Sean Couturier, back in the lineup after missing nearly two seasons because of back surgeries, talked Tuesday night about the oddness of his first two points this year.
The Philadelphia Flyers’ 30-year-old center had an assist on a rare two-on-none break with Joel Farabee in the opener in Columbus.
His first goal was even more unusual: He scored on an opening-period penalty shot, the first attempt in his career. The goal gave the Flyers a two-goal cushion Tuesday, and they blanked Vancouver, 2-0, at the Wells Fargo Center.
Before taking his shot, Couturier used a spin-around move that Carter Hart said reminded him of a maneuver that the great Martin St. Louis used to make.
“Pretty cool,” Hart said.
“Just glad it worked,” Couturier said after his first goal since Dec. 10, 2021 in Vegas.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) October 17, 2023
Though he is still shaking off the rust, Couturier has played well in the first three games, helping the Flyers get off to a 2-1 start.
“He’s just so positioned,” coach John Tortorella said. ” … He knows exactly what he’s doing as far as positioning and putting himself in a spot where he’s not going to chase the play. The play’s going to have to come through him.”
This is Couturier’s first season under Tortorella.
“He doesn’t say much on the bench. I’m not sure if he has before,” Tortorella said. “I’ve asked him to be selfish and just worry about his game, I’m not sure if he opens up on the bench, but everybody trusts him I think he just brings that calming presence.”
Couturier, who centered Owen Tippett and Cam Atkinson against the Canucks (2-1), had been questionable for Tuesday’s game. Tortorella said the veteran was “banged up” after the first two games, but that it was not related to his back. Couturier missed Monday’s practice, and Tortorella didn’t know until Tuesday that he would be in that night’s lineup.
“I guess my body isn’t used to that anymore,” Couturier said with a grin, referring to playing two games after a 22-month layoff. “It’s starting to get back into a rhythm.”
He said missing practice Monday was a precaution. As the season progresses, he may need to take more practices off, he acknowledged.
“I know it was brought up,” he said. “I don’t know how much I’ll need it or when I’ll need it. I’m sure at some point, when there’s optionals and a lot of games in a short time, they will watch my load management with practices. We’ll see once we get there.”
Having dispatched a Vancouver team that had beaten mighty Edmonton twice and averaged six goals per game in the process, the Philadelphia Flyers will now host the Oilers on Thursday.
It’s a chance for Philly to establish itself early in the season against a team that is regarded as a Stanley Cup contender.
Keith Jones and Dan Hilferty shaking players’ hands in #Flyers’ locker room. Shades of Ed Snider.
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) October 18, 2023