If you look at Sean Couturier
's statistics or examine his role with the Philadelphia Flyers
, you might think he is an example of a young player being brought along slowly. But the 19-year-old's game-winning goal Tuesday night showed why Philadelphia made him the No. 8 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
With the score tied 1-1 early in the third period, Couturier bolted down the right wing and fired a wrist shot high to the far side of Carolina netminder Cam Ward
, lifting the Flyers to a 2-1 win at the RBC Center. The play started with a block by fellow rookie Harry Zolnierczyk
, who lugged the puck up ice and left it on the stick of Couturier.
"Harry did a great forecheck, caused the turnover, and drove hard to the net," said Couturier. "That gave me some space and time to take a look for a good shot."
Pressed on whether he drew a bead on the upper-left corner of the net, the rookie admitted to flashing the goal scorer's touch.
"I saw a little hole and just tried to put it there," he said.
Couturier centers the Flyers fourth line, so his numbers — seven goals and 13 points in 37 games — don't indicate what kind of expectations Philadelphia has for him.
"Sean has played really well the entire year," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "I don't think anyone should be mistaken about his offensive abilities because we use him on penalty kills and on the fourth line. He's a really talented guy."
The Flyers had the better chances, but they had difficulty putting away the Hurricanes (14-23-7), who managed 36 shots on Sergei Bobrovsky
. The Flyers helped their goaltender by blocking 17 more.
"We were better, but I think there's still some room for improvement," Laviolette said. "In the third period there, there were a couple of mistakes, but (Bobrovsky) was sharp and he bailed us out a couple times.
"I thought we did a good job taking care of our end early on. There weren't a lot of scoring chances 5-on-5, so we tightened things up. (Carolina) started to press a bit when they got down, but overall it was a much better effort of what we needed to do."
Philadelphia's Brayden Schenn
opened the scoring at 4:20 of the second period, following up Wayne Simmonds
' redirection on Ward. Schenn skated the puck up the right wing from deep in the Flyers zone before centering to Simmonds coming down the slot and putting home the rebound. It was the second NHL goal for Schenn, with the first coming in the 2012 NHL Winter Classic.
"It was just a 2-on-2 with me and (Simmonds)," said Schenn, who has three points in his last five games. "He threw a nice shot off the pad to me for a nice rebound. It was just kind of an open net."
Carolina tied the game at 12:37 on Jerome Samson
's first NHL goal. Playing his first game of the season for the Hurricanes, Samson followed up two power-play shots by Justin Faulk
by driving home a wrist shot from the left side of the Flyers net. Samson had drawn the power play moments earlier while moving past Kimmo Timonen
, who was whistled for interference.
“It felt good to get the call I was waiting for,” said Samson, who drove up from Charlotte for the game. “I was in my truck by myself and I kept thinking about the game and what I should do and who I was going to play with, and what situations I was going to be in.
“At first I was nervous, there were butterflies, but as the game wore on I was able to bring my game and able to do my thing,”
Samson was never drafted and has spent five seasons in the Hurricanes' organization. He played 30 games with Carolina during the previous two seasons, registering four assists.
The Hurricanes will take the bright spots where they can find them, in a season where their expectations have gone up in smoke -- the loss dropped them back into last place in the Eastern Conference.
"No one wants to lose around here," coach Kirk Muller said. "We don't want to make it a habit. We want to compete and win hockey games. (Philadelphia) is a good hockey club. We battled, we played for the most part head-to-head with them."
Hurricanes defenseman Jaroslav Spacek
left the game in the middle of the second period after being hit in the face with a wrist shot. He left under his own power, but did not return.
While a 2-1 midseason victory isn't memorable on all fronts, the game marked an achievement for Laviolette, who led the Hurricanes to the 2006 Stanley Cup: He earned his 100th win with the Flyers.
Asked if it was special to win the game in Carolina, he downplayed the significance, as he usually does when asked about coaching against his old team.
"I'm happy to be here, to be a Flyer," he said. "I hope there's 500 more."