PITTSBURGH — Flyers coach Dave Hakstol stood by his goalie Friday night.
Hakstol gave Brian Elliott the start in the Game 2 in Pittsburgh, even though the veteran goalie has struggled mightily against the Penguins this season — and had not looked sharp in two of the three games he played since returning to the lineup. He missed nearly two months because of core-muscle surgery.
Elliott rewarded his coach for his belief in him, making 34 saves in a 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh to even the series at one win apiece.
“He went about his business and made key saves at big times,” Hakstol said after the win.
In three games against the Penguins this season before Friday, including one in the playoffs, Elliott took a 6.42 goals-against average and .835 save percentage into the night. Playing behind a defense that gave him little support in Wednesday’s 7-0 loss in Game 1, he allowed five goals and was replaced midway through the second period.
“I’ll tell you what, ‘Moose’ is a battler,” Hakstol said, referring to Elliott by his nickname in a pregame news conference. “A great pro. He’s answered the bell for our team time and time again. Coming off of an injury, he now has three games under his belt and there’s no question he’s working to rebuild his game to his top level. There are no guarantees that come with that, but I’m not worried about guarantees. I’m confident in Brian because I know who he is as a person and who he is as an athlete.”
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said the Flyers believe in the 33-year-old goaltender.
“He’s our goalie. I mean, he had a great start to the year and unfortunately had an injury,” Gostisbehere said before the game. “Obviously, we’re going to be there for him. He’s probably not happy. I don’t think any of us are by our last game performance. I think Moose is the backbone of our team and he’s going to prove it tonight.”
Friday’s game was stopped briefly in the third period after some fans, upset with a referee’s call, threw debris onto the ice….The Flyers made no lineup changes from the opener. … Captain Claude Giroux on Game 1: “I’ve been thinking about it the last few days. I was just terrible and really didn’t play my game.” … Phantoms forward Phil Varone was named the AHL’s MVP. Heading into Friday’s action, Varone, 27, was tied for the league lead with 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists). … The Flyers entered the night 4-1-1 in games following a shutout loss. … The Flyers became the 13th team in NHL history to lose Game 1 of a playoff series by seven goals or more. In those instances, only one team — Boston, in its 1953 series against Detroit – won a series after losing the opener. The Bruins won in six games.