Image Courtesy of Philly.com
The Flyers started the second of the half of their season on a positive note, rallying to defeat the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 behind Wayne Simmonds’ game winning shootout goal.
Things got off to a rocky start for the Flyers as Ray Emery gave up two quick goals early to the Coyotes in the game’s opening minutes. A fluky bounce over the shoulder off a shot by Arizona’s Connor Murphy, followed by a Martin Erat score off a weak rebound would end Emery’s night early. Steve Mason, who had not seen regular action since January 10, was brought in hopes to salvage the game before it got perhaps too out of hand.
The lead was cut in half just a few minutes later as Wayne Simmonds fired home his 17th goal of the season on the power play. Mason was sharp as he turned away several Arizona shots as the Flyers turned up the pressure for the rest of the period.
Despite the best efforts of the Flyers, Mike Smith- who has had a forgettable season so far, was strong in net in preserving the Coyote lead. Finally, just past the midway point of the second, RJ Umberger fired a snapshot past Smith to even the score 2-2.
In an effort of one-upmanship, Jakub Voracek fed a streaking Michael Del Zotto who sniped an even nicer shot one over Smith’s shoulder nearside to give the Flyers their first lead of the night. It would be short lived as Tim Rieder beat Mason on the breakaway just 24 seconds later.
A back-and-forth third period saw both teams have opportunities to take the lead but come away empty as the game would extend into overtime and ultimately require the shootout. Mason and Smith stoned the first three shooters they faced before Simmonds secured the Flyers victory with a nifty deke and score.
Mason went on to make 22 of 23 saves to help jump start the Flyers’ comeback effort. Smith made 39 saves on 42 shots and was the sole reason that Arizona was able to hang around and keep the game close.
With the struggles on the penalty kill for the Flyers this year, it is stressful to see the team take unnecessary or timely penalties game after game. Tonight was a different story. Aside of an early interference call, the Flyers stayed out of the box the entire game. You take only one or two penalties game, more times than not you will be in a position to win.
Petr Straka was called up and made his NHL debut with the big league club. Straka has been a solid contributor with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and has turned up his offensive game lately. He slotted on the third line with Wayne Simmonds and also recent call-up Ryan White. Straka had a hit, blocked shot and was a plus possession player on the evening, even contributing a few carry-outs of the defensive zone.
Despite the close score, the Flyers really controlled both ends of the ice for most of the game and limited the quality scoring chances of the Coyotes. Philadelphia had a nearly 60 percent advantage possession wise at even strength, racking up 68 shot attempts. The top Flyers on the evening were two surprises, Vinny Lecavalier and Andrew MacDonald with a percentage of 77 and 73 percent respectfully. Bottoming out the Flyers were the pairing of Luke Schenn and Del Zotto, at roughly 42% possession.
Fourth Line Fortitude
The fourth line was impressive once again, seeing time against most of the Coyote lines and holding their own. They were positive possession players, strong on the forecheck, and even had a few sustained shifts in the offensive zone, including one for nearly a minute in overtime.