PHILADELPHIA – Flyers fans had to wait 20 months to fill the Wells Fargo Center and enjoy a little drama.
But it turned out the delay was worth the trouble.
In front of a packed house at the WFC for the first time since March, 2020, the Flyers came out and dominated the visiting Vancouver Canucks in the season opener on Friday night, building a 1-0 lead after one period.
But things quickly unraveled in the second stanza, with the Canucks putting four pucks past goaltender Carter Hart to take a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes.
The Flyers, however, weren’t finished. They got a power-play goal from Travis Konecny with 2:17 to play, then Claude Giroux scored with 1:12 to play and the game was suddenly tied.
At the finish, the Canucks got shootout goals from Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller to hand the Flyers a 5-4 loss. But the Flyers could take heart from the late effort.
The Flyers committed several unneccessary penalties in the second period which gave the Canucks momentum.
According to Flyers coach Alain Vigneault, those certainly didn’t help the Flyers’ cause.
“That gave them momentum,’’ Vigneault said after the game. “Their power play is a weapon. But we found a way to come back. We made some plays when the game was on the line. Staying out of the box would be a good idea. I liked a lot of our five-on-five game tonight. Unfortunately Carter got a little unlucky on two of those goals.’’
Cam Atkinson, who kills penalties, said the PK has to do better. Not taking sloppy penalties can help, too.
“I think everyone’s pretty excited for the home opener,’’ Atkinson said. “Sometimes your emotions get the best of you. But on the flip side I think those penalties we have to kill for the guys, myself included, we have to do a better job.’’
In the middle frame, Philadelphia could hold onto its lead for only a handful of minutes.
The Canucks opened their scoring rush with a goal from Vasily Podkolzin, his first in a National Hockey League game. Petterson pushed Vancouver ahead with a power-play goal at 4:07. Then Alex Chiasson made it 3-1 at 9:36 on another power play, this time with the Flyers down two men (Ivan Provorov for delay of game plus a Philadelphia bench minor).
Atkinson did get one back for the Flyers at 12:17 off a nice feed from Joel Farabee. But the Canucks answered that with a goal from Miller at 17:07. On the play, Hart lost sight of the puck after it hit off the end boards, bounced back under his pads and he could only watch as it slid across the line. That drew a loud chorus of boos from the audience.
“That’s the game of hockey, you get a lot of bounces that don’t go your way,’’ Hart said. “You just have to put it behind you and get ready for the next period.’’
After stating at the morning skate that they wanted to come out with a lot of energy, the Flyers did just that, outshooting the Canucks, 14-5, to take that 1-0 lead.
Farabee, last season’s top goal getter, did the honors. Just as a Flyer power play ended, Ryan Ellis rifled a shot and the rebound deflected to Farabee, who got credit when the puck slid past goaltender Thatcher Demko at the 6:15 mark.
Why the big letdown after the first period?
“The first period we were moving our legs, moving the puck well,’’ Provorov said. “We were on them, they didn’t have time to make any plays. In the second period, we didn’t come out the same way. We took some penalties. You have to be able to play 60 minutes the same way. That was our problem last year.’’
Giroux was heartened by the Flyers responded at the finish.
“It’s great to have a crowd out there,’’ he said. “We took some penalties that put us on our heels a little bit. We responded at the end. We did a lot of good things and a lot of bad things. The things we did bad we just have to correct them. We have a lot of new players and the chemistry is not going to happen overnight.’’
>Yandle’s streak continues
Defenseman Keith Yandle’s ironman streak of consecutive games reached 923, leaving him just 43 games short of breaking the NHL record held by Doug Jarvis.