PHILADELPHIA – When Cam Atkinson said goodbye Columbus and hello Philadelphia, everyone in these parts knew the Flyers were getting a bona fide goal scorer.
What they might not have been aware of is his knack for putting the puck in the net in big-time situations.
Wednesday night’s game against the Boston Bruins was a perfect example. Atkinson scored the Flyers’ first goal of the game and the tie-breaking one, leading to a 6-3 national TV win at the Wells Fargo Center.
It was a big night for Atkinson’s entire line. Joel Farabee came up with a key goal and an assist and Derick Brassard added two assists.
Atkinson’s second goal 58 seconds into the third period gave the Flyers a 4-3 lead. Atkinson broke in two-on-one with Farabee and finished off a feed as he crashed to the ice.
Travis Konecny iced it with a goal at 11:17. Sean Couturier added an empty-net goal with 58.2 seconds on the clock. The Flyers raised their record to 2-0-1 with goalie Martin Jones securing the win in his Flyer debut.
Coach Alain Vigneault knew some of the history of the three players on the Brassard line going into training camp.
“Brass and Cam had some chemistry way back, they knew each other from Columbus,’’ Vigneault said. “And Joel can just play with anyone. All three guys have one thing in common: Great hockey sense. They all love to compete.’’
Atkinson confirmed Vigneault’s comments.
“I’m obviously very comfortable playing with Brass,’’ Atkinson said. “When I was a rookie (with the Blue Jackets), he was my centerman. We’re best buddies. You get a guy like ‘Beezer’ (Farabee) who’s very skilled. I had a feeling we were going to click. We just stayed positive.’’
Farabee’s explanation for the line’s chemistry is rather simple.
“I think it’s simple hockey,’’ he said. “We’re not trying to do too much. If we don’t have a play, we put it in and get on the forecheck. I think for us it’s creating a lot of turnovers. Just try to put it behind the defense and get to work.’’
Boston had a 6-1-1 mark against the Flyers last season so this was a bit of a revenge game.
For the third straight game, the Flyers got on the board first with Atkinson doing the honors.
Travis Sanheim started the play with an outlet pass to set up a two-on-one with Atkinson and Brassard. Atkinson faked a pass to Brassard, then sent a low shot past goalie Jeremy Swayman at 8:08.
“It was a great breakout by us,’’ Atkinson said during the first intermission. “I think their defense were pinching and ‘Brass’ made a good play to me for the two-on-one. I wanted to pass but obviously I decided to shoot and good things happen when I shoot.”
Although the Flyers gave one back at 16:48 by way of a goal from Karson Kuhlman (off a Nic Aube-Kubel turnover), the Flyers took a 2-1 lead with just 8.9 seconds left in the period.
Boston’s Charlie Coyle, upset with a hit by Rasmus Ristolainen, took out his frustration on Sanheim, handing the Flyers a power play. As the clock ticked down, Ryan Ellis shot from the point and Brassard took the deflected puck and got it to Farabee for the goal.
Atkinson knew the Bruins would come out with intensity in the second period.
“They are a good team over there, they’re an older team that’s been together for quite some time and I think we gave them a little too much respect (in the first period),’’ Atkinson said.
And they did, at least at the start of the period, with Keith Yandle sending a 120-foot pass off the end boards to a rushing James van Riemsdyk. JVR got the puck to Scott Laughton for the goal at 1:58.
But prosperity is never an easy thing to maintain against the Bruins powerhouse attack.
Taylor Hall scored off a breakaway at 8:38. Ristolainen appeared to be headed for a line change but when he saw Hall breaking tried to reverse course. Too late. Hall rushed in and beat Jones with a rising wrist shot.
Then an old Flyers nemesis went to work. Brad Marchand connected with 59.4 seconds left in the period when David Pastrnak got away from a Ristolainen check and set up Marchand for an easy poke past Jones, who was making his first start of the season.
“I thought we were good in some shifts (in the second period),’’ Laughton said, “and some parts we were sitting back on our heels giving them too much respect.”
Added Vigneault: “This was a fast-paced game. Both teams forced the other into turnovers and we were able to capitalize on a few more than them. Both teams had energy, speed.’’
>Ristolainen shakes off rust
This was Ristolainen’s first game since he was injured in the final preseason game against Washington. It took some time for things to click.
“I’ve been waiting for it since the trade happened in the summer,’’ he said. “It’s hard to get hurt early in the year. I’m glad it (his debut) finally happened.’’
>MacEwen makes debut
New Flyer forward Zack MacEwen made his debut with the team and wore jersey No. 17.
>Jones pleased with first win
“It’s always nice to get the first one under your belt,’’ Jones said. “I thought we played really well, we defended really well. It’s one game, it’s something to build off of. It’s a long season, we’ll keep working at it. I felt pretty good from the start of the game. It’s been a while (12 days since his last start at Washington), you just work at it in practice.’’