PHILADELPHIA – Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell, two of the Flyers who did not play any competitive hockey during the work stoppage, summed up the Flyers opening day, 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh quite succinctly.
The Flyers took a little bit longer than the Penguins to get rid of their “heavy legs.”
And that made all the difference.
The Penguins scored twice in a sluggish first period for the Flyers and then held on as the Flyers got better as the game progressed.
And even though Claude Giroux scored in his first game as the Flyers captain, the end result was still not one the team wanted to jump start this shortened season.
“It was a disappointing start for sure,” Hartnell said. “I don’t know if you want to chalk it up to not playing for eight months or whatever, but we didn’t have any legs that first period. Special teams I think was the biggest difference. We had a lot of chances and we executed except for putting the puck in the net. It was a little frustrating to start like that at home. We wanted to have a good start obviously, and we didn’t do that.”
The power play was 0-for-5, which was a bit of a surprise considering the ease with which the Flyers scored with the man advantage in their playoff series with Pittsburgh last season.
But, they couldn’t find the back of the net against Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who played well, making 26 saves.
“I got to be honest, the first period was kind of tough for everybody,” Timonen said. “It was really, really tough. I think when the game got going, we were in the game and had chances to win, but not this time.”
Meanwhile the Pens got a power play goal on a deft redirection by Tyler Kennedy 4:40 into the first period and then took a 2-0 lead a few minutes later when Evgeni Malkin beat Sean Couturier on a faceoff allowing for James Neal to take a quick wrister from the top of the left circle.
“You go down 2-0, shots aren’t in your favor and first goal was a real tough one, a redirect kind of fluke,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “But we need to have better execution on that faceoff goal.”
From there, the Flyers were better, getting off the mat just 23 seconds into the second period when Hartnell fed Giroux with a perfect pass for a tip in goal through Fleury’s five-hole to cut the Pens lead in half.
But although the Flyers had a bevy of opportunities after the fact, they never could net the equalizer and saw the game finally slip away when Chris Kunitz netted a power play empty-netter with 12 seconds to go.
The Flyers had a couple of glorious chances that went awry, both involving their newly-minted captain.
Hartnell hit Giroux in stride with a blue line-to-blue line pass midway through the third period that sent him in alone on a breakaway. But Giroux never got to take a shot, having been called offside by linesman Brian Mach.
One super slow motion replay showed the puck on the blue line at the same time as Giroux’s skate, but it was definitiely a 50/50 call at high speed and Mach chose to call it offside.
“It was really close,” Timonen said. “But, that’s why the [officials] are out there and he called him offside and that’s it. But, it was really close.”
Giroux later feathered a beauty of a pass to Wayne Simmonds on the door step on a Flyers power play and Simmonds got the blade of his stick on the puck but directed it wide of the open net, throwing his hands up into the air in disbelief.
Yep, it was that kind of game for the Flyers.
“I wasn’t too sure what to expect,” Giroux said. “I’ve been playing a long time and I’m not going to lie - the first period was kind of ugly. Guys were just trying to put their legs back in the game and the system was a little sloppy but I think second a third were played better.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t get those two points but our guys battled hard second and third. They are obviously a good team on the other side so we have to keep our heads up and find a way to put that behind us and be ready for Buffalo tomorrow.”
The Flyers (0-1-0), won’t have long to dwell on the loss as they will be back on the ice for the home opener in Buffalo against the Sabres Sunday at 12:30.
“You never want to sit on a loss too long so we made sure of that with the 12:30 p.m. start,” joked Laviolette. “So, we’ll be back out, ready to play. We rolled lines pretty good tonight. Nobody really got taxed.”
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