PHILADELPHIA – Teams hungry for that first win of the season always present a challenge. The Arizona Coyotes were a perfect example.
They hit town Tuesday night with no wins (now 0-9-1 mark) and nothing to show for some recent hard work.
But in a game against the Flyers, they gave the home team all it could handle. It took a goal 6:54 into the third period by Sean Couturier to break a scoreless tie and send the Flyers on their way to a 3-0 win at the Wells Fargo Center.
Scott Laughton scored with 2:09 to play to give the Flyers some breathing room and Claude Giroux added an empty-net goal with 1:37 left on the clock.
Helping the Flyers’ cause: No penalties in a game for the first time this season.
Coach Alain Vigneault knew this could have been a dangerous game if the Flyers had let it become one. They were coming off a tough road trip in a couple different time zones.
“You come into these games, people look at the opposition and everyone seems to expect a blowout,’’ Vigneault said. “I’ve been in the NHL long enough to know everyone competes. I thought in the third period we were the better team.’’
Arizona, the last remaining winless team coming into the game, hardly looked as bad as its record indicated through two scoreless periods.
The Coyotes started off slow, getting outshot 10-5 in the early going. But they turned it on late in the first period and finished even in shots at 13-all.
Goaltender Carter Hart, who recorded his first shutout of the season and third of his career, was put to the test several times, including a shot by Clayton Keller on a semi-breakaway.
Vigneault has been impressed with Hart’s work ethic and composure.
“I just think he’s battling extremely hard on all shots,’’ Vigneault said. “He seems in a real good place mentally, played extremly well again tonight. We’re like any team in the NHL, you need goaltending to have success and we’re getting it right now.’’
Hart said: “I feel good. We’ve got a good group here. The guys are doing a good job in front of me, boxing guys out and letting me see the puck. It’s always fun when you can put a zero up on the board. Two points are all that matters.’’
The Flyers (5-2-1) thought they broke the scoreless tie at 12:46 of the second period when Cam Atkinson jammed home a puck from a scrum. But officials disallowed the goal, ruling goaltender Karel Vejmelka had covered the puck and the whistle had blown prior to the puck entering the net.
“I guess he said that the goalie had it covered, but it looked like he had it covered for half a second,” Atkinson said. “I didn’t see how the puck got out or whatnot but if that’s the right call, then that’s the right call.”
After the game, both Vigneault and Atkinson agreed the officials made the right call.
Couturier broke through when he finished off a pass from Travis Konecny in the final period.
“We stuck what we needed to do to win this game,’’ Couturier said. “They’re a tough team to play against, they’re tight. It was important for us to stick with it. I thought we good job with that.’’
>Power play’s new look
So far, Atkinson and veteran center Derick Brassard have been playing like familiar friends, which they are, going all the way back to their playing days in Columbus.
Now Atkinson is getting some new playing time on the power play with guys such as Giroux and Couturier.
“I’m obviously excited to play with the big boys,’’ Atkinson said before the game. “Looking forward to it. When you get put with players who can pass the puck, it’s my job to finish it. I know I’m going to get some good looks. I just have to do my part and score some goals.’’
Rasmus Ristolainen, a veteran of power play experience from his days in Buffalo, also is getting some PP time.
“That’s probably where I played most in previous years,’’ he said. “I feel comfortable there. We’ve been practicing it.’’
As for even-strength play with Brassard, Atkinson considers him a great set-up man.
“He’s always been a skilled player,’’ Atkinson said. “Very smart on both sides of the puck. My first couple years in Columbus he was my centerman as well. Over the past 11 years he’s matured as a player. Overall, he just does everything the right way. Just fun to play with him.’’
>Laughton line impressive
Although Oskar Lindblom has had his struggles scoring, Laughton and James van Riemsdyk have been picking up the slack, at least from play at both ends of the rink.
“It’s nice to see those guys get rewarded,’’ said Ristolainen about Laughton’s goal. “The goal he (Laughton scored) was huge for us.’’
Couturier played in 700th NHL game. “Time flies,’’ Couturier said. “I still remember like it was yesterday my first game. Just trying to enjoy it and hopefully many more.’’. . .Ex-Flyer Shayne Gostisbehere received a loud ovation during a video highlight tribute during the first period. . .The Flyers begin a two-game road trip to Pittsburgh and Washington starting Thursday in the Steel City. . .The last time the Flyers went penalty-free in a game: March 31, 2021 vs. Buffalo.