The Philadelphia Flyers finally got in some quality practice time, and it helped them maintain their near-perfect record in Vancouver over the past two decades.
Jeff Carter scored his league-leading 27th goal Tuesday as the Flyers continued their domination of the Canucks in Vancouver with a 3-2 victory.
The Flyers have had a rough time getting into a routine lately. Winter travel problems meant they couldn’t work out – or even get in a game-day skate – before losses to Columbus and Chicago after the NHL’s Christmas break.
“We had a great practice day (Monday),” said goalie Martin Biron who finished with 29 saves for the Flyers who are unbeaten with 10 wins and four ties here since a 5-3 defeat on Jan. 17, 1989.
Most of the team didn’t practice for 10 days but Biron missed an additional three because he was in bed with a fever.
“You get your skating back, your legs back,” said Biron who foiled unchecked Canuck Steve Bernier with 6:30 remaining and was under siege in the final minute as the Flyers killed a penalty with the Vancouver net empty for a sixth attacker.
“The guys were really energized. You go through the motions sometimes because you practice so often, you play so often but you could tell the guys were excited to get on the ice.
“It showed right from the beginning of the game. We got the puck in deep, we were good on the forecheck, we were good in the neutral zone.”
The Flyers held a 3-1 lead in the second period and Biron was twice bailed out by defenceman Ossi Vaananen when the puck was behind him.
Scott Hartnell had two breakaways on Canuck goalie Cory Schneider but scored in the first period on starter Curtis Sanford when he blew a puck past him from the face-off dot.
Jonathon Kalinski got what proved to be the winner with his first NHL goal on Philadelphia’s first shot in the second period. Sanford left the game after 20 minutes with back spasms.
“(Josh Gratton) just threw it on the net, (Mike) Knuble was going to the front of the net and the puck was just lying there off a defenceman’s skate and I just put it in,” said Kalinski a minor-league call-up who had a brother and a buddy from Bonnyville, Alta. in the stands.
“It was a big win and one of the best games so far this year that I’ve been a part of.”
The Canucks came out hitting but the Flyers answered on the scoreboard after Kevin Bieksa rammed Simon Gagne into the side boards and Hartnell was twice flattened on the same shift by defenceman Mattias Ohlund.
“To see (Gagne) go down first shift it was a little devastating but we rallied around it and got together and started taking the body on their skill guys and made it a tough night for them,” said Hartnell who threw some heavy checks himself.
Carter scored on a two-on-one break-in shortly after the hits on Hartnell. Hartnell restored the one-goal advantage 45 seconds after Daniel Sedin got the game’s only power-play goal for Vancouver.
Ryan Kesler was the other Canuck marksman, deflecting an Alex Burrows centring pass over Biron to end the scoring midway through the second period.
“We’re getting the chances, we’re generating a lot,” Bieksa said. “The power play I thought was good tonight. We were getting a lot of shots on net. It’s just a matter of putting them in”.
“They’re a fast skating team and we can play that game as well. At the same time, we gave up too many chances five on five and that’s not our game.” The game matched the league’s best power play against the Canucks who lead the NHL with an average of 20 penalty minutes a game. However, Vancouver was short-handed only once.
“Every time you play against the first power play in the league you have got to be smart and stay out of the box,” said Burrows, who’s a frequent visitor there.
“That’s what we did for the most part and that’s why we were in that game for 60 minutes.”
NOTES: Gagne left the ice favouring his shoulder and did not return … Daniel Briere (groin) and Scotty Upshall (knee) are practising with Philadelphia but did not play against Vancouver … the Canucks recalled forward Alex Bolduc from AHL Manitoba because of Taylor Pyatt’s broken right foot … Vancouver centre Ryan Johnson has resumed skating and hopes to return to the lineup by early January … he’s missed 18 games with foot and finger fractures … the Flyers continue their season-high six-game road trip Friday against Anaheim while the Canucks play in Nashville and Atlanta on Thursday and Friday.