Tyler J. Altemose
The Flyers took on the Thrashers tonight at Philips Arena in Atlanta. The Flyers, coming off a grueling and emotional 7-5 loss to the Bruins last night, were facing off against a rested and surprisingly talented Thrashers squad.
Head coach Peter Laviolette decided to switch netminders and went with Sergei Bobrovsky this evening. The defense remained the same, but the offense went through a few changes. Captain Mike Richards centered Andreas Nodl and Nikolay Zherdev on the top line, the yet-to-be-nicknamed line of Hartnell, Briere, and Leino remained the same, Carter centered JVR and Giroux on the third line, and Betts centered Shelley and Powe on the fourth line.
Dan Carcillo and Oskars Bartulis remained healthy scratches, while Pronger (foot) and Laperriere (post concussion symptoms) also remained sidelined.
Atlanta, familiar with starting games strong, proceeded to put plenty of pressure on the Flyers' Russian netminder throughout the first period. Both he and Thrashers goaltender Andrej Pavelec remained strong throughout the first. Although Philly controlled the tempo of the game, they failed to apply enough pressure to take a lead. They seemed to be feeling their opponent out, and as a result the first period came and went with both teams failing to put any points on the board.
The Flyers applied more pressure in the second period. They looked good despite the fact that they were competing with another strong Eastern Conference team just 24 hours ago.
Atlanta only pressured the Flyers sporadically, but they were the first to draw blood. A few minutes after the halfway mark of the game, Andrew Ladd received a puck in the slot which was redirected off the foot of one of the referees. He beat Bobrovsky to put the Thrashers up 1-0.
The Flyers were quick to respond, however. Jody Shelley blocked a shot in the defensive zone which trickled out to center ice. He retrieved the puck up the left side and beat Pavelec top shelf to tie up the game.
The media caught up with Shelley after the game to gauge his reaction. "It felt great," Shelley said. "It's one of those things that you want to contribute any way. When you score as a fourth line, especially in a 0-0 game--it's nice for me and Powesy and Bettsy and Carcillo to get on the board. It's a great feeling."
Just 21 seconds later, defenseman Kimmo Timonen received a pass in the slot from Claude Giroux and netted his first goal since October 30th. Giroux controlled the puck up the right side into the slot. He dropped the puck off to Timonen who was skating in from the defensive zone. The assist put the Flyers up 2-1.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, Rich Peverley was able to score a power play goal in the waning minutes of the period to tie the game. Niclas Bergfors took a shot from the left side which deflected to Peverley in front of the net. He used his reach to wrap the puck around Bobrovsky and into the net.
Briere spoke to the media about the team's mentality coming into the third period.
"We wanted to get back on track right away, Briere explained. "We didn't want it to drag on, especially (because) we knew we have another big game in New York to finish this road trip. So we wanted to stop the bleeding right away. We told ourselves after the second that we have to take it another step just like we did in Buffalo--forget about last night with the bad breaks and just get back to speed and creating chances."
Sean O'Donnell quickly answered the question as to whether the Flyers would come out flat in the third period after being stung by a last minute goal when he leveled Thrashers forward Evander Kane with a huge body check in the defensive zone. Kane, slow to get up, stayed in the game.
The third period continued on in a back and forth pace which seemed to be the result of the Flyers being tired and the Thrashers being more rested. Danny Briere later broke the deadlock, however, after he received a deflected puck from linemate Ville Leino. Scott Hartnell, the third member of "The Unnamed Line", took a shot from the blue line which deflected off of Leino in front of Pavelec. Briere picked up the rebound and beat Pavelec who was caught out of position.
"The Unnamed Line" has 27 points in the past 6 games.
Andrej Pavelec showed flashes of brilliance as he kept the Thrashers within one goal despite consistent pressure from the Flyers. Claude Giroux, frustrated after being stoned by Pavelec several times earlier in the game, finally beat the Thrashers netminder on a spin-o-rama shot to put the Flyers up 4-2.
The Flyers wrapped up the win with an empty net goal by Jeff Carter.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27 of 29 shots.
The Flyers take on the New York Rangers Sunday at Madison Square Garden.