Although the Flyers were disappointed the final game of their preseason ended with a loss, coach Alain Vigneault indicated he’s satisfied with his team’s progress.
A fight-filled 5-3 defeat by the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Friday night failed to dim Vigneault’s optimism. The Flyers finished the preseason with a 2-3-1 mark but there were a lot of bright spots despite the losing record.
In this game, the Flyers overcame a 2-0 deficit on a pair of goals from Cam Atkinson and another from Claude Giroux. But the Capitals rallied with three goals in the third period to decide the match.
Vigneault vowed his team will be ready to go when it faces Vancouver in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center next Friday.
“The real season starts on Friday,’’ Vigneault said after the game. “We have a good week ahead of us to practice. We’ve talked about getting on the same page, coming together as a group, on and off the ice. Those are all the elements we need to improve on. We continue to focus on getting better.’’
Sean Couturier knows the Flyers cannot afford to get off to a slow start this division. There’s just too much talent and power in the Metropolitan Division.
“There’s another week of practice, keep building some chemistry,’’ he said. “Maybe fix some little details in our game. I think we’ve come a long way since the first day of camp. We’ll be ready for our first game.’’
The Flyers took a 3-2 lead into the third period but Washington rallied on goals by Tom Wilson and Anthony Mantha.
Martin Jones suffered the loss in goal for the Flyers.
Giroux kicked off the comeback at 9:25 of the second period. Then Atkinson stole the puck from Caps defenseman John Carlson, skated the length of the ice and beat goaltender Ilya Samsonov with a shot under his left arm at 10:41.
With 1:40 to go in the second period, Atkinson swiped an ill-advised drop pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov at the Caps’ blue line, pivoted and sent a shot past Samsonov.
Washington took a 1-0 lead at 11:11 of the first period on a goal by Lars Eller. Carlson made it 2-0 at 4:54 of the second period.
Then Atkinson took over. Linemate Joel Farabee marveled at Atkinson’s puck skills at a training camp practice at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. the other day.
“I think with Cam, his highlight reel is pretty endless,’’ Farabee said. “He’s been a really good player in Columbus for a long time.’’
Added Atkinson: “As long as I’m doing the right things and getting chances, that’s great,’’ Atkinson said. “When I’m at my best, I’m shooting the puck.’’
Playing on a line with Farabee and Derick Brassard seems to be a good fit.
“I thought we did some pretty good things,’’ he said. “We had some chances. Just not enough sustained chances. I like playing with those guys. Very skilled. The more we practice with each other, we’re going to have a lot more success.’’
>Wilson plays physical
Prior to the season, Vigneault said he wanted his team to be harder to play against and he may have found a player who can help do just that.
Garrett Wilson, a journeyman tough guy with previous stints with Florida and Pittsburgh, played a very physical game on Friday night, including a scrap with Washington’s T.J. Oshie after Wilson leveled the Caps’ Michal Kempney along the boards in the second period.
Wilson was somewhat of a surprise pick to survive the first two rounds of roster cuts. He’s always been a “bubble’’ player throughout his career, so battling for a job is nothing new.
“I’m just trying to keep it simple and take advantage of the opportunity,’’ Wilson commented at training camp on Thursday. “It was nice to get moved up (to the fourth line) with ‘Thom’ (center Nate Thompson) and ‘Ku’ (right wing Nicolas Aube-Kubel). We’re getting in on the forecheck and creating energy.’’
As for shuttling back and forth between the NHL (where he’s now played 85 games) and the AHL, one has to be tough-minded.
“You work hard everyday and try to make it hard to send you down,’’ Wilson said. “I’ve been doing it my whole career. Nothing’s been given to me. I work hard, that’s how my parents brought me up. I try to gain my coach’s trust the best I can so they feel comfortable putting me out there.’’