Flyers Rebound, Down Panthers
After a more than troublesome overtime loss to the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night, the Philadelphia Flyers sorely needed to get back in the win column. In the first of a three-game road trip, the team faced off against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night. In the Panthers, the team found a scrappy young lineup would give them all they could handle. Although the Flyers were once again bitten by a less than impressive period, they regained their composure and skated away with a 3-2 victory.
It seemed that the Flyers had found their stride early in the first period of Tuesday night’s game. Mike Richards took a Ville Leino pass and held on to the puck for a few seconds until Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun overplayed the puck. Once Vokoun was out of position, Richards hit Scott Hartnell with a pass out in front of Florida’s net. Hartnell deposited the puck in the open net just over four minutes into the game, and the slow starts for the team looked to be in their rear-view mirror.
However, as has been the case with the Flyers recently, they took their foot off the gas pedal. In their lapse of intensity, the Panthers struck back. Less than 3 minutes after Hartnell’s opening tally, Stephen Weiss easily found his way into Philadelphia’s defensive zone and rifled a shot over Brian Boucher’s glove to knot the score.
The goal was one that was indicative of the Flyers’ recent struggles on the blue line. Weiss wasn’t marked by anyone in Orange and Black, and he made them pay for it. With defenseman Chris Pronger out until the playoffs with a hand injury, the Flyers can hardly afford lapses like the one that occurred in Florida’s first goal on Tuesday.
With the two sides vying for the upper hand in the first period, it was Florida that earned it first. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov notched his sixth goal of the season on a point shot that deflected off Darroll Powe’s skate and past Boucher. After a lackluster first stanza that saw the Panthers dominate play for stretches, the Flyers needed someone to stake their claim to a victory.
That someone was Jeff Carter.
After the Panthers failed to clear the puck in their own end, Carter went to work. He took possession of the puck and fired one of his patented wrist-shots at Vokoun. Although it looked like Vokoun had the shot under control, it got through his glove and trickled into the goal.
With the team facing a defensive zone faceoff and 4:44 remaining in the second period, head coach Peter Laviolette took a timeout. Immediately afterwards, the coach’s strategy worked to perfection. Forward Daniel Briere took the puck after the faceoff and skated into Florida’s zone to create a two-on-one opportunity. He waited just long enough to hit Carter with a backhanded pass, and the Flyers leading goal scorer did the rest. Carter beat a sprawling Vokoun for his 32nd goal of the season, and more importantly, the game’s final tally.
In Saturday’s loss, the Flyers were careless with a third period lead, but Tuesday night showed that they may have learned from past mistakes. The team played a defensive-minded game in the third period, and Boucher came up with big saves when he was called on. During Tuesday’s contest, the Capitals defeated Montreal to take a one-point lead in the standings.
But, with their victory in Florida, the Flyers made sure that the lead was only temporary.