jake Eichel had cut Philadelphia’s lead to 2-1.
After a slow start, van Riemsdyk now has 17 goals, many of them coming on deflection-type goals.
“It’s a part of my game I take a lot of pride in,’’ he said, “being in front of the net and creating offense and scoring some goals.’’
Van Riemsdyk says he appreciates what Hartman brings to the team.
“Actually, I got a chance to watch a lot of him when he played with my brother (Trevor) in Chicago,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “He plays the game pretty hard, he’s really smart and skilled. So I think we have some good chemistry with ‘Laughts’ (Scott Laughton) out there, so hopefully we can build on that.’’
Sanheim scored just 46 seconds into the third period to give the Flyers some breathing room. Sean Couturier’s assist on the play was the 200th of his career.
The Flyers wanted to guard against a letdown after an emotional separation from Simmonds, one of their team leaders.
“I think you have to be careful that you don’t have a (let)down (because of both the high of Saturday night’s outdoor win over Pittsburgh combined with the low of the Simmonds departure),’’ Elliott said.
“Because you get so high for that game, you have family in town, then everybody leaves and you still have to play. I think we responded really well. I thought coming out the way we did was good and then pushing all game.’’