Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Flyers capitalize on built-in momentum swings

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Glued to the high slot to the right of the Ducks net, Claude Giroux could barely contain his excitement with the puck rotating around the top of the Flyers’ umbrella power play setup.

Flyers capitalize on built-in momentum swings

Flyers forward Claude Giroux scored the game-winning goal in overtime on Friday night against the Ducks. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
Flyers forward Claude Giroux scored the game-winning goal in overtime on Friday night against the Ducks. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Glued to the high slot to the right of the Ducks net, Claude Giroux could barely contain his excitement with the puck rotating around the top of the Flyers’ umbrella power play setup.

With deadly threat Jaromir Jagr opposite him and Scott Hartnell clogging Jonas Hiller’s sightline, Giroux knew it was only a matter of time before the puck would be heading his way.

“We were trying to hit ‘Jags’ there,” Giroux explained. “He’s obviously pretty dangerous. I think [Hiller] couldn’t really see, so he was cheating on ‘Jags’ a little bit.”

Sure enough, Danny Briere feathered over a pass. Cocked and ready, Giroux wound up and his celebration was underway nearly before the follow-through on his slap shot finished.

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Hiller had no chance.

Giroux’s slapper, the Flyers’ golden goal and third power play goal of the game, capped a thrilling 4-3 comeback win over the Ducks to spoil Bruce Boudreau’s debut behind Anaheim’s bench at the Honda Center.

The Flyers trailed by 3 goals in the first 26:31 of Friday night’s game. It was the first time since Dec. 11, 2008 at Carolina that they erased a three-goal deficit.

On Friday, the story was not Jaromir Jagr’s two tallies in his first full game since Nov. 14. It was the Flyers’ power play - lifeless over the previous 4 games - which fueled the entire comeback with its work on the 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 advantages.

No goal had a bigger impact on the win than Jagr’s second of the game, which came when he rocketed a slap shot past Hiller early in the third period.

If there was a similarity to Jagr’s second goal and Giroux’s overtime winner, it was that both times, Anaheim was limited to 3 penalty killers on the ice.

Too many times this season, the Flyers had not been able to capitalize on 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 opportunities. They are now 2-for-7 this season, which believe it or not, puts them in the bottom third of the league in that category.

"With 5-on-4, there’s always pressure. There’s never any time to setup the way you really want to,” coach Peter Laviolette explained. “That one player [less], all teams seem to pull back completely and tighten in front of their net. There’s lots of time to settle things down and find the right seams.

“There is never any pressure. It’s about finding the right movement, finding the right shot, seeing what you want out there.”

In 5-on-3 and 4-on-3 advantages against the Ducks, the Flyers combined for 10 shots on goal. For a power play that had connected just twice in its last 16 attempts before Jagr converted late in the second period, one less attacker was the perfect stimulant.

Overall, the Flyers were 3-for-9 on the power play. It was the second time (Oct. 18) that they had scored 3 power play goals in one game.

“There was probably over a dozen quality chances from the power play,” Laviolette said. “I thought there was good movement out there. Pucks got to the net. We were able to find some lanes. We had been having a hard time getting it to the net, it seems like a lot had been blocked and not reaching there.”

Earlier this season, the Flyers failed to capitalize on built-in game-changing 5-on-3 advantages. When a team does not score with the two-man advantage, it can actually morph into a shot in the arm for the killing opponent.

“Anytime you have 5-on-3, against or for, it can change the momentum a little bit,” Giroux said. “It’s been a while that [the power play has] made a difference. We’ve been working a lot on it.”

The Flyers spent a good chunk of their practice time in Southern California this week working on their power play setup.

“We had the chances,” Jagr said. “That’s what you need, one power play like that to get the confidence.”

The end result was a satisfying win. Not only did the Flyers rain on Boudreau’s parade on Friday night, but they collected 2 points that seemed lost just halfway through the game.

“Any time you can win a game like that, the way we did,” Giroux said, “There’s not a better feeling than that.”

JAGR GASSED: Jaromir Jagr scored his 184th and 185th power play goals of his storied career, but he could barely catch his breath after the game.

