Saturday, February 02, 2013

Flyers regain footing, beat Hurricanes; Simmonds concussed

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 
Mike Knuble scored his first goal of the season and his first during his return to the Orange and Black in the second period and Claude Giroux added another tally in the frame, as Philadelphia topped Carolina, 5-3, on Saturday.

Kurtis Foster, Braydon Coburn and Danny Briere lit the lamp in the opening 20 minutes for the Flyers, who put the brakes on a three-game skid.

"Early in the season, it seemed our starts were not where we wanted to," Briere admitted after his club limped to a 2-6-0 record. "Tonight, it was very good. Overall, that first period was much better."

Ilya Bryzgalov continued his solid play, stopping a season-high 39 shots. The win came mere hours after the NHL handed down a three-game suspension to Capitals defenseman John Erskine for his elbow to the head of Wayne Simmonds in last night's 3-2 loss in Washington.

Simmonds was proclaimed out for the contest with head and neck issues in a pregame update, but Flyers GM Paul Holmgren disclosed later on that the diagnosis is a concussion with no timetable for return.

Joni Pitkanen, Eric Staal and Patrick Dwyer tallied for the Hurricanes, who opened up a six-game road trip with their second loss in three outings overall.

Dan Ellis was pulled after yielding four goals on 12 shots in just under 21 minutes of play. Cam Ward finished with 11 saves in relief.

arolina closed within 5-3 on a power play as Staal fed Dwyer at the right post with 3 1/2 minutes gone in the third period, but the Hurricanes failed to click on three successive manpower edges. The struggling club still couldn't solve Bryzgalov down the stretch despite a significant shot advantage and territorial edge.

Ward was called to the bench with 1:39 to play, and coincidental penalties seconds later made it a 5-on-4 for the visitors. Nonetheless, the Flyers avoided turnovers and gave Carolina little in the way of quality chances.

"It's pretty obvious where we need to be stronger and that's special teams," Staal admitted. "Our penalty kill wasn't good enough and our power play wasn't good enough and that's going to win games for you in this league and it did for them tonight."

Foster's blast from the right point on the game's first power play just over five minutes into the contest provided a 1-0 lead for the hosts, but Pitkanen evened the score on a wrister from the left circle at 8:47.

Coburn made it 2-1 when he joined a rush and crashed the net to fuel a 3-on-1 break, and shoveled home the rebound of Jakub Voracek's initial chance at 14:27.

After some interesting moments preventing Carolina's short-handed chances, the Flyers went up 3-1 on a power-play opportunity 58 seconds later as Briere poked home a Giroux pass from inside the crease for his first of the year.

"When everyone knows what they're doing on the ice, I think it's a lot easier. We've been working hard on it," said Giroux about new line combinations clicking suddenly.

Staal, though, converted a turnover and slipped a backhander past Bryzgalov for a 3-2 game just 33 seconds after Carolina stared down a two-goal deficit.

Knuble's first since returning to Philly made it 4-2 at the 52-second mark of the second period and Ellis was benched for Ward. Matt Read did the work which led to the score, stripping 'Canes defenseman Justin Faulk and feeding to the 40-year-old in front.

"I wouldn't say 'must-win', but you've got to start making progress," Knubles said about the importance of such an early-season matchup with an equally- struggling opponent. "We've got to climb the ladder. It was good to come out and respond with a win."

Giroux then put the Flyers up 5-2 when he unleashed a wrister from the bottom of the left circle for another man-advantage score with 7:17 left in the period.

Notes: Knuble's last regular-season goal with Philly came on Apr. 11, 2009 in a 3-2 win at Nassau Coliseum over the Islanders... he Flyers scored a season-high three power-play goals on three attempts...Carolina was credited with 91 attempted shots, with the Flyers blocking 32 of those for a possible record, according to Elias, which cannot find an instance of a higher number since it began tracking the stat in 2005...With the Schenn brothers (Luke & Brayden) facing the Staals (Eric & Jordan), it marked the first time in Flyers history since an Apr. 1, 1986 game between Philadelphia and the New York Islanders (Sutter brothers Rich, Ron, Brent, Duane) that two sets of siblings played against each other ...Ellis had recorded his first shutout since 2010 in his last start, a 1-0 decision against Ottawa on Friday...Bryzgalov's last performance of 39 saves or more came on March 29, 2011 with Phoenix when he stopped 45 shots in a 2-1 win vs. Dallas.

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