Four-line depth can fuel a successful playoff run and the Flyers demonstrated why in Sunday’s successful round-robin opener.
Unexpected goals by fourth-liners Michael Raffl and Nate Thompson helped power the Flyers to a 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins in the two teams’ first postseason action at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Goaltender Carter Hart, holding the Bruins’ potent offense to one goal, picked up the win in his first postseason game. Defenseman Philippe Myers and Scott Laughton also scored for the Flyers.
Chris Wagner scored the only goal for Boston.
Raffl opened the scoring at 5:33 of the second period. After taking a pinpoint entry pass from defenseman Travis Sanheim, Raffl backhanded a shot past goaltender Jaroslav Halak, filling in for No. 1 starter Tuukka Rask (illness).
On the second Flyers goal, Raffl was also a factor. He deked his way into the clear and backhanded a pass to Thompson, who wristed a shot over Halak’s right shoulder at 9:31.
Raffl had to leave the game with 6:17 to play in the third period after he collided with Boston’s Jeremy Lauzon along the boards. Raffl appeared to have an undisclosed leg injury.
Wagner’s goal with 1:09 to play in the second period was a bit of a fluke. His wide-angle entry hit off Flyer defenseman Robert Hagg’s skate and past Hart.
But the Flyers answered right back just eight seconds later. Off the ensuing faceoff, Myers rushed across the blue line and wristed a shot from the top of the right circle which eluded Halak.
Coach Alain Vigneault thought his team performed well against a powerhouse Boston club. Especially against the Bruins’ top line.
“Tonight before the game we talked about needing to do a job against that top line,’’ Vigneault said. “Making sure we were in the right position when we didn’t have the puck and when we did have the puck, make sure we made the high percentage plays, not to feed any opportunity for that skill line to get themselves going.
“They had some great looks but for the most part we did a real good job.’’
Hart, who made 34 saves against the Bruins, looked particularly cool under pressure.
“Once you get out there and playing, the game really slows down,’’ Hart offered. “I mean obviously it’s a little different playoffs where we don’t have fans so maybe that makes it a little bit different.
“When the puck drops, it’s all the same. You just have to prepare and execute and play your game.’’
Hart said he received a lot of help, particularly from the Flyers’ penalty kill, which kept the vaunted Bruin power play off the scoreboard.
“Our special teams tonight were really solid,’’ Hart said. “The PK was awesome. The (Boston) PK didn’t generate a lot. The first couple PKs, they really didn’t get any chances. That’s a big momentum swing.’’
Laughton made it 4-1 at 4:07 of the third when he rushed in on a two-on-one entry with Travis Konecny. Laughton’s shot from the left dot beat Halak far side.
According to Thompson, Hart looked fine in his first Stanley Cup game. In fact, Thompson compared him to another young goalie he once played beside, Montreal’s Carey Price, a former Vezina Trophy winner.
“I know I’ve been here a short time but he (Hart) doesn’t look 21 to me,’’ Thompson said. “He was pretty poised. Off the ice, he carries himself well beyond his years. A true pro. He reminds me a goalie I used to play with (Price) in Montreal.’’
Besides Hart’s performance, the play of Thompson’s fourth line (Raffl, Thompson, Tyler Pitlick) was a huge contributing factor.
“I thought our fourth line was rolling tonight,’’ Hart said. “Raff opened up with a really nice goal and then Thompson with the short-side snipe there. They were flying.’’
Added Myers: “The fourth line played a hell of a game. They did their job in our (defensive zone) and they chipped in on the scoresheet as well. I think we have a lot of depth. Personally, when I go out there, it doesn’t matter who’s out there. I have full confidence in everybody.’’
The Flyers’ healthy scratches included Shayne Gostisbehere and Joel Farabee.
In the second of the three round-robin games, the Flyers will take on the Washington Capitals on Thursday.
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