ANAHEIM, Calif. — There was a true feel of Halloween at the Honda Center between the NHL’s two orange and black teams.
After the Ducks tied Tuesday's game with a power-play goal late in the third period, Nolan Patrick answered with the game-winner just 21 seconds later to give the Flyers a much-needed 3-2 victory in Anaheim.
Patrick's goal came with 1:51 left in regulation.
How did the new-look power-play units perform and what did rookie Nicolas Aube-Kubel bring to the ice in his NHL debut?
Here are my observations:
• One of the advantages of switching up the two power-play units is that it took away the comfortability that existed on that top unit that had looked rather predictable, which made it easy for opposing teams to scout. Sean Couturier had become an afterthought and had seen very little looks from his high-slot position.
In the first period, Claude Giroux fed Couturier with a perfect pass that Couturier redirected up high and past Ryan Miller. However, Dave Hakstol went back to the previous personnel of Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, Couturier, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds in the third period.
• There was a shakiness to Brian Elliott’s game in the first period as he struggled to squeeze his glove hand, leaving some rebounds out on the ice. Elliott was touched up for his first goal as Ducks winger Pontus Aberg appeared to throw Elliott off his angle ever so slightly. He gave the Flyers' goalie a shoulder fake and then waisted a perfectly placed shot high to the glove as Elliott dropped into the butterfly perhaps just a little prematurely. Elliott settled in and came through with some big momentum saves that he hadn’t made in previous starts.
• Ivan Provorov was in beast mode during this game and played like the No. 1 defenseman the Flyers desperately need him to be. Provorov broke up a series of 2-on-1 plays early in the second period when the Flyers were sloppy, and broke up and deflected a shot off a streaking Aberg. His puck-handling was under control and he redirected a Giroux shot from the point that gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead and Provorov his first goal of the season.
• The Ducks' shot differential this season was a whopping minus-14.5 coming into their game with the Flyers, who were able to do two things considerably better in this game than previous ones: Get traffic in front of Miller and get shots off in the high-danger areas just outside the crease. Jordan Weal, Travis Sanheim and Couturier all had scoring chances from close range. A much better effort after Gostisbehere had called out the Flyers for being a perimeter team lately.
• The Flyers brought a pulse to Anaheim, starting with Travis Konecny’s high stick to Ryan Getzlaf. From there, it started a chain reaction of altercations that included a game that suited Wayne Simmonds. The "Wayne Train" mixed it up with a few Ducks after whacking away at Miller’s pads and he was also jawing with Ryan Kesler at the end of the first period, then had words for Getzlaf after the Ducks' captain appeared to have gotten away with a spear on Simmonds.
• The NHL debut of Aube-Kubel didn’t provide anything that truly stood out, but he still came strong with energy into the third period as he bowled over Ducks defenseman Jacob Larsson for a big hit. Hakstol got exactly what he was looking for as Aube-Kubel was credited with five hits in his 5:25 of ice time.
• Even though the Flyers never trailed in this game, they weren’t necessarily clean in their puck play over the final 40 minutes. There were a number of sloppy passes and careless plays that should have never been attempted. To their credit, the Flyers had sticks and bodies in the shooting lanes to frustrate the Ducks and their potential scoring chances to help offset those mistakes.
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