PHILADELPHIA – Grim faced, hands on his hips, Craig Berube looked like the angriest man in Philadelphia.
The coach the Flyers call “Chief” could afford to smile.
He won his debut—and helped the Flyers avoid their first 0-4 start in franchise history.
Brayden Schenn and Braydon Coburn scored goals, and Steve Mason had 33 saves to make Berube a winner, leading the Flyers past the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Tuesday night.
Berube was on the bench a day after Peter Laviolette was fired after a 0-3 start. Laviolette dealt with rumours of his firing last season, a year in which the Flyers missed the playoffs after the lockout-shortened season.
Don’t pop the bubbly for win No. 1.
“It’s over,” Berube said. “We’re worried about tomorrow and practice.”
With Berube calling the shots, the Flyers scored their season high for goals. So, there’s still work ahead.
“We have to get better, we have to have more of an attack,” Berube said. “I know we do have good offensive players here. It’s just a matter of getting them confident.”
Mason stopped all 12 shots in the first period and the first 12 of the second until Brad Boyes scored his first of the season with 6 seconds left.
Mason, who improved to 5-0 against Florida, came up big when he stopped Shawn Matthias on a short-handed breakaway early in the second.
“He just had an answer for all of our shots,” Matthias said. “We have to get giddier and work on it.”
Mason and Ray Emery worked as a tandem in net. Berube gave no indication if he would stick with Mason or use both.
“That’s up to Chief to decide who goes in,” Mason said. “You guys want to make this huge deal out of it. But Razor and I, our job is just every day, not matter who’s in net, is to be the better goalie of the two playing that night. We’re not going to dwell on who’s starting.”
Berube arrived steeped in the orange-and-black tradition, with 20 goals and 54 points over parts of seven seasons with the Flyers. He played for four other teams over a 17-year career and his 3,149 penalty minutes are seventh in NHL history.
Berube, in his seventh season coaching within the organization, was promoted to replace Laviolette. He is the 18th coach in franchise history.
His hard-nosed style quickly rubbed off on the Flyers.
“With the career he had, the type of player he was, he’s not going to take anything from people,” Mason said. “Guys better be working hard.”
The Flyers’ offence had a brief jolt of life in the first period against Tim Thomas. Thomas had been sensational in his career in Philadelphia, going 8-0 with a 1.86 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.
He left the game with a pulled groin. He appeared to get tangled with teammate Mike Weaver in front of the net and hit the ice. Thomas bolted straight for the locker room and never returned.
Jacob Markstrom took over and stopped all 25 shots.
“It’s different to come in a game like that, but what can you do,” he said. “You just have to get out there and try to help out the team as best as you can.”
Thomas was pulled after the second period in Saturday’s 7-0 loss to St. Louis. He allowed five goals on 28 shots.
Thomas allowed two quick goals in the first against the Flyers.
Schenn punched in a rebound for his second goal of the season. Thomas was out of position after he appeared to get hurt, allowing Coburn to score his first goal of the season.
“They’re lucky goals, that happens,” Berube said.
The Flyers scored two goals for the first time this season. With team captain Claude Giroux without a point this season, the Flyers were outscored 9-3. Just one goal in each game.
The punchless offence is one reason Laviolette was fired just three seasons after he led them to the Stanley Cup finals. The Flyers know they have to play better.
“It was a tough day yesterday,” Giroux said. “I was with Lavy for a while, and to see him leave is a little sad. But it’s the business part of it. We need to understand that.”
The Flyers got a brief scare in the third when forward Scott Hartnell was slow to get up after defenceman Erik Gudbranson plowed him into the boards. Hartnell needed medical attention on the ice, but skated off on his own power. Gudbranson earned a game misconduct.
Notes: There was a brief scrum in the third that saw Flyers F Jay Rosehill get hit with 4 minutes for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. … Chicago Blackhawks VP of hockey operations Al MacIsaac presented Emery with his 2013 Stanley Cup champions ring. Emery went 17-1 for the Blackhawks last season.