Five minutes into Wednesday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the narrative was all too familiar for the Flyers.
Looking completely outmatched to begin the contest, then giving up an early goal to put yourself behind the eight ball was an eerily similar scene set in Chicago on Tuesday as the Flyers were unable to rebound from a slow start and ended up on the receiving end of a beating.
However, with one simple redirection off a Mark Streit shot from the point, that narrative changed, and the Flyers showed the ability to overcome adversity early en route to a key victory over their Keystone State rivals. It wasn’t pretty throughout, but the Flyers were able to finally seal their first win in regulation.
Resiliency is something the Flyers have shown early on in the young season — especially when down in the third period — and people around the league have noticed.
Is there a more confident, relaxed third period team than the Flyers?
— Rob Mixer (@RobMixer) October 23, 2014
If you’re going to mention the team’s calmness, it started with netminder Ray Emery on Wednesday. After a tough year last season, Emery has been the stronger of the two goaltenders to open the campaign, and Wednesday night wasn’t much different. Emery withstood a barrage of shots in the first period, almost single-handedly keeping the Flyers in the tilt and helping them hold on to the advantage through the first 20 minutes.
“It’s no secret, they like to come out hard,” Emery said after the game. “When they have elite players like they do, they’re going to have some sustained zone time. We talked about downgrading their chances when they do that and then we were fortunate to come back and score.”
Emery continued his stellar play in the third, where the 32-year-old netminder made big save after big save, including a left-pad stop on Evgeni Malkin early in the third that would have given the Penguins a 3-2 lead.
With the way Emery is playing, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see him between the pipes for the Flyers’ next contest on Saturday.
Berube on Emery vs. Mason: “we’ll put the best team on the ice.” — Sean Gentille (@seangentille) October 23, 2014
The offense got its normal positive efforts from Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, who are both off to blistering starts this season, but a 29-year-old French rookie was one who impressed Wednesday. Pierre-Edouard Bellmare has excelled since his promotion to the second line to replace the injured Vincent Lecavalier, but his play on the national stage against the Penguins should gain him recognition. Bellmare was strong on the PK throughout night as the Flyers’ unit held the potent Pittsburgh power play off the board (it entered the game converting at an unheard of 47% clip). He also netted his first-career goal, and it was a beauty.
But, as this should come to no surprise to anyone, it was Sean Couturier who really made his mark Wednesday. In the first period, Couturier put forth an uninspiring effort on the first Penguins’ goal. However, the 21-year-old bounced back, holding Sidney Crosby off the scoreboard for just the 12th time in 49 career games against the Flyers, and limiting Evgeni Malkin to just one assist. A confident Couturier then flashed his offensive game, posting two assists and an empty-net goal to help seal the Flyers’ 5-3 win.
“He does a good job on both of them, and I used him tonight on both guys,” Berube said of Couturier. “He takes away their speed. He has a great stick and is smart. The biggest thing he does is he is tight on them and does not give them room.”
In the end, resiliency is this teams calling card. Over the past few seasons, they’ve lived and died by comebacks. Will it be sustainable again this season? Considering how the defense has played early on this campaign, maybe not. But, for now, teams know it will be tough to hold off the Flyers over the final 20 minutes.