PHILADELPHIA – Flyers captain Claude Giroux probably summed up the team’s season-opening four-game homestand best Saturday night after a tough 4-2 loss to Florida.
“If we win this game, it’s a great homestand,’’ Giroux said of the Flyers’ 2-1-1 mark. “When you lose this one, it becomes an OK stand.
“That game was there for us to win,’’ added Giroux, after the Flyers allowed the Panthers to score the final three goals of the game. “But we’re four games into the season, we have to keep working on our game. We’re not going to win all our games, but when we lose, the next one we do better.’’
The Flyers had things going their way late into the second period. Then Florida scored with 26.6 seconds to play as an entry pass eluded both Flyers defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen, Travis Sanheim on the way to Owen Tippett for a goal to tie the score at 2-2.
Then a shorthanded goal by Jonathan Huberdeau at 7:53 of the third period broke the tie. Huberdeau rushed in, goaltender Carter Hart made the initial save but the Florida left wing cornered the rebound and, stationed below the goal line, banked a shot off Hart into the net.
“It was a hard fought game by two teams who came to play, compete,’’ coach Alain Vigneault said. “Both teams got goals from the power play and the penalty kill. Unfortunately from our side, two misplays with the puck, one on our power play. But we did a lot of right things. There are a couple areas we need to be better.’’
In all, the Flyers handed the Panthers seven power plays and although Florida scored on only one, so many kills might have sapped some of the Flyers’ energy.
Maybe it didn’t help that ref Gord Dwyer had to leave the game early and left it to just one ref, Michael Marcovic, to do all the whistle-blowing.
The Flyers were under siege at various times throughout the first two periods but Hart was up to the task. He made a number of tough saves, including a sneaky backhand shot from Carter Verhaeghe at close range.
After falling behind by a 1-0 score in the first period, the Flyers evened the count with a power-play goal from Giroux at the 4:23 mark.
Giroux, usually stationed in the left circle, was stationed at the right point when he wound up and sent a long shot past goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Cam Atkinson made it 2-1 Flyers with a brilliant shorthanded goal at 10:53. Atkinson stole the puck just inside the defending blue line and took off with no defenders in sight. Atkinson used his speed to force Bobrovsky to commit the first move, then the crafty winger slid the puck between the goalie’s pads.
That’s the way the score stayed until the Tippett goal.
Even though Hart had to make a number of difficult saves in the second period, Giroux thought the Flyers were trending in the right direction after 40 minutes.
“I thought the second period was a lot better than the first,’’ he said. “ We started playing better as a team, moving the puck and supporting each other. They have a lot of offensive skills on that team, so it was important for us to be responsible with the puck.’’
Vigneault said he was satisfied with the Flyers’ homestand.
“Initially when I saw it I wasn’t crazy about having four home games at the beginning,’’ Vigneault said. “But when I thought about it, the practice time (at the end of training camp) we were going to get, I didn’t mind it. I think we got a lot accomplished as a team by getting on the same page. So far I like what I found out about this group.’’
Added Hart: “I think we’re in a really good spot going on thie road trip (to western Canada). We’ve played some good hockey. A couple tough bounces tonight, that’s the way it goes. We have to put it behind us, they’re a good team, we know.’’
>Penalty killing shines
If nothing else, the Flyers have improved greatly over last year’s dismal penalty kill, which finished next to last in the NHL.
“I thought we really did a good job and we got some momentum off (his shorthanded) goal,’’ Atkinson said.
Going into Saturday night’s game, Atkinson, Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny became the first trio of Flyers teammates to each score three or more goals through the team’s first three games in a season since 1982-83, when Bill Barber, Brian Propp and Darryl Sittler accomplished the feat by each scoring three goals. . .The Flyers’ 16 goals in their first three games were the most since they connected for 17 at the start of the 1983-84 campaign.