UNIONDALE, N.Y. – It’s hard to find a turning point in a 7-0 hockey game, but on this afternoon there was one.
Leading 1-0, the Flyers suddenly found themselves shorthanded two men for a full two minutes against a very good New York Islanders power play that was ranked second in the NHL.
Referee Dan O’Halloran made a questionable call on Kimmo Timonen for interference, which came immediately on the heels of a blatant trip of Danny Briere that wasn’t called.
Wayne Simmonds didn’t like the call, so he had a comment for O’Halloran. The referee must have been in a foul mood, because he immediately teed up Simmonds for unsportsmanlike conduct.
It was looking bleak at that point for the Flyers, but their penalty kill unit did a masterful job.
They limited the Isles to just one shot on that 5-on-3 and then stopped them four other times to run their streak to 21 consecutive kills and have killed 38-of-40 (95 percent) in their last 10 games.
“Our penalty killers were terrific,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “That certainly was a big lift for our guys getting through that in a tight game [at the time]. To do that and still have the lead was good.”
The Flyers have slowly begun to climb the penalty kill rankings after being pretty woeful through the start of the season.
They have now killed 83.1 percent of their shorthanded situations, ranking them 13th in the league.
Considering they were 30th at one point, that’s a pretty significant climb.
“We had a different set of players learning a different system so it took some time,” said Ruslan Fedotenko, one of the top penalty killers for the Flyers. “I’m pretty solid with Max [Talbot] there and we both know where we are going. With a short training camp and not a lot of practice, I felt that was a little bit of a reason why [we struggled] but right now I feel we’ve ironed out all the details and know exactly what to do.”
Harry Zolnierczyk was a surprise addition to the Flyers lineup today in place of Tye McGinn.
And although the move seemed curious pregame, once again, it seemed like Laviolette had the magic touch.
Zolnierczyk played a solid game, and made a pretty play to assist on Zac Rinaldo’s goal, using his speed to outskate the Islanders defense and totally trick New York goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
Zolnierczyk also had a chance to score in the first period on a 2-on-1 with Claude Giroux, but his re-direction was swallowed up by a nice save by Nabokov.
“Every time Harry is in the lineup he brings – and this is nothing against Tye because Tye’s been real good for us and we have good, young players and have decisions to make every game – but Harry brings energy,” Laviolette said. “He brings it in the locker room and he brings it on the ice. His play to Zac is a perfect example of that. He had one earlier and he had one the last game he played [in Winnipeg] too. That speed and jump he brings to the lineup [makes us] a little bit quicker.”
Zolnierczyk sped down the left wing, beating two defenseman to a loose puck in the neutral zone. He saw Rinaldo trailing and took the puck behind the net. One defenseman chased him, the other peeled to the other side to try and close him off.
Nabokov was surprised by Zolnierczyk’s speed and ended up taking himself out of the play.
Zolnierczyk slipped a soft pass into the slot and Rinaldo couldn’t miss from there if he tried.
Today’s game was the most lopsided regular-season shutout by the Flyers since Antero Niittymaki blanked the Atlanta Thrashers 7-0 on the road on October 28, 2008.
It was also the worst home shutout loss in Islanders franchise history.
This is the second time this season the Flyers have posted seven goals in a game (1/26, 7-1 W at FLA). The Flyers have scored 14 goals in those two road games, and 15 goals in their other nine road games combined.
Ilya Bryzgalov recorded his 30th career shutout in his 400th career NHL game.
In addition to his goal, Rinaldo had another five hits in 10:02 of ice time. He now has 52 hits in 13 games, which is an average of 4.33 hits per game despite averaging just 7:30 TOI per game.
By comparison, Luke Schenn leads the league with 60 hits for an average of 3.52 hits per game, and is doing so with an average ice time of 20:09.
Rinaldo’s goal is his third career NHL goal and his second at Nassau Coliseum. He also scored against the Islanders in a 3-2 win on March 15, 2012.
Jake Voracek’s four points today (all assists) were a career high.
Claude Giroux returned to above the 50-percent line on faceoffs (10 for 15) after two games beneath. He ranks 10th in the NHL in faceoff percentage (55.8) among centers with at least 200 draws. He leads the league with 418 draws total.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37