Flyers' Jake Voracek downplays season-opening win sparked by Wayne Simmonds, power play

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Wayne Simmonds became the first player in Flyers history to have a season-opening hat trick.

LOS ANGELES — The Flyers, thanks to a season-opening 5-3 win in San Jose on Wednesday, took some momentum into Thursday night’s matchup in Los Angeles.

In San Jose, Wayne Simmonds became the first player in Flyers history to register a hat trick in an opener. Simmonds scored two of his goals on the power play, which struggled last year and in the preseason but clicked on its first three chances Wednesday night.

Shayne Gostsibehere and Jake Voracek each had three assists.

Voracek kept the victory in perspective.

“It was a really hard game, to be honest,” he said. “A lot of grind. It’s the first game of the season. We found a way to win the game, which was good. There are 81 to go, so I wouldn’t get carried away.”

Power play ignites

The power play clicked at just 13 percent in the preseason, and the first unit struggled mightily, so the opening-night efficiency was unexpected.

“We didn’t start working on our power play until the end of camp,” said Simmonds, whose empty-net goal with 35.7 seconds left sealed the win and completed his second career hat trick. “I think our focus was to get our legs going and make sure we had our five-on-five structure down. With our power play, both units this year, [we figured] it’s only a matter of time. We kept working on it, and we’ll continue to work on it.”

The Flyers scored their three power-play goals in a combined 72 seconds, including two deflections from in front by Simmonds.

“He’s the best in the business at that,” Gostisbehere said.

In the preseason, the Flyers scored only six power-play goals in 46 attempts.

“Jokingly, we said we were saving them for the season,” Gostisbehere said.

The power play struggled last season, and as a result, assistant coach Joe Mullen’s contract wasn’t renewed.  Mullen was in charge of the power play, which was No. 1 in the NHL and clicking at 25 percent on Dec. 10, but slipped to 14th (19.5 percent) by the end of the season.

The power play collapsed in March, contributing to the Flyers’ failure to make the playoffs for the third time in five years. The Flyers’ power play was just 8 for 66 (12.1 percent) in March.

Mullen was replaced by Kris Knoblauch, who had coached Erie in the Ontario Hockey League.

Patrick’s debut

Nolan Patrick had a solid but unspectacular NHL debut. The 19-year-old center played 13 minutes, 30 seconds and took three shots and won 5 of 9 faceoffs.

“He’s a really smart player; he really played well,” said Simmonds, one of Patrick’s linemates. “He made the little plays, and I think he’s just going to get better.”

Breakaways

Travis Sanheim made his NHL debut Thursday, replacing Brandon Manning in the lineup…. Travis Sanheim made his NHL debut Thursday, replacing Brandon Manning in the lineup… Before Thursday’s game, the Kings planned to honor team employee Christiana Duarte, 22, one of the victims in the mass Las Vegas shootings. She was in her first year with the team, serving as a fan-service associate. … Claude Giroux and Jordan Weal (power play) also scored in the opener for the Flyers, Brian Elliott stopped 32 of 35 shots, and Ivan Provorov anchored the defense as he played 25:35 and blocked five shots. … Dating to last season, Weal, a former King, has nine goals in his last 20 games. … Gostisbehere said his unflappable rookie defensive partner, Robert Hagg, was a “calming presence back there.” … In franchise history, the Flyers are 23-19-8 in season openers. They snapped San Jose’s seven-game winning streak in openers.