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Special teams lead Flyers past Hurricanes

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers admitted poor performances on special teams was a big reason for their 2-6-0 start to the season. On Saturday, that trend reversed itself.

The Flyers went 3-for-3 on the power play and killed off five of six shorthanded situations -- including a pair of back-to-back kills midway through the third period -- as they snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.

Claude Giroux and Danny Briere each had a goal and an assist, and Kurtis Foster, Braydon Coburn and Mike Knuble also scored for Philadelphia. For four of the five goal-scorers, it was their first goal of the season, while Giroux's goal was his first in six games. Ilya Bryzgalov was strong in goal, stopping a season-high 39 shots.

Eric Staal had a goal and an assist, and Joni Pitkanen and Patrick Dwyer also scored for Carolina. Starting goalie Dan Ellis struggled (four goals allowed on 12 shots), and was replaced by Cam Ward early in the second period. Ward stopped 12 of 13 shots.

The Flyers scored three times in the first period, with two of the goals coming on the power play. Their performance with the man-advantage Saturday stood in contrast to their first eight games, when they were just 5-for-40 (12.5 percent).

"That's one of the main reasons we've been struggling this season," Giroux said. "The power play wasn't working. We've been working hard the last few days with it and it's good to see it really pay off now."

Foster gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead 5:08 into the game after an interference penalty on Jussi Jokinen gave Philadelphia the game's first power play. Matt Read faked a shot from the left side and sent the puck across to Foster, who loaded up a one-timer and fired a rocket past Ellis' glove for his first goal since Feb. 4, 2012.

Pitkanen scored to tie the game, capitalizing on a Flyers’ defensive-zone breakdown. Staal pulled a puck off the wall on the right side, and all five Flyers got caught on that side. Staal found Pitkanen open in the left circle, and his wrist shot beat Bryzgalov at 8:47.

After Coburn crashed the net to bat in the rebound of a Jakub Voracek shot at 15:25 to put the Flyers ahead, Briere made it a 3-1 game 58 seconds later when he scored his first of the season.

Another penalty on Jokinen gave the Flyers their second power play, and with Tye McGinn and Briere battling in front, it was Briere who was able to bang the puck under Ellis at 15:25.

"We need some more presence in front of the net, trying to find some loose pucks and getting to the gritty areas," Briere said. "That's what the coaches have talked about. This was a great play by Claude, threading the needle right between [McGinn's] legs. The goalie was able to make the initial save and I was able to find the rebound."

Just 33 seconds later, however, Carolina stole back the momentum when a pass attempt by Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn from deep in his zone went off the skates of the Hurricanes' Jiri Tlusty and right to Staal, who shoveled the puck under Bryzgalov as he fell to the ice at 15:58.

The Flyers were able to restore their two-goal lead 52 seconds into the second period on a defensive-zone gaffe by Carolina. Justin Faulk gave the puck away to Read, who was able to direct it to Knuble, who walked in front and scored.

For Knuble, who was playing his fifth game after signing Jan.25 for his second tour with the Flyers, the feeling was one he wasn't sure he was going to enjoy again.

"It's good to get the first one," he said. "I think I had a couple decent shots in the first period and missed the net, but it's always good to get the first one out of the way. Kimmo [Timonen] asked me if I wanted the puck. I said I have scored here before, it's not my first one."

Knuble's last regular-season goal as a Flyer came April 11, 2009.

After Carolina took a penalty for having too many men on the ice, Giroux made the Hurricanes pay when he took a pass from Timonen at the top of the left circle and fired a low wrist shot through a McGinn screen and past Ward at 12:43 for his third of the season.

Not only was it Giroux's first goal since the second game of the season, the two points were his first in three games. Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he had spoken to Giroux about not trying to do too much, and it appeared the message got through.

"I think he cares a lot," Laviolette said. "I think he's wants to be successful and he wants his team to be successful. I think he has to continue to go out there and just play the game and not carry so much. When you lose games you can carry them with you. We need to focus on the positive things we can do. I think he takes that burden on and he shouldn't. He should focus on coming out there and doing what he can do which is be a great player."

The Flyers' power play would qualify as great Saturday, thanks in part to all three goals having one similar element.

"Presence in front of the net on all three goals," Briere said. "We had one or sometimes two guys in the crease to block [the goalie's] view or to pounce on the rebounds."

Carolina got an opportunity to get back in the game when Voracek was sent off for tripping at 1:33, and Dwyer cashed in at 3:29. He got a step on Maxime Talbot and tipped a Jordan Staal centering pass past Bryzgalov for his second of the season.

Bryzgalov helped make the lead stand up, stopping 14 of 15shots in the third period as the Flyers were out-shot 15-3 in the final 20 minutes, and 42-24 for the game.

"The second period was good for Bryz, but he was as good in the third," Laviolette said. "He was a really strong player for us tonight."

Carolina had two great chances to further cut into the Philadelphia lead when Coburn was sent off for interference at 9:23, and 13 seconds after he stepped out of the box Talbot was sent off for delay of game when his clearing attempt went over the glass at 11:36. Carolina got just one shot on goal during the two man-advantages and the Flyers blocked four shots.

"Our power play just wasn't good enough, I think," Eric Staal told "We need to execute a little bit better. There were some plays we could have had but we just didn't make it happen.

"Both areas, penalty kill and power play, cost us the game. I thought we were the better team overall. We had 40-plus shots, limited them to a lot less. Special teams win you games in this League and it did for them tonight."


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