Marian Hossa – photo: Getty/Yahoo! Sports
By Brad Gardner
Thursday marked the Blackhawks’ first appearance at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center since capturing the Stanley Cup there two seasons ago.
Both teams were coming off disappointing losses earlier in the week and brought the offense, totaling a combined 80 shots over the course of the game. Despite a better effort than they brought Monday against Edmonton, which culminated in a comeback from two goals down in the third period, Chicago fell short in regulation by a score of 5-4 and this time left Philadelphia empty-handed.
Jimmy Hayes found the back of the net for the second consecutive game on a give-and-go with Jamal Mayers. Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo tried to play the puck up the boards but Hayes got a stick on it and deflected the puck right to Mayers. He dished back to Hayes for a deflection between the legs of Ilya Bryzgalov for a 1-0 Chicago lead 3:01 into the game.
Just after the puck was dropped back into play, Rinaldo and Blackhawks rookie Andrew Shaw stared each other down from opposite sides of the ice and readied for a fight. Shaw landed the first shot but was then pummeled by Rinaldo. The rookie showed his willingness to answer the bell in just his second NHL shift but came away bloodied in the one-sided affair.
The teams played back and forth throughout the first period and the Flyers came away with a shot advantage of 13-7 over the ‘Hawks. One of those shots was from Jakub Voracek on the doorstep and he tied the game for Philadelphia with just 51 seconds remaining in the first. Nick Leddy turned the puck over in his own zone, extending the Flyers’ possession. Braydon Coburn eventually sent a slapper from the blue line off the endboards and the puck bounced to an open Voracek before Emery could get over.
The end-to-end action continued in the second, with the Flyers registering 21 shots and the ‘Hawks 15 in the middle frame alone.
Chicago got the first goal of the period from Shaw, the second rookie to score on the night for the ‘Hawks. Toews won the puck behind the net on the forecheck and Shaw had space to carry it to the front of the net. He deked around the Flyers’ Kimmo Timonen and was able to backhand his shot past Bryzgalov to regain the lead for Chicago.
Just 17 seconds later, Philly answered again with a tying goal from Scott Hartnell. The centering pass from Claude Giroux was a bouncer, but Hartnell was able to slap it out of mid-air and bounce it through the legs of Ray Emery to knot the game 2-2.
Flyers rookie Harry Zolnierczyk gave the home team their first lead of the game at 11:51 of the second period. Fellow-rookie Sean Couturier pulled up with the puck along the sideboards and sent the puck on net. Emery could not handle the rebound through traffic and Zolnierczyk had a wide open net after driving past Marian Hossa.
Philadelphia again capitalized in the shift following a goal, courtesy of another lapse in defensive coverage and a loose puck in Emery’s crease. Winger Wayne Simmonds had the first attempt but was stopped by the pad of Emery. The rebound found James Van Riemsdyk and he put the Flyers up 4-2 just 23 seconds after they took the lead.
The Chicago penalty kill came up large late in the second and in the third by keeping the team within two goals. The unit killed the first minor penalty of the game, a delay of game call on Nick Leddy, shortly after the Van Riemsdyk goal. Then Patrick Sharp was called for a double-minor for getting his stick into the face of Giroux.
The PK stood tall and Brent Seabrook got the next goal in the same second that Sharp’s penalty expired. After Hartnell deflected a shot squarely off of the post on the Chicago goal, the ‘Hawks got the scoring opportunity going the other way. Seabrook pinched in on a give-and-go with Dave Bolland in the neutral zone that sprung him on a rush into the offensive zone. Seabrook drove right and beat Bryzgalov to the far side, giving the Blackhawks new life late in the third.
Just as the Flyers had done earlier, the ‘Hawks took advantage of the momentum from the goal on the next shift. Patrick Kane loaded up a wrister in the slot, beating Bryzgalov over the shoulder and tying the game at 4-4 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation. Jonathan Toews made the play again, turning over defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon behind the Flyers’ net. The goal was just Kane’s third in his last 21 games dating back to November.
With the ‘Hawks less than two minutes away from salvaging a point out of the game, Kane took a high-sticking penalty trying to defend a shot from Matt Read. With Philly on the power play, Giroux brought the puck into the zone and passed to Hartnell at the goal line. He found Van Riemsdyk rushing to the net from the bench and crossed a pass for the tap-in at the 19:27 mark of the third period. The goal would end up being Van Riemsdyk’s first game-winner of the season in putting the Flyers up 5-4.
– The referees let the kids play for the most part, not calling a minor penalty until they were past the halfway point of the game. Chicago did not receive an opportunity on the power play in the game, and the Van Riemsdyk game-winner was the only conversion in four chances for the Flyers.
– The opening of the game belonged largely to the rookies, as Jimmy Hayes opened the scoring and Andrew Shaw had a memorable NHL debut of his own with the fight and goal. Shaw created a few other chances, registering four shots on goal, and was credited with four hits in the game as well. Chicago’s top defensive prospect Dylan Olsen also played in his first NHL game and was credited with three shots in just under 10 minutes of ice time in a solid showing.
– Shaw and Zac Rinaldo are not strangers. The two dropped the gloves once three years ago while rival in the Ontario Hockey League, Shaw skating for the Niagara Ice Dogs and Rinaldo for the Mississauga St. Michael’s Juniors.
– Hayes, playing in just his third NHL game, was one of Chicago’s better forwards on the night. His line along with Jamal Mayers and Michael Frolik applied the most consistent pressure throughout the first two periods of any line for Chicago and had their share of chances against Bryzgalov.
– Chicago could not capitalize on the Flyers’ loss of Kimmo Timonen, who left the game with a suspected wrist injury. The already depleted blue line group was limited to five defensemen for most of the second half of the game.
– Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov wore his brown Winter Classic pads and helmet. Philly’s enigmatic goaltender was ultimately not named the starter for Monday’s outdoor game against the New York Rangers, but was apparently still interested in trying something different after losing his last four starts.
– Ray Emery got the start against his former team, but was peppered with 46 shots in the game and victimized by Flyers traffic in front of the net all night long. Two areas where Emery had been solid during his strong run a few weeks ago, rebound control and movement post-to-post, let him down against the Flyers.
– The ‘Hawks do not have long to dwell on this loss as they head directly back to Chicago for a game against the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on Friday night. Puck drop is 7:30pm as Chicago tries to avoid their third three-game losing skid of the year.
In addition to covering the Blackhawks for TheThirdManIn.com, Brad is also the Blackhawks correspondent at HockeysFuture.com.