PHILADELPHIA – If you’re going to redeem yourself for giving up a total of 17 goals in two games to the same team, you might as well do it with style.
And that’s exactly what the Flyers did on Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center when they took on their chief tormentors, the New York Rangers.
The Flyers showed much more grit and determination than they had in 9-0 and 8-3 losses to the Blueshirts over the past 10 days.
In this particular hard-nosed affair, the Flyers played better defense and were rewarded for it by way of a goal by defenseman Samuel Morin goal with just 4:27 to play.
Samuel Morin you ask?
Yes, that Samuel Morin, the one who has survived not one, but two, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee surgeries over the past three years. Not to mention a core-muscle surgery.
Morin wound up and blasted a point shot past Ranger goalie Igor Shesterkin and the ensuing celebration looked like something out of a pee-wee hockey game, with fist-pumps and hugs both on the ice and the bench.
It was Morin’s first NHL goal and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Think about it. At one point in his career, Morin briefly contemplated retirement after the demands of painful rehabilitation had him quite depressed.
One ACL operation was bad enough. But when he got injured again playing in a game for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and found out he needed another, it was almost too much to bear.
“I was depressed, I was really down,’’ Morin, a first-round draft pick (2013, 11th overall) acknowledged during a post-game media Zoom call. “It was for a couple hours. And then I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get back into this.’
“I really like hockey a lot. I didn’t care if I played in the AHL, anywhere. I thought about it (retirement) but I got a lot of support from the Flyers. I worked hard.’’
The rest, as they say, is history.
Both coach Alain Vigneault and Morin are of French heritage so there’s a little bit of a bond there through language and culture.
Vigneault was all smile during his Zoom call. He couldn’t be happier for the young man.
“There’s no doubt, not just myself but the whole team, we’re extremely happy he was able to contribute,’’ Vigneault said. “And get the winner.
“He’s been through so much, we all know his situation the past years with the injuries. He got to play a little with (Phantoms coach) Scott (Gordon) in the American League, has played well and ever since we’ve called him up, he’s tried real hard.’’
Actually, at the beginning of this season, the Flyers experimented with the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Morin at left wing because they were a bit overloaded on defense.
But that didn’t really go all that well so in Allentown, Morin stuck with defense and that decision is paying off.
The Flyers started off looking like they might have another long day when antagonist Mika Zibanejad scored his seventh goal in the last three games against the Flyers off a power play in the first period.
After settling down, the Flyers retaliated with a power-play goal of their own from Nolan Patrick at 12:52 of the second off a delection of a Shayne Gostisbehere shot.
That set the stage for Morin.
“I’m really happy,’’ he said. “It’s the best moment of my life.’’
Winning goalie Brian Elliott summed up what most of his teammates were thinking.
“This guy’s been through a lot,’’ he said. “A lot of injuries and he’s always come back with a smile everyday, ready to work. Can’t wait to get back on the ice with the guys.
“That’s why everyone’s so happy. When you work so hard and guys can see it, he brings energy everyday whether he’s in the lineup or not in the lineup. It’s something special. It rubs off on the guys and we’re so happy for him.’’
Travis Konecny plays the game with a lot of emotion and this particular moment seemed to strike a personal chord.
“He’s had a lot of bumps and in conversations with him (whether) it was worth continuing,’’ Konecny said. “For him to battle and not play that many games that long and stay as positive as he has – always smiling, always pumping up the team.
“To see him smiling and getting that goal, everyone’s just so happy for him.’’
>Patrick gaining confidence
Patrick scored his fourth goal and it looks like he’s finally getting on track with his game.
It’s been a long road back after missing all of last season with a chronic migraine headache condition.
“Obviously missing the amount of time that I did, it’s not easy and I knew coming in it was going to be a tough year,’’ he said. “It’s taken longer than I was hoping for to find my game. But I feel like I’m getting closer and closer.’’
>Did Friday’s practice pay off?
The Flyers were shaking their heads after Thursday night’s 8-3 loss but then they had a chance to practice for the first time in 12 days.
Konecny said it gave the team a chance to reset and work on things, like cutting down on mistakes.
“Usually you have a certain amount of time and it’s a lot of the same drills and flow stuff, but yesterday we had a full practice,’’ he said. “We got to work on things that we haven’t been doing properly. It’s not like we went out there and got bagged. We went out there, we worked together, we worked hard. It was a lot of positives.’’
>No quit after Rangers scored first
Vigneault was pleased with the way his team responded after New York’s goal. The defense shut it down from there.
“I really believe our guys have been battling hard.,’’ he said. “A little smarter tonight and we were able to get the win.’’
The Flyers’ 17 shots on goal in the first period were the most they’ve had in an opening period this season. The last time they had that many in a first period was on Nov. 17, 2019 when they had 18 vs. Montreal.