PHILADELPHIA – Safe to say the Flyers looked like a jittery bunch in 7-0 and 3-2 losses to the Devils and Rangers respectively last week and the cause of that anxiety might have been Friday’s NHL trade deadline.
Ultimately, the Flyers only traded away fringe players Zack MacEwen and Patrick Brown, so at least more than a few players could let out a collective sigh of relief.
With their lineup mostly intact, the Flyers appeared to play a calmer game on Sunday night and came away with a 3-1 win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings at the Wells Fargo Center.
A rare shorthanded goal by Nick Deslauriers gave the Flyers a 1-1 tie in the second period.
With Nick Seeler in the penalty box, Deslauriers found himself on a breakaway. Deslauriers waited for Detroit goalie Ville Husso to make the first move, then whisked a shot just inside the right post at 6:53.
That was the Flyers’ 11th shorthanded goal of the season, moving them into a tie with Carolina for second in the NHL this season. Edmonton stands first with 12.
The Flyers went ahead on a goal from Noah Cates at 12:57. Cates was stationed on the left side of the Detroit crease and managed to tip Seeler’s point shot past Husso.
All in all, the Flyers looked much better managing the puck and managing the game. They killed off both Detroit power plays, got the shorthanded goal from Deslauriers and just looked more composed overall.
“We managed it well,” Cates said. “We managed our (shift) changes. The biggest thing in these games is managing the blue lines, the board battles, the little things and not hurting yourself.
“When we’re playing well, we’re not hurting ourselves. This league is tough, you can’t make it harder on yourself than it needs to be.”
Coach John Tortorella went along with that assessment.
“Other than the first five minutes of the second period I thought we were good,” the coach said. “I thought we had some grind in our game.”
The Flyers had only five giveaways for the game, one of their best performances of the season in that department.
“I just thought we had the puck more,” Tortorella said. “I thought we defended well, blocked some good shots.”
This is the kind of game Tortorella wants his team to play, close to the vest and no glaring errors.
“You have to,” the coach said. “Defense starts when we have the puck with our decision-making in the neutral zone. It’s making sure we play a 200-foot game.”
Detroit connected first with a goal from David Perron at 4:51 of the first period. Perron’s shot from the right hash marks handcuffed Carter Hart.
But that was all the offense Detroit could muster.
>Deslauriers goal sparks bench
Deslauriers scored just the third shorthanded goal of his 659-game career but this was the second one of this season. He previously scored one against Calgary.
The bench literally jumped to its feet in unison when the puck went in the net.
“The funny part is I’m not here to score goals,’’ a grinning Deslauriers said. “When I do, guys are pumped. When I go to touch hands (along the bench), they’re all laughing.”
This game was a bit of a redemption for the Flyers’ penalty kill. They only had to thwart two of them but that’s better than nothing.
“I don’t think we were happy with the last 10 games how our PK was going,” Deslauriers said. “We had a good one today, we just have to build off it. I think our last 10 games we weren’t aggressive enough.”
Scott Laughton played in his 500th NHL game, all with the Flyers. The former first-round draft pick (2012, 20th overall) recently set a career-high for goals in a season with his 14th. For his career, he’s posted 79 goals/192 points. He’s the 39th player in franchise history to reach the 500 milestone. Laughton scored into an empty net with 1:48 to play to account for the final score.
Newly acquired Brendan Lemieux made his Flyers debut. He wore No. 22 and played on a line with Cates and Laughton.
He finished the game with a team-high plus-3.
During a first intermission interview, Lemieux was asked what Tortorella wanted to see from him in his first game as a Flyer.
“I think he has an idea what kind of player I am and he just wants to see me play my game,” Lemieux said. “I’ve already had more of an opportunity than I’ve had all year so I’m enjoying it. It’s nice to be playing hockey again and I’m having fun right now.”
Lemieux was picked up in a trade with Los Angeles.
The new Flyer hopped on a red-eye Friday night and made it to New Jersey in time for Saturday’s practice. Right now he’s running on adrenaline.
“There’s no real time to settle,” he said. “It’s been a whirlwind and a quick turnaround but I’m excited. Obviously I am a big fan of the organization and the city, so I’m excited.”
>Laczynski fits in
Tanner Laczynski, just back from a serious ankle injury, seemed to fit right in after three months on the sidelines.
“It felt good just to be out there again, get in some game action,” Laczynski said. “You’re reading and reacting but you’re thinking a step ahead. First couple shifts you’re getting the rust off your skates.”
Laczynski did hook up on the penalty kill with Cates and that proved an effective duo.
The Flyers begin a three-game road trip in Tampa on Tuesday. The other stops are Carolina on Thursday and Pittsburgh on Saturday.. . .Joel Farabee’s goal drought reached 22 games.