PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Flyers had hoped to get off a good start. Even they couldn’t have predicted just how dominant they would be to open the game.
Sean Couturier had a goal and an assist in the first period, Jakub Voracek continued his offensive surge, and the Flyers cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
The Flyers led 2-0 less than 7 minutes into the game. Couturier deflected in a shot from Brayden Schenn at 3:53, and Michael Del Zotto made it 2-0 less than 3 minutes later with his first goal with the Flyers.
“We talked about needing to get off to a good start,” said Schenn, who had two assists. “We tried to jump on them early, and there’s a couple of plays we capitalized on.”
Voracek got his sixth goal of the season to pull into tie with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby with a league-leading 19 points, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare also scored for Philadelphia, which has won four straight at home.
Nick Bjugstad scored his first goal of the season for the Panthers, who had earned at least one point in their previous seven games.
“Nobody was very good for us tonight,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “We just weren’t sharp enough, we weren’t hungry enough and we didn’t battle enough.”
Steve Mason made 35 saves, including a big third-period stop on Bjugstad, to pick up his second straight win for the Flyers. Roberto Luongo stopped 30 shots for Florida.
The Flyers dominated the first period with Couturier opening the scoring. The play developed when Schenn won the puck with a forecheck and Matt Read slid a pass from the corner to him and Schenn one-timed a shot toward net.
The same line struck again at 6:38 as Del Zotto scored after rifling a tough-angle shot past an out-of-position Luongo with Schenn and Couturier getting the assists.
Schenn, who started the season on the team’s first line, believes that getting Couturier and Read going on the third line could turn out to be a huge boost for the team.
“You’re going to need some secondary scoring,” the defenseman said. “With the three of us, we’ve got some good chemistry. As long as we play good defense, the offensive chances will come.”
Flyers coach Craig Berube has liked what he’s seen out of that line as well, saying that he wants to keep Schenn in that spot rather than move him back to the top line to replace Michael Raffl, who will miss six weeks with a foot injury.
“I like him where he’s at,” Berube said. “I didn’t find that (Read) and (Couturier) were shooting enough pucks and getting it to the net. Hopefully Schenn can force that a little and get to the net himself, like he should.”
The Flyers picked up right where they left off early in the second period with Bellemare one-timing one over Luongo’s shoulder following a turnover and feed from Carlo Colaiacovo. The assist marked Colaiacovo’s first point in two games with the Flyers.
The Panthers pulled to 3-1 with 8:10 remaining in the second period on a power-play goal from Bjugstad, who pounced on a rebound. Jimmy Hayes, who split the Flyers’ penalty kill to put a backhander on net, and Dmitry Kulikov got the assists after Philly’s Chris VandeVelde was sent to the box for high-sticking.
Bjugstad, who had 16 goals and 22 assists last year, was relieved to finally get his first goal of the season.
“I mean, yeah, you don’t really think about how long it’s going to take,” he said. “Obviously you don’t want it to take that long but you just have to stay positive throughout.”
It was the first power-play goal the Flyers allowed at home this season, snapping their streak at 19 straight penalty kills.
Just 39 seconds later, the Flyers regained their three-goal cushion when Voracek scored as Claude Giroux set him up with a perfectly executed 2-on-1 break.
Voracek extended his scoring streak to seven games, with four goals and eight assists during the stretch.
“It was a great breakout,” Voracek said. “Obviously (Giroux) is one of the best playmakers in the league. So I was ready for that pass. It was an easy tap-in.”
NOTES: The win for the Flyers evened a 2-1 loss they suffered to the Panthers five days ago in Florida. … Thursday’s game was the second of a four-game homestand for Philadelphia. . The Panthers have totaled a league-low 16 goals all season. … The Flyers wore fatigues during warmups for Military Appreciation Night at the Wells Fargo Center, and U.S. servicemen were honored throughout the game.
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