The strategy was fairly simple: Get to the net and apply as much pressure as possible.
And it worked.
The Flyers went to the opposing goal early and often on Friday night and it paid off in a 6-3 win over the Ducks at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
With the memory of a sound 7-4 beating by the Ducks in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago still fresh on the minds of the Flyers, it didn’t take much to get the visitors motivated.
By getting the first goal of the game, the Flyers put themselves in good position to end a two-game losing streak, one in which they scored a total of just one goal. They entered the game with a 5-1-0 record when scoring first.
Coach John Tortorella has been stressing a stronger net presence in practice and the game plan paid off.
“We were there most of the night,” Tortorella said in a televised interview. “I thought we also had a shot mentality in trying to get pucks there. So we found a way.”
Tortorella is not a big fan of wide-open hockey and this game had a lot of that.
“After the first period (in which the Flyers led 2-0), you could see where the game was going,” he said. “I didn’t like our start. We finally score a couple but we were trading chances. I love some of the offense that we brought. But we were also beat up the ice quite a bit tonight. One of the few games we gave up a ton of odd-man rushes.”
Sean Couturier did the honors on the first goal. He connected at 4:57 of the first period when he found the puck on his stick in close on the left side of the crease. That was his ninth goal in 16 career games against Anaheim.
Later in the period, Travis Sanheim lugged the puck to the top of the slot and launched a shot. The puck hit Cam Atkinson and floated past goaltender Lukas Dostal at 12:31. It was Atkinson’s seventh goal of the season, all at even strength.
Overall, the Flyers fired 16 shots on the Anaheim net in the first period and had a lot of traffic in close.
“We’re more around the net,” Couturier concurred during a televised first-period interview. “We’re jumping on second pucks. Last game we had a lot of shots (a 2-1 loss to San Jose) but we weren’t too happy with the way we kind of battled for second and third pucks. So far we’re winning those second- and third-type battles. That’s good for us offensively.”
The Flyers made it 3-0 just 2:33 of the second period. Defenseman Louie Belpedio joined the rush and was in perfect position to finish off a nice pass from Joel Farabee. It was Belpedio’s second goal since a recent call-up.
“That (the scoring shot) was the easy part,” Belpedio said in the way of a tribute to Farabee’s set-up. “He made a fantastic play, all I had to do was put it in.”
Anaheim finally broke through at 13:15. With the Ducks on a power play, Leo Carlsson, who finished with a hat trick, beat Ersson from the right circle.
Otherwise the Flyers were strong on the penalty kill for the period, turning aside Anaheim on three separate manpower advantage opportunities.
“They’re a good team,” Belpedio pointed out. “It’s more of a let’s eliminate the mistakes. Not give them too many chances. Just keep it going, I think we’re playing well so far.”
Sanheim scored the fourth goal at 7:39 of the third. The defenseman rushed down the left side, deked past Dostal and inserted the puck on his backhand.
Carlsson cut the margin to two with a goal at 10:34 of the third. But Owen Tippett restored the three-goal edge with a fine rush at 13:07. Carlsson finished off the hat trick with Dostal pulled, plus a power play, with 1:28 to play. Tippett scored his second goal of the game into an empty net with 1:01 to play.
After the game, both Atkinson talked about how a strong net presence played a big role in this victory.
“The first two (goals) were just getting hard to the dirty areas,” Atkinson said. “That was our emphasis the last couple days. That was one of our keys tonight. Good things happen when you go to the paint.”
>Power play struggles continue
The Flyers’ futility on the power play continues. They went 0 for 3 and the scoreless streak has reached 22 attempts. Their season percentage has dropped below 10 percent, keeping them among the NHL’s bottom three teams.
They did create quite a bit on their first power play, generating four shots.
“We’re trying to come back to the basics,” Couturier said. “Get more pucks to the net and get more rebounds. Get more bodies there and you just get some ugly goals here. I think it will open up eventually.”
Goaltender Carter Hart was medically cleared to play after he recovered from a mid-body injury but took ill before the game and did not play. . .Couturier has a nine-game point streak vs. Anaheim. . .The Flyers’ Nick Deslauriers played in his 600th NHL game. . .Defensemen Marc Staal and Rasmus Ristolainen remain sidelined by injury. . .Center Ryan Poehling was a healthy scratch and was replaced in the lineup by Morgan Frost. At the start of the game, Frost centered a line with Deslauriers and Garnet Hathaway. . .The Flyers finish up the western road trip on Saturday night with a game at Los Angeles. ..A shorthanded attempt by defenseman Sean Walker in the second period was disallowed when refs ruled the puck was advanced with a kicking motion. . .Ersson’s 35 saves were a career high.