Keeping with tradition—a franchise staple through the years—the Flyers retired Mark Howe’s No. 2 jersey in style Tuesday night, spotting the vaunted Detroit Wings the obligatory early first goal, before coming on strong to post a 3-2 win.
That makes them now 4-0-1 on such special occasions, wins coming when Bernie Parent (1), Bobby Clarke (16) and Bill Barber (7) were immortalized, a tie when the late Barry Ashbee (4) received the tribute. It also moves them within two points of idle Pittsburgh for No. 4 seed in the East, while staying two points ahead of the Devils.
Having won three in a row for the first time since mid-December, the Flyers will continue to try to do their part to make Howe’s pre-game wish come true: a return engagement with these same Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. “This was a big test for us,’’ said Claude Giroux, whose late first period breakaway goal put the Flyers ahead to stay, before he assisted on Max Talbot’s second period shorthanded goal. “Especially at home, where we haven’t been very good.
“To get the lead and keep it before a packed house, with Mark Howe’s jersey being retired makes it a pretty special night all around.’’
It’s a test they never would’ve passed had not Ilya Bryzgalov, who flubbed Henrik Zetterberg’s backhander on Detroit’s first shot just 4:00 in, shaken it off to come up big the rest of the way. Bryzgalov turned aside all but one of the remaining 37 shots—21 of them coming in the third period—as the Wings swarmed the Flyers zone.
Other than Johan Franzen’s goal occurring moments after a Scott Hartnell penalty expired, he stopped everything, yet in keeping with his new policy refused to discuss anything but the team afterwards. “The team was unbelievable, especially two players (defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros) down with injuries.” said Bryzgalov, who’s allowed just 12 goals in his last six games, but been victimized on the opposition’s first shot three of the last four games. “Guys stepped up played really well.
“That’s was good., because we need the points.’’
Getting them against the Wings, who are just two points off the lead for the best record in hockey, shows potentially how good the Flyers could be. While the possibility of a rematch of the 1997 Cup Finals remains a long-shot, considering the Flyers would likely have to go through the first place Rangers and/or reigning Cup champion Bruins to punch their ticket, Peter Laviolette liked what he saw.
“They’re experienced and they move the puck,’’ said Laviolette, who lost yet another player when Jake Voracek—after scoring the tying goal—was flattened by a Nicklas Kromwall hit and staggered off the ice, not to return. “They have some high end players, who’ve been together a long time, so you really have to be sharp.
“This is a big win for us to keep things moving in the month of March.’’
The Flyers go for No. 4 in a row tomorrow vs. Southeast Division leader Florida tomorrow, then head to Toronto Saturday.