Martin Jones might not be the Flyers designated No. 1 goaltender but he’s sure playing like he thinks he is.
Although he’s generally referred to as Carter Hart’s backup, he’s making a case for increased playing time after Thursday night’s stellar performance in a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
The Flyers completed back-to-back wins after Wednesday night’s 5-3 victory at Edmonton and raised their record to 4-1-1. Jones, a Vancouver native, is 2-0 this season after standing tall in a 6-3 win over Boston last week in Philadelphia.
In Thursday night’s effort, the Flyers avenged a season-opening 5-4 shootout loss to the Canucks back in Philadelphia on Oct. 15.
James van Riemsdyk’s goal in the first period stood up for the game-winner.
For the fifth time in six games, the Flyers scored first and also held the lead at the first intermission, this time by a 2-1 margin.
Coach Alain Vigneault confirmed Jones was the difference-maker in this tilt.
“He was an All-Star tonight,’’ a grinning Vigneault said. “He played extremely well. He didn’t have a lot of work in the first period (only four shots), we came out with a lot of energy. In the second and third periods, there’s no doubt he was a big difference in our getting the win tonight. In our penalty killing tonight (five Vancouver power plays) he made some big saves. When we needed a save, we got a save.’’
Jones wound up stopping all but one of 28 Vancouver shots.
“It’s always fun to come home and play in front of family and friends,’’ Jones said. “I thought we played really well, the penalty kill was really good.’’
Claude Giroux has seen Jones for only two games but appreciates what’s been accomplished in a short time.
“He was very clutch,’’ Giroux said. After the only goal, Giroux said, “He closed the door after that. He gave us a chance to win this game. We did our best on the penalty kill to help him but he made some huge saves.’’
Jones added: “The communication has been really good on the ice. The guys have been playing really well in front of me, so it’s been great. It’s been a good start (for him) but the team has been a big part of that as well.’’
And Sean Couturier also had words of praise for Jones’ work.
“He made some big saves late to keep us ahead,’’ Couturier said. “He was awesome tonight. He played a heck of a game.’’
Couturier needed only 22 seconds to get the Flyers on the scoreboard first. Travis Konecny spotted Couturier breaking down the right side and a quick shot inside the far post beat goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Giroux assisted on the goal, giving him points in each of the Flyers’ first six games and making him the first player to do that since Simon Gagne and Peter Forsberg accomplished that in the 2005-06 season.
That edge didn’t last long. Quinn Hughes countered on a power play at 2:14 when a long shot hit the post, then bounced off Jones’ leg into the net.
Van Riemsdyk’s first goal of the season put the Flyers back in front again at 6:58. With the Flyers on a power play, Giroux deliberately shot the puck wide of the net and Couturier cornered the rebound on the far side. He snapped a pass to JVR in front for the slam past Halak. Last year, 10 of van Riemsdyk’s 17 goals came with the man advantage.
Although it looked like a set play, van Riemsdyk said that wasn’t the case.
“Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t,’’ JVR said. “It was just a read that the guys on the half-wall make. Two great plays by ‘G’ and ‘Coots.’+”
According to van Riemsdyk, the Flyers are aware of the importance of a balanced scoring attack. Philadelphia entered the game second in the NHL in goals per game at 4.50.
“That’s one of the strengths of our team,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “You can look up and down our lineup and there are a lot of guys who can chip in offensively. Certainly they’ve been going in for us early in the year and that’s going to be key, balanced scoring, as the year goes on.’’
>Ellis still out
Defenseman Ryan Ellis (lower-body injury) sat out again but Vigneault expressed optimism he might be ready for Saturday’s game at Calgary. Nick Seeler filled in for Ellis.
Patrick Brown finally made his Flyer debut after missing the first five games due to COVID quarantine restrictions. He played on a line with Nate Thompson and Zack MacEwen. Nicolas Aube-Kubel was scratched. . .MacEwen got into a fight with ex-Flyer Luke Schenn and got the better of the defenseman. . .The Flyers have outscored opponents this season in the first period by an 11-5 margin. . .The Flyers began the game ranked only 20th on the penalty kill but that’s still an improvement over last year’s 30th place finish. . .In a scoring change from Wednesday’s 5-3 win at Edmonton, goalie Carter Hart received an assist on one of Cam Atkinson’s two goals.