The Flyers welcomed back their fans in full throttle Friday night. They gave them a good show in the first period and a wild one in the waning moments of the third.
But a nightmarish second period ultimately soured the season-opening festivities in Philadelphia.
And much of it was caused by the Flyers' own doing. Despite a furious comeback bid, the club dropped its 2021-22 regular-season opener, 5-4, to the Canucks in a shootout.
Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller quashed the Flyers' rally for good with markers in the skills competition. Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux were denied on the Flyers' two attempts.
Travis Konecny (power play) and Giroux (6-on-5) erased a 4-2 deficit with under three minutes left in regulation to force overtime, sending the listed attendance of 19,338 into a frenzy.
But the Canucks controlled overtime and escaped in the shootout.
"We don't want to do this all season long, we'd rather play with a lead," Giroux said. "The fans were pretty wild at the end. That was one of the most exciting goals I've scored, just seeing the guys pretty jacked up and the fans were happy. When you lose in shootouts, it's no fun, but to be able to come back like that and get one point, it's huge."
Prior to the defeat, the Flyers had won five straight season openers. Friday night marked their first opener at the Wells Fargo Center with fans in the building since 2013-14. It was the club's first game in front of a full-capacity crowd since March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic put the sports world on pause.
Vancouver, which lost in a shootout Wednesday night in Edmonton, jumped on the Flyers' mistakes and hurt Alain Vigneault's club with its speed in space.
• The Flyers fed off the energy of the crowd and held a 1-0 edge at first intermission. The lead was quickly erased and forgotten by the end of the second period.
The Flyers shot themselves in the foot with four penalties during the middle stanza: Konecny for high-sticking, Ivan Provorov for delay of game (puck over the glass), a bench minor for too many men on the ice and Max Willman for crosschecking.
The Canucks capitalized with a goal at 5-on-4 and another one at 5-on-3. In total, Vancouver dropped a second-period four-spot on the Flyers.
The Flyers had the 30th-ranked penalty kill last season. They made a number of offseason acquisitions to address that ranking, but staying out of the box is one of the simplest remedies to a leaky PK.
"We started the game on time," Vigneault said. "Really liked the energy and our execution in the first period. I think what took a little bit of the momentum away from us was the penalties that we took tonight. T.K.'s 200 feet away, Provy's maybe a little unlucky, shoots it over the glass, Willman is obviously unnecessary and the one that put us 5-on-3, it was a penalty; our guy jumped on way too quickly. That took momentum and gave them momentum.
"We found a way to come back, we made some plays when the game was on the line. We were able to tie it up, took it to a shootout; their skill in the shootout beat our skill."
• Giroux, Konecny, Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee scored for the Flyers.
Carter Hart rebounded from the difficult second period by making a combined 21 saves over the third period and overtime session.
The Flyers were able to steal a point because of it. Konecny and Giroux were huge late.
• In his first start of what Hart and the Flyers believe will be a bounce-back season, the 23-year-old goalie yielded the four goals on 39 shots.
The fourth goal felt like a back-breaking one. Hart will want it back. It came off of a clear-path shot from Pettersson at a side angle and the puck stayed loose by his pads. Miller pounced on it to tip it past the goal line. Fewer than five minutes before, Atkinson cut the Canucks' lead to 3-2 with his first goal for a team other than the Blue Jackets.
Overall, though, Hart wasn't a problem. An unlucky bounce beat him on Vancouver's first power play goal. Hart nearly denied the 5-on-3 goal, which was at the doorstep.
Again, the Flyers hurt themselves.
"You've got to be able to play 60 minutes the same way," Provorov said. "That was our biggest problem last year and we're definitely going to work on that."
Thatcher Demko converted 31 saves for the Canucks.
• Provorov played 29:23 minutes and prized offseason acquisition Ryan Ellis played 28:20. They combined for three assists. They will eat minutes for the Flyers this season.
• Willman, in front of family and friends from Barnstable, Massachusetts, made his NHL debut at 26 years old. Fewer than two years ago, Willman was playing in the ECHL for the Reading Royals.
True to hockey tradition, the Flyers gave him his solo lap in warmups. Willman finished with 9:30 minutes on the Flyers' fourth line. Recently claimed forwards Patrick Brown and Zack MacEwen should be available in the coming days, so Willman will likely head back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley soon.
But credit to the guy for earning his opportunity. If he plays well with the Phantoms, he could get more down the line.
• With the opener in the books, the Flyers continue their season-opening four-game homestand on Monday when they welcome Dave Hakstol and the expansion Kraken (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
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