Needing to start fresh after an embarrassing loss going into the Christmas break, the Flyers looked to come out with a win against Vancouver to start this road trip. One more embarrassing loss later, they found themselves facing the Los Angeles Kings. Desperate for that fresh start that eluded them in Vancouver, the Flyers had to mix things up.
It started with line changes – the phenomenal line of Briere, Leino, and Hartnell was finally broken up. They hadn’t had the same level of production of late, and working them into lines with the rest of the team allowed for a wide variety of combinations.
The most successful of these new combos had to be Mike Richards centering Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk. In the first period, as the Flyers fell behind on the scoreboard, this line came back to make sure the score stayed tied 2-2 when the period ended.
The other big change – and possibly the reason for some of those Kings’ goals – was the decision to start Michael Leighton in goal for the first time since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals more than six months ago.
Early on, the Kings chose to simply throw the puck on net from every angle – hoping to find a hole in Leighton while he continued to work out the rust. They capitalized on a bad angle shot as Ryan Smyth blindly threw the puck on net and between Leighton’s legs. Later in the first, operating on a man advantage courtesy of a delayed call, Justin Williams beat Leighton five hole for the second of 4 Kings’ goals.
In the first few minutes of the second, a surging Flyers’ offense picked up another couple of goals off the skates and stick of Scott Hartnell and Mike Richards, respectively.
Then, as the two teams fell victim to a penalty box parade – featuring some questionable calls both ways – they each notched a pair of power play goals. The score was 6-4 entering the final frame.
Ville Leino topped off the scoring with a third period wrist shot that beat Jonathan Quick – who stepped in to replace Jonathan Bernier after the Flyers’ sixth goal.
It wasn’t a clean win, it wasn’t an ideal win, but it was a win nonetheless. That’s all the Flyers can ask for, having dropped their last two games and having not seen a win in more than 10 days.
Michael Leighton was far from spectacular – certainly not the same caliber as the goalie who led this team to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring. Not bad, just not overly impressive. It may just be rust, but whatever it is, it has to go if he’s going to stay with this NHL club in favor of Brian Boucher or Sergei Bobrovsky.
The key to this win, as you can tell from the 7-4 final score, was the offensive surge. The Flyers made good on their chances – from odd man rushes to a pair of power play goals.
This win should rejuvenate the team enough for them to carry the energy and momentum into tomorrow’s New Year’s Eve contest against the Anaheim Ducks. With a win there, the Flyers can look to start a new winning streak, finish the month on a strong note, and hopefully carry some positive energy home when they reach New Jersey next Thursday.