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Lots of Positives in Flyers’ Win, Especially New-Look Penalty Kill

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Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
Sean Couturier, back from an injury that sidelined him for nearly two seasons, helped the Flyers penalty kill go 4 for 4 on Thursday night.

The Philadelphia Flyers did a lot of good things in their season-opening 4-2 win Thursday in Columbus.

The penalty-kill’s effectiveness was one of them.

Philly was 4 for 4 on the new-look PK, with defensive newcomers Marc Staal and Sean Walker among the many contributors. Center Ryan Poehling and right winger Garnet Hathaway, two other newcomers, also helped the penalty kill.

Travis Sanheim, the Flyers’ new No. 1 defenseman, logged the most time on the penalty kill (3:24), with Staal (3:15) and Walker (3:13) close behind. The PK was also aided by the return of Sean Couturier (2:03) and Cam Atkinson (2:46), each of whom missed last season because of injuries. Cam Atkinson (2:46).

It’s only one game — and Columbus is not expected to be a good team — but it was a nice start for a penalty-killing unit that was just 26th (74.7% success rate) in the NHL last season.

“I thought our PK was great and was a difference-maker,” goaltender Carter Hart said. “All our guys were on the same page, making the simple plays and poised with the puck.”

“We did a good job,” said Couturier, who had an assist and was plus-3.  “Didn’t give them time and space to get set up.”

Couturier played his first game in nearly two years.

“I felt great,” he said, “and as play went on, I felt better and better.”

Travis Konecny scored a pair of goals, one an empty-netter, to pace the offense.  Down the other end, Hart was extremely sharp. He turned aside 31 of 33 shots and made several quality stops.

“He was great. Made some big saves and looked in control. There weren’t many rebounds,” Couturier said. “We expect that from Hartsy and he delivered.”

So did the penalty kill.

Hathaway fined

Hathaway was fined $5,000 by the NHL Friday for kneeing Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski on Thursday. Werenski left the game in the second period and didn’t return because of a quad contusion in his right knee.

The Blue Jackets said he is expected to miss one or two weeks. Werenski played just 13 games last season because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder, suffered against the Flyers.

Breakaways

Sanheim (assist, plus-1) played 26:17, nearly three minutes more than his closest teammate. … Hart collected his second career assist. … Konecny scored his sixth and seventh goals in a season opener, passing Bobby Clarke for the second most in franchise history. Only Bill Barber, with 10 goals in openers, has more in the Philadelphia Flyers’ history, per NHL Stats. … Couturier’s assist was his first point in 663 days. … Joel Farabee scored 3:33 into the game, the Flyers’ quickest goal in an opener since Danny Briere scored 3:12 into the first game in 2007. Briere notched his first win at the Flyers’ general manager Thursday.

PHN: Danny Briere Unplugged.

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