The Flyers, this week, entered probably the most crucial part of their schedule this year. They finished off a four game road trip with three very difficult games. They hosted the defending champs, Detroit, on Tuesday. Friday night they faced a playoff hungry team in the Buffalo Sabres and ran into a very hot Pittsburgh Penguin team on Sunday afternoon.
There was a common theme in all three of these games this week. That was the first period. All the pressure seemed to be against the Flyers for most of the period and they all worked out well.
Marty Biron was in net against the Red Wings. He also started Friday and Sunday. The Wings had a couple early power plays but Biron was up to the task. Despite getting out shot 19-8 in the period, Scott Hartnell managed to come away with the only goal of the period. The Red Wings sat back for a while trying to figure out their style.
Early in the second, it was Joffrey Lupul who gave the Flyers some breathing room. The shooting gallery continued though for Detroit. During the period, the Flyers called a time out because their players were tired after an icing call and they are not allowed to switch. It seemed at that point that the game turned.
Sure enough, Dan Carcillo got caught on defense and the Red Wings cut the lead in half. Midway through the third period, Detroit took a 3-2 lead with two goals in less than two minutes. Detroit was able to shut down the Flyers and hold off a last minute flurry to pick up the 3-2 win. It was a good effort but a tough loss.
Trying to get Danny Briere and the rest of the offense kick-started, John Stevens drastically changed the lines before Friday’s game. Briere is now on the wing with Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell. Joffrey Lupul moves from that line to the “third” line with Mike Richards and Dan Carcillo. Claude Giroux now centers Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne.
The lines worked against Buffalo. The Flyers, the most penalized team in the league, took five in the first period against the Sabres. Buffalo out shot the Flyers and Biron was there again including one outstanding glove save early in the game.
Mike Richards had an interesting period. He was awarded a penalty shot late in the period. He went in and beat the goaltender but was beaten by the post to keep the game scoreless. On a power play minutes later, he was able to score despite being defended this time. Go figure.
The second period was a lot more interesting. Buffalo struck quickly for two goals in a little more than two minutes. And Simon Gagne then re-directed Richards’ pass into the net on the power play to tie it a two.
Less than four minutes later, it was Buffalo getting another fortunate goal for the lead. Not to be outdone, the Flyers came back. With less than three minutes in the period, Danny Briere scored twice in two minutes and five seconds for a 4-3 lead. It was the first time he has scored since November 11.
The Flyers put the game away with two in the third from Mike Knuble and Jeff Carter. Buffalo scored late and the game ended 6-4. Richards (goal and two assists) and Kimmo Timonen (three assists) each had three points. Claude Giroux added two helpers.
The last meeting of the season between these bitter cross-state rivals was that and more. The Sunday afternoon tilt with the Penguins was saved for the Flyers by Marty Biron. He was outstanding. He had to hold off the Penguin attack in the first period. Again, somehow the Flyers were able to score the only goal of the period. Simon Gagne put one home eight seconds into a power play. Scott Hartnell had a power play goal early in the second as well. A golden opportunity to put the game away passed the Flyers away as they had a four- minute power play to begin the third and they only managed one shot.
The Flyers penalty kill was the story of the game as well as they would not let Pittsburgh get to the middle of the ice. The only breakdown came on Pittsburgh’s only goal midway through the third. The Pens got a burst of energy with that goal but the Flyers stayed strong and held them off. Darroll Powe was the receiver of the empty-netter that iced the game. The Flyers gained a two point advantage over the Pens in the standings as the two teams sit 4th and 5th in the East.
After a convincing win, the Flyers had a quick turn around with a game at home on Monday against the New Jersey Devils. It was also the last match-up of the regular season. After a fantastic performance Sunday, Biron was back in net as expected.
As a power play expired, the Devils were able to get one home as a puck bounced off a skate of a Devils forward for the early lead midway through the period. The Flyers didn’t help themselves again giving the Devils eight power plays in the game. It was the other side of the special teams that really helped the Flyers in this game.
Late in the first Danny Briere redirected a pass from Kimmo Timonen into the net for the tying goal on the power play. In the second period, it was Briere feeding Mike Knuble for an easy power play goal to give them the lead. The Devils were quick to tie it on their only power play goal about five minutes later.
It remained tied until the third. With only seconds remaining on a power play that carried over, Jeff Carter, 40th goal, deflected in another shot from Timonen. The Flyers finished off a perfect 3-for-3 on the power play. Two minutes later, Simon Gagne, 30th goal, stuffed home a beautiful pass from rookie Claude Giroux.
The Flyers held strong on the penalty kill, including fighting off a four-minute double minor for the 4-2 win. They beat Devil goalie Martin Brodeur for the third time this season. He recently became the NHL’s all-time leader in wins for a goaltender.
The Flyers are off until Thursday when the up start Florida Panthers are in town. Saturday and Sunday the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins will be in town. The Flyers now have a three point cushion on the now 5th place team, the Carolina Hurricanes.
You can contact Colin Fry at email@example.com