Throughout training camp, the Flyers emphasized strong two-way hockey this season.
Then they went out and executed that approach almost to perfection in a season-opening 4-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Thursday night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
The Flyers improved their streak of getting at least a point in their last nine season openers. They are now 7-0-2 in that span and that’s the longest active streak in the NHL.
Goaltender Carter Hart looked in midseason form as he allowed just a single goal in the first period and one in the final seconds. Hart plus the Flyers’ tight defense won this game.
The Flyers took a 2-1 lead after one period on goals by Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny, the first of two for him. Ex-Jacket Cam Atkinson scored into an empty net with 1:29 to play. The Blue Jackets scored in the closing seconds to make it close. Konecny added an empty-net goal with less than a second to play in the game.
“It was a good win,” Hart said after the game. “Any time you start the season with two points, especially on the road, it’s good. I thought we battled all night really hard in front of me. It was a hard fought two points.
“It’s nice to have back Cam and Sean (Couturier). They were both very effective tonight.”
Farabee opened the scoring finishing off a two-on-none rush with Couturier at 3:33. Defenseman Egor Zamula started the sequence with a steal off Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski. The two forwards exchanged passes and Farabee finished off the sequence with a flip shot past Elvis Merzlikins.
After Jake Bean scored with a shot past Hart at 8:24, the Flyers went back on the attack. Scott Laughton took control just inside the blue line and shoveled a pass to Konecny. He fired a shot from the left faceoff dot which pinged off the far post into the net at 12:43.
Coach John Tortorella could find little fault with his team’s performance.
“From where I was last year on the bench, to the first game this year, it’s a fuller bench,” he said. “There are more people that I can put in situations. I didn’t do too much (line) matching. I wanted everybody to play.
“I thought everybody contributed. Carter was fantastic when he needed to be. It’s a good first win for a team that’s starting a journey. I thought everybody kicked in.”
Tortorella gave defenseman Travis Sanheim high marks. He’s starting an eight-year, $50-million contract and on this night lived up to the money.
“He just wanted to take control,” Tortorella said. “I thought he carried the puck well. He’s had that since day one.”
In a between-periods televised interview, Konecny said everyone had to shake off some early minutes nerves before play settled down.
“The first one is always exciting,” Konecny commented. “You try to rely on previous games. There’s always a lot of hype for the first one. You do your best to settle in.”
Hart seemed a little off his game at the start but settled down to stop 14 of 15 shots in the opening period.
Konecny downplayed the significant nature of his goal.
“More importantly, I was just trying to do what I could to get my game back,” said Konecny, who skated on a line with Laughton and Noah Cates. “Just doing my best to get back into game shape.
Atkinson played on a line with Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett and that unit held its own.
The right wing missed all of last season so he could be excused for not being sharp right off the first whistle. Plus, having played 10 years in Columbus, there was that factor plus he had family members in attendance.
“A little bit of anxious butterflies to start the game,” he admitted. “I thought we did some good things, especially on the (penalty) kill. I thought we gained some momentum there. We did some good things as a line.”
The Flyers had to kill off three power plays. Philadelphia didn’t get its first few power plays until the third period.
Couturier, out of action since December, 2021, made it through his first official game unscathed.
“I felt good, as the game went on I felt better and better,” he said. “It’s just a lot of fun being back. I thought we did a good job (on the penalty kill). We didn’t let them set up too much. We didn’t give them time and space to set up.”
As expected, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was an injury scratch. Veteran Marc Staal saw limited ice time. . .Bobby Brink switched uniform numbers, turning in No. 46 for No. 10. Also, Zamula now wears No. 5. .. .The Flyers’ new PHD line of Ryan Poehling, Garnet Hathaway and Nick Delauriers did a good job and helped out greatly on the penalty kill. Philadelphia did not allow a goal when Ottawa had the man advantage. . .Hathaway nearly received a five-minute major penalty for crashing knee-to-knee with Werenski in the second period but after review the call was reduced to a two-minute kneeing minor infraction. Werenski did not return to action. He was listed as having a bruised quad muscle in his right leg. . .The Flyers return to action Saturday when they visit the Senators in Ottawa with a 1:05 p.m. start. . .Konecny has 27 points in 23 career games vs. Columbus.