Jagr, 39, played 22:54 in his first full game since Nov. 14. He collected 3 points, assisting on Giroux’s game-winner, and he threw 16 shots at Hiller (10 on net, 3 blocked and 3 missed).

“I had shifts where I thought I was going to puke,” Jagr said. “I didn’t feel that good after some shifts. [The] game shape is going to take time. Don’t forget, it’s been almost 2 weeks since I last played a game.”

For Jagr, the biggest hurdle on Friday night was all inside his head. His next hurdle: a back-to-back contest on Saturday night in Phoenix.

“After missing almost 6 games, you kind of have something inside your head that you think you’ll miss other games,” Jagr said. “That’s why my goal was to survive the game. Of course, you feel better as the game goes on.”

QUOTABLE:
"It's frustrating. It's an emotional game out there. It definitely won't happen again, that kind of stuff at the end of a game. It hurt our group tonight. I'll take that on me and we'll go forward from there."
-Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was penalized for a double-minor in overtime, giving the Flyers a four-minute power play with just 4:19 left in the extra session. The extra 2 minutes were for mouthing off to referee Brian Pochmara. The Flyers scored with 1:31 left, so without the extra 2 minutes, it would have been 4-on-4 hockey.

ROCKY START: The Flyers trailed after the first period for the fifth time in their last 6 games. They have been outscored 11-2 in the first period over that stretch. That’s a stark contrast from the first 18 games of the season, where they outscored opponents 24-17 in the first 20 minutes.

Turns out, the Flyers decision to arrive in SoCal on Tuesday in advance of Friday's game to adjust to the Pacific time zone paid off. The third period was played after 12 midnight Eastern time and the Flyers had plenty of energy.

"The first period was pretty embarrassing," Giroux said. "We didn't play the way we wanted to. 'Bryz' kind of kept us in the game a little bit in the first. To be able to come back on the road like that, it's pretty fun. Guys don't quit."

DROUGHT OVER: Jagr’s second period goal snapped a goalless drought that spanned parts of 3 games. The official drought total was 115:24, dating back to the second period of the Black Friday game against Montreal.The Flyers took 65 shots during that span without a single one breaking the goal line.

SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS: Friday night was the first time the Flyers have more than doubled up their opponent in shots (47-22) since Oct. 23, 2010. Believe it or not: Friday was not a season-high in shots allowed for Anaheim. It was the fourth time the Flyers have taken 40 or more shots in a game, they are now 2-2 when doing so.

BOO-DREAU: Since Bruce Boudreau joined the NHL head coaching ranks in 2007, the Flyers have now gone past regulation in exactly 8 of the 17 times they have faced him. They are 7-6-4 against him all-time. Boudreau's first NHL win, in fact, came as a 4-3 overtime triumph against the Flyers on Nov. 23, 2007. The Flyers returned the favor on Friday with the exact result.

UP NEXT: Chris Pronger said it involved a little “gamesmanship.” Ilya Bryzgalov got the last laugh. A little more than 2 weeks after two of Bryzgalov’s former teammates publicly trashed him a few hours prior to facing him on Nov. 17, Bryzgalov is hoping to get another crack at the Coyotes on Saturday. This time, it’s in Phoenix, where Bryzgalov made his home in the desert for 3 seasons. If Bryzgalov does play - and Laviolette does not announce his goaltenders beforehand - it would be the first time he does in both games of a back-to-back this season. He did it 7 times with Phoenix last year - but just 3 of those sets involved travel. Saturday marks just the Flyers’ third game in Phoenix since 2003. They are 0-2-0 at Jobing.com Arena, where the Coyotes rank last in NHL attendance with a 10,671 average draw, since it opened. All-time, the Flyers lead the series 12-8-1 but are just 2-3-1 since the NHL lockout, including Nov. 21’s 2-1 triumph.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

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Frequent Flyers is your home for news and analysis of all things orange and black. Reach Frank at seravaf@phillynews.com.

Frank Seravalli Daily News Sports Columnist
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