Better With Popcorn

Flyers Find Footing in L.A, Beat Kings 7-4

After a humiliating 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night, the Philadelphia Flyers took to the ice in Los Angeles looking to get back on track. With Michael Leighton making his return to the crease for the first time this season, many wondered how he would perform. Leighton proved to be rusty, but the Flyers got what they needed in an offensively dominated 7-4 victory over the Kings.

Things didn’t look great for the Flyers when Ryan Smyth netted the game’s first tally less than three minutes into the game. The soft backhanded shot from the corner found Leighton’s five-hole much like Patrick Kane’s Cup-winning goal did in the spring. Leighton never saw the puck, and it looked like it would be another long night for the Flyers on the west coast.

However, the team came back to life when Daniel Briere tied the game four minutes later on a beautiful sniping shot on Jonathan Bernier. Against Vancouver, the Flyers showed no bounce-back against an incredibly talented team. The early goal from Briere seemed to set the tone that the orange and black wouldn’t back down on this night.

Former Flyer Justin Williams gave the lead right back to the Kings near the midpoint of the first period, but Mike Richards knotted up the score at two in a two-on-one break with Nikolay Zherdev coming out of the penalty box. The score stood at 2-2 after the first period. With Leighton’s troubles, it was clear tha the Flyers would have to flex some of their offensive muscle for the remainder of the game.

That’s exactly what they did.

In a penalty-filled second period, the Flyers found their stride. Scott Hartnell and Richards both scored even-strength goals in the first six minutes of the second period. After Jack Johnson narrowed the Flyers’ lead to 4-3 with a power play goal, Jeff Carter and James van Riemsdyk added power play goals of their own. Smyth added his second goal of the game in the last three minutes of the second period to put the Flyers in the always precarious ‘two-goal lead’ scenario, one that they have self-destructed in numerous times this season.

There would be no self-destruction Thursday night. Ville Leino gave the Flyers a three-goal lead nine minutes into the third period, and the goal snuffed out any chance of a Kings comeback.
The Flyers got a win they desperately needed on Thursday night. Not only did the team need to win to keep pace with the Pittsburgh Penguins, they also needed to gain some confidence for the remainder of their road trip. They head to Anaheim for a game Friday night, followed by games in Detroit and New Jersey.

If the team wants to maintain their claim to being one of the top teams in the NHL, they will have to find a way to gain as many points as possible through this tough stretch. The stretch seemed to be ominous after the drubbing in Vancouver, but the offensive explosion in Los Angeles may be what spurs the team moving forward.

Richards was clearly the Flyers’ catalyst to victory on Thursday, as he registered a four point effort with two goals and two assists. His play was simply phenomenal when the team needed it most. Leighton didn’t provide much clarity to the goalie snafu, except perhaps that the Flyers would be best suited with Sergei Bobrovsky or Brian Boucher in net. Although it’s only one game, it would be hard to argue the Leighton earned another start.

As it has been all season, the Flyers were at their best again Thursday night with offensive contributions coming from everywhere on the roster. Their depth was instrumental in snapping their two game losing skid in which they had been outscored 11-2 by Florida and Vancouver.

With the firepower the team has, it can be awfully puzzling and frustrating when they go cold. However, Thursday night proved that when the Flyers get hot, they can be magnificent to watch on the offensive end.

As I get ready to ring in the new year, feel free to follow me at www.twitter.com/mtrible or email me mtrible@thecheckingline.com