PHILADELPHIA – A great start did wonders for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Daniel Briere scored twice and Kimmo Timonen had a goal and two assists for the Flyers, who had a four-goal opening period and held off the Florida Panthers 5-3 on Wednesday night. “It’s a good feeling to come out in the first period and really take it to them,” Briere said after the Flyers jumped out to a 4-1 lead. “It’s good for our confidence.”
Simon Gagne and Scott Hartnell also scored for the Flyers, who have won two straight, and five of their last six, and denied Panthers coach Jacques Martin his 500th win.
Flyers coach John Stevens said “there is no question” that the quick start helped the Flyers.
“We created all kinds of scoring opportunities and the power play got going,” Stevens said. “It (power plays) really seemed to give us energy and momentum and got the crowd behind us.”
Two of the first three goals – by Gagne and Briere – came with the man advantage for the Flyers, who came in with the NHL’s best power play at home (25-for-95, 26.3 per cent). For the game, they were 2-for-7.
Martin, looking to become the 10th coach in NHL history to win 500 games, won No. 499 on Jan. 10 at Atlanta, but Florida has lost three straight since. Jay Bouwmeester, Rostislav Olesz, and Stephen Weiss had goals for the Panthers, who have dropped five of six.
Martin said penalties were the big difference.
“We were playing well early and they were not getting much,” Martin said. “We had momentum and lost it because we lost 10 minutes of the game in penalties.”
Philadelphia backup Antero Niittymaki, who hasn’t lost in regulation in his last six starts (5-0-1), made 28 saves. His only loss during that span came against Boston, 4-3, in overtime last Saturday.
Timonen put the Flyers ahead at 2:46 of the first period, shovelling a shot from the left side over the shoulder of Tomas Vokoun, who started in goal for the 42nd time in Florida’s 47 games.
Bouwmeester, left alone in front of the crease, tied it on a wrister at 9:10.
After Gagne made it 2-1 with a rebound on a power play at 12:14, the Flyers scored twice within a span of 1:21 to take a 4-1 lead.
Briere, who also had an empty-net goal, put a shot through a screen on another power play at 16:38. Hartnell scored at 17:59 when his shot from the right board deflected off a Florida defenceman and into the net.
The Panthers pulled to within 4-3 in the second period. Olesz scored unassisted on a backhander after Philadelphia’s Derian Hatcher lost the puck deep in the Flyers’ zone at 13:01. Weiss scored while falling in front of the net after taking a pass from Olli Jokinen at 18:28.
“We started off pretty good, but then we sat back in the second period,” Timonen said. “We have to learn to keep it going and make the game 6-1 instead of 4-3. You need to bring your ‘A’ game every night if you want to make the playoffs.”
Jokinen said teams must keep mistakes to a minimum when they play the Flyers.
“We gave up way too many odd-man rushes,” Jokinen said. “Some of the penalties we’d like to have back, but overall it was a fair game, with some good clean hits.”
Notes: Martin, the only person in the NHL serving as both coach and general manager, joined Florida as head coach in May, 2004 and has compiled a 92-90-29 regular season record with them. … The Panthers are 9-4 in their last 13 road games. … Philadelphia RW Mike Knuble played in his 700th NHL game. … Philadelphia D Rory Fitzpatrick was placed on injured reserve with a sports hernia. … Gagne has scored points in five straight games since returning after missing 26 games with a concussion.