PHILADELPHIA – Sometimes one little change can make all the difference in the world.
At least that’s the way it looked Saturday night for the Flyers in their game against the Los Angeles Kings.
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault, who complained the other night that he wasn’t getting enough from the Kevin Hayes-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny line, did something about it.
He moved James van Riemsdyk into Hayes’ spot on the top unit (with Giroux moving to center) and the move paid immediate dividends.
JVR set up Konecny for a pair of goals and the Flyers went on to a 4-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center.
“He (van Riemsdayk) played a great game tonight,’’ Konecny said. “He’s an incredible passer. Thankfully we capitalized on a few of them tonight.’’
Goaltender Brian Elliott had a shutout bid ended at 5:06 of the third period when Dustin Brown eluded a Matt Niskanen check and had a clear path to the net.
Konecny needed only 3:48 to get the Flyers on the scoreboard with van Riemsdyk recording the primary assist. Goalie Jack Campbell had no chance to make a save on the play as Konecny got through the defense pairing of Alec Martinez and Matt Roy for a quick one-timer.
In the second period, Konecny scored again for his team-leading 17th goal of the season at 3:44. Again, van Riemsdyk made the feed, this time from below the goal line.
JVR and Konecny have played on the same line over the last couple years, so that made the transition easier.
“We’ve shown some good chemistry in the past,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “I think we are three smart players, we fill in the right spots on the ice and we are able to make some good plays.”
That chemistry paid off on Konecny’s first goal.
“I just had a feeling when I was going up if I could give the puck to Reemer, my D kind of held back so I was able to get by him,’’ Konecny said. “I think it was just a little bit of a breakdown, I think their forward actually could have caught me but they had a little bit of a miscommunication.”
Moving Giroux back to center can kind of throw a curveball at another team’s defense.
“It’s definitely a different look for other teams,’’ Konecny said. “He’s got a lot more options when he comes up the middle of the ice. For him, that makes it deadly for other teams.’’
A fast start was exactly what the Flyers were looking for, coming off a tough loss to Montreal on Thursday night. Prior to that, the Flyers had played well in a four-game stretch against Washington, Tampa, Boston and St. Louis.
“I think our first period of play had a lot to do with us coming off a couple of great games against some great teams,’’ Konecny said. “Then we had a little bit of a disappointing loss the last game. We wanted to make sure we came out doing the right things in the right areas.”
Joel Farabee scored a power-play goal at 12:08 of the second to give the Flyers some breathing room.
“It is a designed play we like to run,’’ Farabee said. “Two guys in front there. ‘Coots’ (Sean Couturier) had a great screen and for ‘Nisky’ (Niskanen) to see me back door, I thought it was a great look. It was a good all-around play.”
Farabee’s play has picked up in recent games.
“I’m playing with confidence right now, going to the net, doing the little things, it’s working for me,’’ Farabee said. “It’s good when the puck goes in the net.”
After the Kings’ goal, the Flyers scored on the power play at 8:09 with van Riemsdyk doing the honors. That snapped a 12-game goal-less streak for JVR.
Vigneault said he plans to play JVR with Giroux and Konecny when Pittsburgh visits for an important game on Thursday.
“When you’re not scoring, you have to make sure you’re solid in other aspects of your game,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “Our line tonight had good chemistry going, we were able to get some good chances. He (Konecny) doesn’t need much time to get open. If he gets a chance to get a clean shot off, it’s got a good chance of going in.’’
The coach liked the way his new top line responded.
“After watching the last game (Montreal), I was looking for something else,’’ he said. “Putting ‘G’ back in the middle was an option we had and it worked out tonight.’’
Giroux seems to fit in well with these two wings.
“They’re good players, it’s fun to play with them,’’ he said. “They win a lot of battles and they know how to score goals. We’ve had some good games together (last year). It’s only one game (this year) but you can see we have chemistry.’’
Michael Raffl got the bad end of a collision with the Kings’ Brown a few minutes into the third period. The Flyers would only say he suffered an upper-body injury. He played a few more shifts before calling it a night.
Special teams perfect
The Flyers went two for two on both the power play and penalty kill. It’s their first perfect special teams game of the season.
Friedman to Phantoms
With Justin Braun back in the lineup, defenseman Mark Friedman was returned to the Phantoms. . .The Flyers return to action on Tuesday when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins. . . .Flyers are holding opponents to an average of 29.3 shots per game, which is third-lowest in NHL.