Stepping back onto their home ice after a long layoff, facing a Carolina team fighting for the last spot in the playoffs, the Flyers picked up where they left off and came away with a solid 2-1 win.
Over the course of the first two periods, the Flyers were getting the better of the puck control, but the chances weren’t coming in kind. When they did get a few good ones through, Cam Ward was there with the answer.
After 40 minutes of the two teams skating evenly, Jeff Carter finally broke through on the power play with the only kind of goal that would have gone in at this point – a fluky one. A wrist shot flubbed off the glove of goaltender Cam Ward and trickled over him and into the net.
Nearly ten minutes later, Danny Briere extended the lead with a power play tally of his own.
For awhile after that, it seemed like the Flyers might come away with their first shutout of the season, but Tuomo Ruutu made sure not to let that happen by answering Briere’s goal within a minute, settling on the final 2-1 score.
Chris Pronger pointed out the tight-checking style the Hurricanes played with, noting their number of blocked shots and passes.
“They played well defensively,” the Flyers’ defensive specialist said. “We had possession of the puck a lot in the first period, not so much in the second, and then in the third we controlled the play and were able to get two on the power play.”
These close games are just going to keep coming, as more and more times find themselves up against the wall down the stretch into the playoffs. For the Flyers, this position is familiar territory after last season, and now they’ll have to adjust to playing on the other side of the standings.
Danny Briere said he thinks getting confident in these close games is going to serve the team well going into the playoffs.
“We’re going to be facing a lot of teams that are fighting for their lives, too, like Carolina tonight hanging on to 8th place,” he said. “They are going to play hard.”
And with these guys learning how to win these close games, it might not matter that they don’t get that coveted shutout – they may yet find a way to become only the third team in NHL history to win a Cup without one, behind the ’82 Islanders and ’87 Oilers.
As Claude Giroux put it, “Good teams find a way to win big when it’s tied in the third.”
And sitting on top of the Eastern Conference, contending for first in the league, the Flyers are one of those good teams.