PRAGUE, Czech Republic – Travis Konecny missed about four days of training camp due to some new contract negotiations but he certainly made up for lost time on Friday night.
Konecny scored goals in each of the first two periods, both on spectacular skill plays, to lead the Flyers to a season-opening 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks before a record crowd of 17,463 at O2 Arena.
The talented right wing struck first at 6:24 of the first period, stealing a puck from Chicago defenseman Dennis Gilbert and beating goaltender Corey Crawford under his glove.
Then, with the teams skating four aside late in the second period, Konecny deked his way past Blackhawk All-Star defenseman Duncan Keith and sent a backhand shot high into the net for a 3-1 lead at 18:04.
Although Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat scored on a power play with 12.2 seconds left in the second period, Flyers goaltender Carter Hart held the fort after that.
And Michael Raffl scored for the Flyers at 9:48 of the third period to restore the two-goal margin.
Clearly, this was an inspired effort by Konecny and typified the way his career appears to be trending.
“I was just trying to play the right way and I got a couple good bounces, a couple good opportunities,’’ Konecny said after the game. “Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t. I felt good tonight, my feet were moving. I tried some moves tonight that I wouldn’t necessarily try.’’
Apparently the pressure of a new six-year, $33-million contract hasn’t gotten to him.
“I’m definitely not going to take the foot off the pedal,’’ he said. “I want to prove to the coaching staff that I’m able to play in all situations and limit my mistakes. It definitely was a good way to start.’’
Veterans such as Kevin Hayes and Claude Giroux praised Konecny’s effort.
“I think fans are going to be happy that he signed that deal,’’ Hayes said. “The way he performed tonight, I think we’re going to see a lot of that. He’s a confident kid and he likes the light being on him in a good way. He showed why tonight.’’
Added Giroux: “Any time you get the first goal of the game, the first goal of the season, it gives you a little boost of confidence. The second goal he scored was a nice move. When he has a chance to score, he finds a way.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault sounded impressed, especially the way Konecny has gotten himself up to speed.
“We did a lot of video work with him,’’ said Vigneault. “He came to camp in great shape and he picked up everything where he was behind.’’
The Flyers improved their all-time record for season openers to 25-19-8.
This was a Flyers’ “home’’ game and unofficially, the win extended Philadelphia’s streak of unbeaten games in regular-season play over Chicago on home ice to 16 dating back to Nov. 9, 1996.
Oskar Lindblom scored the Flyers’ second goal. That came at 6:28 of the second period. His shot hit the right post, then caromed off defenseman Slater Koekkoek and past a startled Crawford.
Chicago pulled Crawford in the closing three minutes and got a goal from Patrick Kane with 2:07 to play to close the deficit to one goal.
Hart said after the game he wasn’t quite himself in the first period but settled down after that.
“We came out really strong, that’s why it was important to get that first goal,’’ Hart said. “That was a great shot by TK, he had a great game.
“It took me a couple minutes to settle in. Obviously you’re in a different country, a different setup, a different kind of event but you have to prepare the same.’’
Voracek likes the way his team responded after the somewhat embarrassing loss to Lausanne Hockey Club in Switzerland on Monday.
“We skated well and every line played responsible,’’ he said.