Atkinson, Ersson lead Flyers past Winnipeg

Cam Atkinson

      If Cam Atkinson was going to end a 26-game goal drought, he might as well have done it in a very meaningful game like Saturday night’s in Winnipeg.

      The Flyers forward hadn’t scored since Nov. 10 yet he notched not one but two goals in a 2-0 win over the Western Conference-leading Jets, who had won eight games in a row, at Canada Life Centre.

      Atkinson scored in each of the first two periods and goalie Sam Ersson made those two goals stand up as the Flyers went 2-0 on their road trip and notched their third straight victory. The Jets lost their first game against the Eastern Conference (11-1-3) and saw their eight-game win streak go by the boards.

      At 14:47, Atkinson tipped in an entry from Ryan Poehling past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. The Flyers’ bench erupted in joy. Then the 33-year-old Connecticut native registered his second goal, this one on the power play at 2:52 of the second period.

      The goal extended the Flyers’ streak of power-play goals to five games, the longest such term of success since 2016.

      “Got the monkey off my back,” a smiling Atkinson said in a televised first intermission interview. “It’s been a long time coming, I’ve been trying to do the right things. I got rewarded there (on the first goal) so now I have to keep it going.”

      Atkinson’s teammates kept his spirits up when there were some frustrating moments over the past couple months.

      “Everyone wants everyone to do well and score,” Atkinson said.  “That’s just the group that we have in the locker room. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed. They could tell it weighed on me. I just tried to stay positive. It was pretty cool to see everyone so excited for me to get that one.”

      The Flyers raised their road record to 13-6-4 and maintained third place in the Metro Division. They are just two points behind division leader New York Rangers.

      Ersson appears to be oozing confidence at the moment.

      “I think what we’ve shown all year is our ability to handle adversity,” Ersson said after the game. “You look at the game (Friday in Minnesota), we were down 3-1 in the third and we find a way to come back. Tonight we lost some key guys (Sean Couturier, Jamie Drysdale) but we find a way to win the game.”

      Atkinson looked like his old self as he raised his season goal total to 10.

      “Long time coming, longest (drought) of my career,” he said. “A little snakebitten there but just stuck with the process. I have scored a lot of goals in this league and I found a way to get a couple tonight. It feels good.”

      Coach John Tortorella likes the way his team is sticking to the game plan.

      “It was stacked up against us, the guys didn’t get to bed until about 3 (a.m., after arriving from Minnesota),” the coach said. “A couple injuries. . .we just go play. I think we lose a couple guys, you just have to worry about being a team. I thought everybody contributed. ‘Ers’ was really good in the third when they turned it up so it was a good team win.”

      >Couturier, Drysdale sidelined

      Couturier was scratched from Saturday night’s game due to a minor injury, according to general manager Daniel Briere. Also, Drysdale was sidelined due to illness. veteran D-man Marc Staal returned to the lineup and Bobby Brink, scratched from Friday night’s game against Minnesota, returned to the lineup.

      >Former Flyer passes away

      The Flyers say they are saddened to learn of the passing of former player Glen Cochrane, 65. Glen was drafted by the Flyers and played over half of his NHL games, which included six seasons, for Philadelphia. A formidable and tough defenseman for the Flyers in the early 1980s, Cochrane was a key part of the Flyers’ blue line and ranks 10th all-time in team history in penalty minutes. He also helped the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Maine Mariners, win the Calder Cup championship in 1979.

      >Back-to-back challenging

      Although back-to-back situations are challenging, the Flyers entered the second half of their two games in two nights set with Winnipeg having recorded winning records this season on both ends.

      Following the come-from-behind 4-3 overtime win at Minnesota on Friday night, the Flyers headed to Winnipeg looking for a sweep.

      However, the Jets are one of the surprise teams in the NHL this season and have led the Western Conference at times.

      “Obviously, don’t think about it too much,” the Flyers’ Scott Laughton said in a televised pre-game interview. “Getting in a little bit late last night, wake up and you get to play another game. I know the guys are excited. It’s a pretty hot team we’re coming into. Play a greasy road game and see what the results are.”

      >Short shots

      Staal celebrated his 37th birthday. . .The Flyers have Sunday off, then complete the three-game trip in St. Louis on Monday night. . .Travis Konecny is one of only a handful of NHL players who have at least 20 goals and are at least a plus-15. . .Garnet Hathaway played in his 500th NHL game. . .Flyers equipment manager Rick Bronwell worked his 2,000th NHL game.

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About Wayne Fish 2471 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.