Those weren’t your father’s Edmonton Oilers the Flyers beat 4-2 Saturday, with Claude Giroux finally scoring his first goal of the season. There was no Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri or Paul Coffey on this club.
But the Flyers weren’t about to hand the two points they earned back, especially since they’ve been so hard to come by on home ice. Despite stellar goaltending from Steve Mason and Ray Emery they’re only 3-7 in their own building, placing them at the bottom of the new Metropolitan Division.
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At 5-10-1, the team will need to win on the road to make up enough ground to get back into playoff contention. With games at Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Winnipeg this week, followed by a grueling December-January stretch with 18-of-29 on foreign ice — including five- and six-game trips — that could well determine their fate.
“That’s fine,” said Wayne Simmonds, who still has just one goal after scoring 43 the last two seasons. “On the road you’re always together. When we’re at home, guys have families, wives, girlfriends. But on the road you’re together every waking hour. I think that helps build team chemistry
“I think it’s going to be good thing.”
So far the Flyers are 2-3-1 on the road, winning at the Islanders and Devils, and getting a point in a tough overtime loss Tuesday in Carolina, where they led 1-0 with a minute to go. Last season, the Flyers’ fate was sealed by an 8-15-1 road record.
Clearly that won’t do again.
“We are what we are and we can’t come back and start the season over,” said Vinny Lecavalier, whose team-leading sixth goal of the season put Saturday’s game away at 16:33 in the third period. “That’s where we’re at right now— and if it’s to win hockey games on the road then we’re gonna have to do that. We’ve had some good games on the road. But right now it doesn’t matter where we are. We have to grab every point we can.”
Getting Giroux on the scoreboard figures to help, since his frustration level was apparent to all before he used defenseman Andrew Ference as a screen and beat Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk midway through the third period. That made it 3-1, the first time all season the Flyers had scored more than twice at home.
They’re hoping it’s a harbinger of things to come.
“Sometimes you just get that first one, everything kind of opens up after that,” said Lecavalier. “It was a matter of time. It’s going to get his confidence up and he’s going to play at another level.”
While admitting he’s relieved to get that monkey off his back, Giroux says the biggest thing was the victory.
“To get that one kind of took a lot of weight off,” said the captain, who played down Thursday’s team meeting following a loss to the Devils. “But we go on the road right now and we’ve got to get on a roll.”