PHILADELPHIA (AP)—The loudest ovation from the raucous sold-out crowd was heard for All-Star Danny Briere. The nicest play came in the waning seconds from team captain Jason Smith.
Two players that had nothing to do with Philadelphia’s disastrous last season have given the rebuilt Flyers early reason to believe they can return to the playoffs.
“This is not last year’s team,” coach John Stevens said. “There’s just a totally different attitude in the locker room. There’s no question it looked like a different team pulled it out.”
The Flyers look like a different team because they are one thanks to a summer overhaul that saw them sign Briere away from Buffalo and obtain Smith in a deal with Edmonton.
Briere scored four goals in Philadelphia’s three-game road trip and earned a rousing ovation when the home opener lineups were introduced. It was an easy way to settle those early jitters.
“It was cool. It was very special,” Briere said. “Coming off a road trip, it’s always tough to get it going.”
The Flyers (3-1) got off to a fast start in the first game of a four-game homestand where they want to establish for good that last season’s NHL-worst record was nothing more than an aberration. They’re off to a flying start—they didn’t win their third game of last season until Oct. 30.
“We want to create an identity for ourselves and we’re on the right path,” Briere said. “But we can’t get too excited. It’s only four games into the season.”
Smith sealed the win for the Flyers—who scored two second-period goals to take the lead—when he blocked a shot in the final seconds and whipped the puck into the empty net to make it 3-1.
“He played so hard and to come back and do that play that could have saved the game was definitely a big play for us,” Biron said.
After scoring 14 goals on their three-game road trip, the Flyers went scoreless on five shots against Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro in the first period.
It would have been understandable if the slow start against DiPietro gave the Flyers a miserable flashback to last season. After all, the Islanders won all four games at Philadelphia—the first time the Flyers were swept at home by their Atlantic Division rival—and New York won all five games against them when DiPietro started.
DiPietro’s last shutout even came against the Flyers in February.
He couldn’t take the shutout past the second in this one.
Jofferey Lupul’s shot from the circle was knocked in by Carter for his third goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.
The Flyers struck again only 2 minutes, 9 seconds later when Kapanen slid a backhand past DiPietro for his second goal and a 2-0 lead. DiPietro had 20 saves.
“I thought we played well, a smart game,” DiPietro said. “Kapanen made a real good pump and went around, but, overall, we played a pretty solid game.”
Simon picked up where he left off, dropping his gloves in the second period to fight Flyers forward Riley Cote. Both received five-minute major penalties.
If Simon was trying to fire up the Islanders, the move failed. They didn’t score until Josef Vasicek’s slapshot from the circle, a shorthanded goal early in the third that made it 2-1.
“In the first period I just don’t believe we went to the net hard enough,” coach Ted Nolan said. “In the third period, we skated much better, we moved the puck better.”
The Islanders wasted plenty of chances to tie the score against Biron, outshooting the Flyers 15-6 in the third.
“Biron’s been sensational,” Stevens said. “When there has been a breakdown, he’s been there to stand tall.”
Flyers F Ben Eager left the game after one period complaining of dizziness. … The Flyers listed Jesse Boulerice and Steve Downie as scratches. Boulerice was suspended 25 games by the NHL on Friday for striking Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler across the face with his stick, the longest single-season ban in league history. Downie is serving a 20-game ban for an intentional hit against Ottawa.