Carter Hart wanted to play well in front of family and friends when the Flyers played the Oilers in his hometown of Edmonton on Wednesday night and he did just that.
The Flyers goaltender came up with 34 saves and recorded his first-ever win over the Oilers in a 5-3 victory at Rogers Place.
Cam Atkinson chipped in with two goals, including the game-winner, as the Flyers (3-1-1) handed the previously undefeated Oilers (5-1) their first loss.
Key to the Flyers’ victory was their ability to keep Edmonton’s vaunted power play in check. The Oilers entered the game clicking at 47.2 percent with the man advantage but scored only one time in four attempts on Wednesday night.
Atkinson’s second goal broke a 3-3 tie at 4:18 of the third period. He finished off a give-and-go play with Derick Brassard for his sixth goal in the first five games of the season. Atkinson’s shot eluded goaltender Mikko Koskinen. Sean Couturier scored an empty net goal with just under a minute to play.
It was the first meeting between the two teams in over two years (October, 2019).
Hart looked about as sharp as he’s been this season.
“There’s no doubt he made some real big saves in the second and third periods,’’ coach Alain Vigneault said. “Guys in front of him played real hard also. We came to play, we came out hard. I thought we played our best period in the third when the game was on the line. We found a way to get two points in a very tough environment.’’
Atkinson’s first goal with 0.6 seconds left in the first period capped off a wild and woolly opening 20 minutes.
The right wing took control just above the hash marks, pivoted and sent a shot past Koskinen.
“He (Atkinson) is a real smart player,’’ Vigneault said. “He plays a 200-foot game, plays power play, kills penalties. He’s a big part of our team right now.’’
That gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead at the first intermission.
“To come into our room (at the intermission) having scored with just fractions (of a second) left, was obviously a big morale booster,’’ Vigneault said. “
The Flyers scored first for the fourth time in five games. Claude Giroux grabbed the puck off Travis Konecny’s just-wide shot attempt, swept behind the net and had his wrap-around shot just beat Koskinen to the near post at 7:22.
The Flyers made it 2-0 at 10:55. Nicolas Aube-Kubel took one whack at the puck during a scrum in front and Nate Thompson cleaned up with a push under Koskinen’s pads.
Edmonton quickly countered at 10:40 when Tyson Barrie beat Hart with a rising backhand shot. Then Connor McDavid tied the score with 17.8 seconds left in the period during an Edmonton power play. Overall, the Flyers did a good checking job against McDavid.
The prosperity of the Atkinson goal didn’t last long. Just 54 seconds into the second period, Zach Hyman scored to even the count at 3-3.
But Atkinson changed the momentum with his goal in the third period and the Flyers played tight defense after that.
“I thought it was a strong effort all around,’’ James van Riemsdyk said. “They’re a top team, they’re explosive. You can’t really take a shift off against them because they can make plays out of nothing, it seems like. Strong effort by us and a big two points.’’
As for the penalty kill, the Flyers looked composed.
“Just sticking within the structure,’’ JVR said. “Really trying to make them go station to station and not through the seams as much. Their power play in general just seems to click. They move the puck really well so I thought it was a strong effort by our penalty kill.’’
Hart got shelled in his first game at Edmonton, so this was a bit of revenge.
“He was great,’’ JVR said. “Against a team like that, they’re super explosive. You have to be on your game defensively and the goalie is a big part of that.’’
The one goal the Flyers give up on the power play came off a deflection. Otherwise, textbook effort.
“We used all five guys pretty well,’’ Giroux said. “We did a good job of not giving them too much. That one goal was kind of a fluke. Overall I think we did a good job on them.’’
Added Keith Yandle about the penalty kill: “Our guys did an amazing job of blocking shots, having good sticks, limiting their chances. It starts with Hartsy, too. We stayed positive.’’
Aube-Kubel played in his 100th NHL game. . .The Flyers get right back to action on Thursday night with a game at Vancouver. Martin Jones is expected to start in goal for the Flyers. . .McDavid became just the seventh player in NHL history to begin a season with six straight multi-point games. . .Atkinson is the first Flyer since Mike Richards in 2009 to score six goals in the Flyers’ first five games.