ANAHEIM, Calif. — Not even the finest sous chef in the United States can serve up duck on a silver platter like this.
No Ryan Getzlaf or Ryan Kesler — Anaheim’s top two centers with a two-way game capable of shutting down the opposing team’s best offensive players.
No Hampus Lindholm or Sami Vatanen — two of Anaheim’s top four defensemen capable of generating offense from the back end.
No Nick Ritchie, who was a late scratch, forcing head coach Randy Carlyle to promote a fourth-line player into the top six.
Add all of those key pieces to the Ducks’ lineup and you can see why these birds have been an Alfred Hitchcock-like nightmare to the Flyers — a frustration level unlike any other over the past seven years.
The frustration ended Saturday night.
Wayne Simmonds played hero again, potting the game-winner 44 seconds into overtime to give the Flyers a 3-2 win over the injury-ridden Ducks at the Honda Center, their first win in Anaheim since Dec. 2, 2011 (see observations).
"This is a tough building to get points in," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "And they had some key guys out. You know the guys who are in the lineup are going to be absolutely at their top level. You see that a lot within the game. You have a couple of key guys out and everybody else picks it up a notch or two.
"We wanted to make sure we controlled our readiness and our determination. It's a real good two points for us on the road."
Coming into Saturday, the Ducks had beaten the Flyers in eight straight in what has been a lopsided series, and had an 11-0-1 record against the Flyers since October 2010.
Simmonds' OT winner was his fourth goal of the season and his second game-winner in just three games. He recorded a hat trick in the season opener Wednesday in San Jose.
After the game, Simmonds acknowledged the importance of jumping on a team with such significant health issues.
"I think it's important," Simmonds said. "We're a young team so at this point of the season, we got to make sure we're worried about ourselves, make sure we're continuing to do the right things.
"I think we did that tonight, whether they were down a couple guys tonight or not. We just want to make sure we're playing hockey the right way and I think we did that tonight."
While it wasn't reflected on the scoreboard, the Flyers dominated the Ducks throughout long stretches of the game. Take the second period, for example. Through nearly the first 14 minutes, the Flyers actually had more goals (1) than the Ducks had shots (0).
And if the Anaheim Duck was the main course, Ivan Provorov was the Flyers' maitre d’ of defense. The Flyers' shutdown defender not only scored his first goal of the season but completely stifled the Ducks' top line of Andrew Cogliano, Rickard Rakell and Corey Perry as the trio combined for just three shots and was held off the scoresheet.
For 25 minutes, Provorov's defensive play was surgical in its precision, as he continuously separated player from the puck and negated Anaheim from cycling the puck down low.
"He's kind of a machine out there," said goalie Brian Elliott, who earned his second win of the season. "I heard when I came in here what type of guy he was. He played a great game tonight. It doesn't really get noticed all the time, but that's probably the best thing when a defenseman doesn't get noticed."
“For sure that team missed those guys, but it doesn’t matter, this league is so competitive,” Provorov said. “Everybody plays hard, so our main focus was focusing on our game, play the right way and that’s what we did tonight.”
There will be defining moments throughout the course of an 82-game season when the Flyers will win games they should have otherwise lost, and games like this one, where they may have felt deflated coming away with one point when they fully deserved two.
Saturday night, to their credit, they took full advantage of a wounded bird.
A 1st for Patrick
Flyers rookie Nolan Patrick collected his first NHL point Saturday night, assisting on Provorov's first-period goal. Patrick and Provorov were previously teammates in the WHL with Brandon.
However, Patrick appeared to have found a running mate, as he was paired with second-year player Travis Konecny. The duo had instant chemistry that was refreshing to see after Hakstol switched Patrick and Valtteri Filppula in the lineup.
"I love playing with guys like that," Patrick said of Konecny. "He competes hard and he's fast and makes plays down low. I really like his game. Obviously, I like (Dale) Weise's game, too. He plays heavy and sees the ice well and it was obviously a good first game with both of those guys."
Giroux passes Recchi
With a secondary assist on Sean Couturier’s goal, Claude Giroux passed Mark Recchi into fourth-place in franchise history with his 396th assist. Moving forward, Giroux has only franchise Hall of Famers to pass up. The captain is now 68 assists shy from overtaking Bill Barber for third place on the all-time list.