After losing the first three match ups of the season, the Flyers had one more chance to prove themselves against their only unbeaten team in the East – the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always pretty, but they got the goals they needed to hold on and win it in the shootout, 4-3.
The Flyers picked up the first lead of the game after James van Riemsdyk picked up a pass from Claude Giroux and buried it past goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
Even after falling down 1-0, the Lightning played an exaggerated trap style defense, refusing to send a player on the forecheck at times and prompting Chris Pronger to simply wait in his own zone for someone to come after him.
Tampa’s wait-and-pounce approach paid off in the end, as Dominic Moore caught the Flyers’ defenders on their heels during an early second period regroup, stole the puck from Sean O’Donnell and beat Brian Boucher with a shot off Meszaros’ skate.
Later in the second, James van Riemsdyk struck again with a power play shot that went off the stick of Claude Giroux and in.
Moments later, JVR was once again at the center of attention with a tripping penalty that sent him off for two minutes – just long enough for a pair of goals.
Darroll Powe found himself hooked on a shorthanded breakaway, drawing and capitalizing on the penalty shot – the second of his career – for a 3-1 lead.
Before the penalty was over, the Lightning scored one of their own off the stick of Vinny Lecavalier. Then another one found the net barely a minute later thanks to Teddy Purcell courtesy of Pavel Kubina.
Tied 3-3 with more than half the game yet to play, these two high-powered teams seemed poised to rack up the goals. But after hitting the three goal mark, their offenses slowed down while their defenses tightened up – this one was going to come down to the wire.
The style of play down the stretch and into overtime had the makings of a playoff contest, with each team trying to find ways to open up the offense while holding down the fort – and the hits came hard.
In the end, neither team broke through and it was down to a shootout.
Moore beat Boucher again in the second round, forcing Richards into a pressure-filled attempt which he handled with poise, casually ripping a shot past a stunned Roloson and turning back towards his bench, emotionless.
Boucher and Roloson each held their positions well, forcing the shootout into extra rounds. Eventually, it was defenseman Kimmo Timonen who got the game-winner, with Boucher holding off Martin St. Louis for the win.
Kris Versteeg arrived with the team in time for Tuesday’s morning skate, fresh off his trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Surrounded by unfamiliar faces, the 24-year old remains unfazed.
“No, I haven’t played [with these guys],” Versteeg said after his first skate. “I’ve played against them obviously. This is going to be a great experience to play with the team that I had a very tough run-in with in the Stanley Cup Finals last year.”
Versteeg announced this morning during his first orange and black media appearance that he would don the number 10, leaving behind his old 32.
“ was my childhood number,” he said. “32 was just a number that I was given going into Chicago.”
Versteeg may not have stood out on the ice – he was a minus-1 with two shots on goal and a missed shootout attempt – but it’s going to take some time to find a place both in the locker room and on the ice.
No one can expect a young player like Versteeg to come in on barely 24 hours notice and carry the team – that’s not his job. Versteeg, as he has said, is going to be just another piece in one of the league’s deepest lineups.
“I’m just going to try to help out with a lot of the depth,” he said. “Just try to play hard every given night.”