Friday, November 29, 2013

Early start helps Flyers top Jets

Thanks to the Philadelphia Flyers
by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

Steve Mason stopped 25 shots and Sean Couturier picked up the key short-handed tally in the second period, as the Philadelphia Flyers squeaked past the Winnipeg Jets, 2-1, on Black Friday.

Mason upped his record to 8-8-2 on the season, as Philadelphia shook off losses in Florida to win for the fourth time in their last six games.

Scott Hartnell scored in the first minute of the contest and, as usual, the hosts had to cling to the lead late as Michal Frolik made things interesting. It was a badly needed win for the hosts, who kick off a six-game road swing in Nashville tomorrow night.

"I think it's a good time to get on the road with the team," Flyers head coach Berube said. "I think it's a good time to get focused and get to where we need to get to. I don't view it as grueling; I view it as an opportunity."

His club, which is 8-3-2 since the debacle against Washington to kick off the month, faces its stiffest challenge since beginning the year 1-7-0. 

Ondrej Pavelec was beseiged at times, making 32 saves in defeat. The Jets had opened up their current six-game trip with wins over the Devils and Islanders.

"We just weren't good enough to win the game," Jets head coach Claude Noel said. "When you look at momentum, we didn't generate much, momentum-wise. Our power play (0-for-6) wasn't very good and we haven't been able to get anything out of it the whole year.

It wasn't a classic shut-down victory, as the visitors were hamstrung less by the Flyers defense than the irregular morning start time, an hour earlier by their clocks than the 11:30 AM puck drop on Eastern Standard Time.

The Jets gifted the Flyers a goal with only 48 seconds elapsed after the opening faceoff. A botched exchange between two Jets players on a clear up the left boards during a Philly shift change saw the puck kick back between the circles. Steve Downie touch-passed it back to Hartnell, who flipped it into a half-open cage.

"I'll take it," Hartnell said. "It's nice. You take your first shift and right in the slot there is a big present waiting for you."

Pavelec made a sprawling left-pad stop on a short-handed breakaway from Couturier at the tail end of a Nick Grossmann penalty just after the midway point of the first and Winnipeg played most of the rest of the period on its heels, outshot 13-2.

Despite coming up empty on two power-play chances, the hosts had 1:24 of 5-on-3 to exploit at the outset of the second period after infractions on Devin Setoguchi and Tobias Enstrom. That gambit also failed and the club's best offensive pressure came immediately after the advantage expired.

Couturier, though, made good on his second short-handed breakaway, streaking in from the left wing side this time while Andrej Meszaros was in the box and fooling Pavelec with a backhander for a 2-0 game at 5:36.

"I think I was due. “I've had some scoring chances, I just haven't been putting the puck in the net, Couturier admitted after snapping a six-game goal drought. "I don't think I’ve been playing bad, but lately the pucks been going in so the points are obviously going to go up.”

Despite misfiring on two advantages through the middle portion of the third, the Jets halved their deficit with 7:07 remaining on Frolik's rebound try from the left side. 

Pavelec was sent to the bench for an extra skater with under 90 seconds to play, and though Adam Hall missed two prime chances to deposit a puck into the empty net, it didn't jeopardize the victory.

Notes:  Mason fell just shy of becoming the first Flyers goaltender to blank a Winnipeg club in Philadelphia since Ron Hextall did so to the original Jets (3-0) at the Spectrum on March 16, 1996 ... Jets forward Evander Kane left the game after the first period with a lower-body injury ... The game was the first pre-noon start in Philadelphia since February 27, 1993, a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders.

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