Flyers navigate a victory in Columbus, 4-2

Flyers' Goal Celebration at Columbus Blue Jackets
Philadelphia Flyers celebrate a goal against Columbus Blue Jackets’ Elvis Merzlikins, foreground, during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

After the morning skate, Travis Konecny said this about Cam Atkinson and Sean Couturier, both of whom last played an NHL game in the 2021-2022 season:

“There’s excitement, but even for a guy like Coots [Couturier] and Cam [Atkinson]; they’ve played so many games, they probably don’t even want that excitement around it. It’s just like another game; show up and get ready to go. They don’t want the limelight on them.”

Travis Konecny; 10/12/2023

It’s a matter of perspective. Atkinson had family in attendance. He was buzzing hours before the opening faceoff.

“I’m excited to be back with the boys, and a little icing on the cake that it’s here in Columbus.”

Cam Atkinson; 10/12/2023

‘Excitement’ seemed to be coursing through the veins of the Philadelphia Flyers lineup. A new-look lineup went head-to-head with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Bobby Brink made the opening night roster, inserting youth onto the ice. He joined a line featuring Couturier and Joel Farabee.

“Sitting here on a line with those two guys, it’s really special.”

Bobby Brink; 10/12/2023

A new season brings on ‘excitement.’ The Flyers faced their first challenge of the season on the road at the Nationwide Arena.

John Tortorella couldn’t help but be excited, too. He knew he would get his first impressions of newer, developed prospects, but he is anticipating what will happen like anyone else. This rebuild is an open book, and the first chapter is set in Columbus.

Philadelphia Flyers at Columbus Blue Jackets

Rasmus Ristolainen did not dress for another Flyers season opener, a feat he’s yet to do since his arrival in Philadelphia. Sean Walker replaced Ristolainen in the lineup to pair with Marc Staal.

Ryan Poehling took the opening faceoff, flanked by Nicolas Deslauriers and Garnet Hathaway. Immediately, Tortorella sent his bottom line to establish a presence in a fast-paced start.

Zach Werenski failed to protect the puck during an offensive zone entry. Yegor Zamula poked the puck back into the neutral zone, free for Farabee to recover for a two-on-zero breakaway with Couturier. Both forwards closed in on Elvis Merzlikins, performed a back-and-forth pass, then Farabee finished to put the Flyers ahead, 1-0, with 16:27 remaining in the first period.

Adam Fantilli had the crowd behind him when he touched the puck. He and Kirill Marchenko drove the puck from center ice to the left wing. Fantilli took the shot, saved by Carter Hart, but Jake Bean scored on the rebound to tie the game, 1-1.

Scott Laughton tallied his 200th career NHL point, helping the Flyers to another lead. Konecny recovered the puck after a missed pass by Patrik Laine, then found Laughton in transition to the offensive zone. Laughton had Ivan Provorov closing in, put on the brakes, and then set Konecny up to beat Merzlikins on the far post, 2-1, with 7:17 remaining in the first period.

“TK [Konecny], I’m not sure he listens sometimes, but that’s a big part of his game; just his reactions. He just makes important plays, just like that. I don’t think he was playing that well prior to him scoring that goal; he had a couple [of] turnovers, there were a couple of situational plays. Eventually, he’s going to be a big part of it. That’s what’s so unique about him. He’ll get his game going sooner or later. He makes big plays at key times.”

John Tortorella; 10/12/2023

Konecny buzzed all over the ice. Finding his game early in the season is an important goal. He scored on Merzlikins, remained relentless in the offensive zone on the forecheck, and irritated the opposition by drawing a roughing penalty. An instigator, Konecny effectively stirred the pot.

Suddenly, the Flyers began getting into penalty trouble. Couturier served for tripping, but the Flyers killed the penalty without much risk. Then, Hathaway and Werenski collided knee-to-knee along the boards. Werenski needed help off the ice from Jack Roslovic and Sean Kuraly, and Hathaway served a minor penalty. Poehling nearly scored a wrap-around goal on the penalty kill, but Merzlikins didn’t allow the shorthanded conversion.

Before the end of the second period, Deslauriers made a fine defensive play to help Hart. The Flyers began to play loosely, making more mistakes. Justin Danforth recovered the puck in the neutral zone to try an offensive entry, but Deslauriers skated him down and kept him to the outside, away from Hart. Each team had scoring chances in the second period, and each goaltender did their job.

Undisciplined hockey continued for the Flyers to begin the third period. Travis Sanheim served for high-sticking but was bailed out when Alexandre Texier served for holding. Instead of being a man down, the Flyers and Blue Jackets dueled at four-on-four. Overall, Philadelphia finished 4/4 on the penalty kill and 0/3 on the powerplay.

Atkinson added an empty-net goal. Hart flipped the puck around the boards toward the neutral zone. The puck evaded Provorov, and Atkinson took the pass to the net for a slam-dunk goal, 3-1.

“It’s not like he’s [Atkinson] buzzing around. He’s just in the right spots at the right time and you can’t get the puck from him. He just plays the right way, and when you do that, you get rewarded.”

Travis Konecny; 10/12/2023

Keeping Merzlikins on the bench, the Blue Jackets remained with a six-on-five advantage. The plan worked to cut the deficit, but it was too late. Laine did score off a vital offensive zone faceoff victory, but it was too late. The Flyers still led, 3-2, with under a minute in regulation.

The exclamation point was Konecny, scoring an empty-net goal, his second of the game, with :00.2 remaining in regulation. After the final horn, the Flyers were victorious, starting the season with a 1-0-0 record, 4-2.

Next Up

Next, the Flyers are on the road against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, October 14th at 1pm from the Canadian Tire Centre.

(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)