PHILADELPHIA – It might be only one game and one win, but a whole bunch of Flyers fans left the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night wondering if what they had just witnessed might be sustainable.
In their season opener, playing for the first time under new head coach John Tortorella, the Flyers looked like they had a plan.
And they stuck with it.
The young Flyers used speed but stayed within their structure to score opportunistic goals and bottle up New Jersey’s potent offense.
Goals by Travis Konecny (the first of two for the game) at 10:39 and Morgan Frost (also the first of two for the game) at 11:02 of the second period pushed the Flyers to a two-goal lead and they went on to a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils.
Goaltender Carter Hart allowed just a single goal in a fairly wide-open first period and the Flyers’ offense took it from there.
Wade Allison responded to the Devils’ goal at 8:01 (a power-play tally by Alexander Holtz) of the first period with one of his own at 8:24 and that seemed to shift the momentum back in the Flyers’ direction.
Allison was positioned right in front of goalie Mackenzie Blackwood and had a wide open net when the puck found his stick.
In a sense, that might have been the biggest play of the game for the Flyers, considering their penchant for falling apart quite often last season when an opponent scores first.
“You saw everybody battle, you saw everybody block shots,’’ said Ivan Provorov, who recorded two assists, 10 blocked shots and was a plus-4. “Everybody took the hit when they needed to take the hit. Overall it was a great team effort.
“We didn’t sit on our heels, we came right back on the attack. That was kind of almost the turning point of the game.’’
Hart felt almost the same way.
“We responded really well,’’ Hart said. “Right away. That was a big goal right there to respond. So that was huge. The biggest thing is just playing a full 60. We just stuck with it.’’
All through training camp, Tortorella said he wasn’t sure what to expect when the games started to count. Maybe now he has a better idea.
“I thought we played our ass off,’’ he said. “We played hard. Do we have to clean some things up? Yes. But if we can just stay with that type of effort. . .I do think we took a step in that second period. It looked like it was going away from us and then we came back. Those are important processes for the team.’’
Allison celebrated his goal with such wild abandon he nearly toppled over. Thankfully, a teammate came to his rescue, allowing him to keep his balance.
“We had more confidence in our game,’’ he said. “We stuck together as a group and took care of business. It (the goal) felt good. Nice to help the team.’’
Defenseman Tony DeAngelo, who assisted on the Allison goal, said real game action was a step up from the preseason brand of hockey.
“Yeah, it’s a total 180 for us,’’ he said during the first intermission. “We looked good in the first period. I thought we gave up a little too much early and then had a really good push. Hartsy had a couple big saves there so, a good period.”
One thing the Flyers did not want to do was get into a track meet with the speedy Devils.
“We want to play below their goal line,’’ DeAngelo said, “that’s where we think we can keep them hemmed in and create offensive chances. When we did that we had chances. When we didn’t it was a track meet.”
Konecny scored when he used New Jersey defenseman as a screen to thread a shot beyond Blackwood’s reach. Then Frost wired a shot from the left circle inside the far post.
In the third period, Konecny put the game out of reach with a power-play goal at 1:31. New Jersey got a little closer by way of a goal from Damon Severson at 9:28. Frost was credited with his second goal with just under two minutes to play. Dougie Hamilton actually touched the puck last before it went into the net.
>A homecoming for DeAngelo
An estimated 200 friends and family members – many from DeAngelo’s home state of New Jersey plus South Philly – were on hand to cheer for their favorite son.
“It’s special,’’ he said. “Once the first puck drops, you gotta play, not worry about anyone else. I’ll see everybody after, but it’s special to put the uniform on.”
Right wing Owen Tippett suffered an upper-body injury in a collision with Ondrej Palat late in the first period, tried to return early in the second period and then left the game for good. General manager Chuck Fletcher said Tippett was being examined by doctors during the second period. . .The Flyers return to action on Saturday afternoon when they host the Vancouver Canucks. It’s a 4 p.m. start. . .Ivan Provorov had a pair of assists, helping out on the goals by Allison and Konecny. . .Former Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo, now a scout with the Canucks, was in the house on Thursday on a scouting mission. He reports all is well in his new digs in British Columbia, Canada. . .Three stars: Konecny, Provorov, Hart. . .The Flyers raised their alltime season opener record to 27-19-9.