WINNIPEG – The Philadelphia Flyers had everything working against them heading into a meeting with the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night.
But the Flyers wiped away conventional wisdom and churned out a workmanlike 3-2 win at MTS Centre.
The Flyers, 1-6-0 on the road this season before meeting the Jets and on the second game of a six-game road trip, arrived in Winnipeg early Tuesday morning after a long trip following their latest road setback against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Before facing the Jets, Philadelphia had lost four consecutive road games since recording its only road victory Jan. 26 against the Florida Panthers. Center Sean Couturier did not continue on the Winnipeg leg of the trip after sitting out the loss at Toronto, where Flyers coach Peter Laviolette had pulled goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
But Philadelphia (6-7-0) received goals from Brayden Schenn, Kimmo Timonen and Tye McGinn in front of a 24-save night from Bryzgalov in a rebound effort from Monday. Philadelphia held the hosts to six shots in the third period while Jakub Voracek chipped in two assists. Voracek has posted six points over his past six games.
"What I really liked about it was that it was 60 minutes of committed hockey," Laviolette said.
Opponents have outscored the Jets 14-7 in the first period this season, but Andrew Ladd notched two goals for Winnipeg (5-6-1), including a tally in the final minute to pull the club within a goal. Ladd also recorded a two-goal game against the Flyers in Winnipeg last season.
"There's got to be desperation right from the outset," Ladd said of the Jets. "Especially [against] a team that comes in here on a back-to-back, you [have] got to have the killer instinct, you know, jump on them early, and stay on them, and not give them any life. I thought we had a great start, and we allowed them to creep their way back in the game, and we couldn't get that extra push."
With Dustin Byfuglien's return to the Winnipeg line-up after a five-game absence with an undisclosed injury, the Jets staged an energetic opening 10 minutes and controlled the game's pace. But the Flyers put up two goals on their first six shots against Jets back-up goaltender Al Montoya. Back in net after posting a road shutout against the Ottawa Senators Feb. 10, Philadelphia victimized Montoya with two goals, missed a point-blank chance and nearly scored on a breakaway over the final 12 minutes of the first period.
"I didn't really care for the game," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "I thought we played in spurts. It's a game that we could have won, and we let it get away."
"We could have gotten a lot more ‘A' games from our players, and we didn't," Noel continued. "We certainly need a lot more. We can't seem to get going. We can't seem to get on track. We can't seem to get consistent, cohesive play. It's good. It's in spurts. It's not. Why is that? That's what you're always searching to get."
Montoya departed the game after the second period with what the Jets termed a lower-body injury. Ondrej Pavelec, who has been battling the flu, replaced Montoya to start the third period. Noel would not disclose Montoya's prognosis afterward.
Bryzgalov countered Montoya in net and delivered a superb effort. Winnipeg rolled off a 7-1 shots advantage during a late second-period span while down a goal. But Bryzgalov held the Jets scoreless, including stopping Winnipeg's dangerous Evander Kane on three point-blank opportunities.
"I thought that [Bryzgalov] was sharp for us the entire game," Laviolette said. "I thought he was terrific tonight."
Winnipeg fans have made Bryzgalov a target of jeers inside MTS Centre, but Bryzgalov shrugged aside the reception.
"I hear it," Bryzgalov acknowledged. "They're not cheering anything bad. They're just cheering my name."
Bryzgalov's teammates noticed his work as well.
"He was outstanding," Voracek said. "I think he [has been] our best player early in the season."
Philadelphia grabbed a pair of one-goal leads to take a 2-1 advantage into the third period. McGinn greeted Pavelec with a goal 4:17 into the final period that provided Bryzgalov with late insurance.
Schenn made the Flyers' first shot of the game more than eight minutes into the game count. Voracek spun out of the right corner into the circle before flinging a soft shot on net that Schenn tipped high into the net for a 1-0 advantage at 8:07.
Montoya bounced back three minutes later, however, when Harry Zolnierczyk, recalled earlier in the day from the American Hockey League to replace Couturier, blocked Paul Postma's right-point shot attempt inside the Philadelphia blue line. Zolniercyzk raced in alone on Montoya, but the goaltender blocked a backhanded attempt with his left pad to hold the Philadelphia lead at one.
Ladd's team-leading fifth goal ended Philadelphia's lead later in the first period. Blake Wheeler muscled the puck into the left circle before distributing a pass into the slot that Ladd one-timed past Bryzgalov at 14:12.
The Jets' League-worst penalty kill has tormented Noel all season, and a Zach Redmond cross-checking penalty put Winnipeg in another hole late in the first period. Timonen extended his point streak to four games when he used the man-advantage to take back Philadelphia's lead when he took a bouncing puck at the point and ripped a shot that cut through slot traffic and through Montoya's pads.
Winnipeg's inability to close out scoring chances in the second period stalled their comeback bid, and Noel struggled to diagnose the problem.
"Is it urgency or it frustration from a lack of success in times that we had some point-blank shots?" Noel asked. "Does that drive frustration? Does that make you disappointed, make you frustrated? Those are all negative emotions. Is it urgency? It's hard to say.
"You have to find ways to do the right things. We weren't able to do that consistency. You can look at it and say that it's urgency, but I'm not so sure it's that. I would have liked to have seen us have more ‘A' games, and that's more the area for me [to] make assessments there."
McGinn finished off the Jets early in the third period when he deflected Voracek's right-side pass past Pavelec. McGinn also bested Jets defenseman Mark Stuart in a second-period fight and won praise from Laviolette.
"He has been such a nice addition to our line-up," Laviolette said of McGinn. "He comes in, he's big, he's strong, he finishes his checks. He fights once in a while. He scores goals. He sticks up for his teammates."
The Flyers will continue their road trip Friday evening against the New Jersey Devils as they look to undo some of the damage that their early-season road struggles have created.
"We're playing desperate hockey," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "It's great to walk out with a win, but it's one win."