The rebuilding Philadelphia Flyers were trying to show they could play with an an expected Stanley Cup contender, the Edmonton Oilers, on Thursday.
They did just that.
Fact is, they controlled most of the game.
Getting goals from Joel Farabee, Cam Atkinson (two) and defenseman Sean Walker (!), the Flyers whipped Connor McDavid’s Oilers, 4-1, at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I feel like I’m getting better, and getting more confidence each game,” Atkinson said.
It’s a small sample size, but the Flyers have looked surprisingly cohesive in three of their four games, and they sent Edmonton to 1-3. They Flyers had more energy and outplayed the listless Oilers in most categories.
Here are five observations:
1. The Flyers got offense from an unexpected source.
Hello, Sean Walker.
Trailing 2-1 late in the second period, the Oilers were on a power play and, with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the ice, figured to have a good chance to tie the score.
Enter Walker and his game-changing goal.
Walker, a righthanded-shooting defenseman, scored on a left-circle tracer on a shorthanded rush, one that started when Sean Couturier (two assists) forced a McDavid turnover. It was the first shorthanded goal of Walker’s career, and it gave the Flyers a surprising 3-1 lead.
2. Cam Atkinson continued to look impressive in his return from neck surgery.
Atkinson scored a pair of goals — Owen Tippett had brilliant assists on both of them — to highlight the win.
The 34-year-old right winger made it 4-1 early in the third period after being sent in on a breakaway by Tippett.
Earlier in the game, McDavid and Evander Kane collided and went down to the ice in the offensive end, enabling the Flyers to have numbers down the other end. The sequence ended with Atkinson finishing off Tippett’s slick feed. Tippett had a takeaway in the offensive zone, made a spin move and found Atkinson in front.
The goal gave the opportunistic Flyers a 2-0 lead with 16:06 left in the second period.
Atkinson missed all of last season because of the neck injury. The Flyers missed his shiftiness and finishing ability last season.
3. Carter Hart had another strong performance.
The 25-year-old goaltender stopped 22 of 23 shots and made a big save on Leon Draisaitl at the doorstep early in the second period. Later in the period, he robbed Zach Hyman while the Oilers were on their vaunted power play.
“He’s looked fantastic,” Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella said on the ESPN2 broadcast. “He’s the backbone of our team.”
With 14:37 reaming in the second, Hyman took a great feed from McDavid, got position on rookie defenseman Emil Andrae, and scored on a backhander from out front to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The goal snapped Hart’s scoreless streak at 96 minutes, 56 seconds.
4. Joel Farabee and Bobby Brink worked a give-and-go to perfection.
On a two-on-one that developed down low, the unselfish Brink made a perfect feed to Farabee for a tap-in goal with 4:10 to go in the first. A takeaway in the neutral zone by defenseman Travis Sanheim put the play in motion.
It was Farabee’s second goal of the season and the speedy Brink’s first point of the year.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) October 20, 2023
5. The Flyers shut down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Just as they did in last year’s 2-1 shootout win over visiting Oilers, the Flyers did not allow superstars McDavid or Draisaitl to turn on the red light.
McDavid. hounded by Couturier all night, had zero shots and Draisaitl had two. Last season, McDavid failed to get a shot in just one game.
Marc Staal was in a second-period collision and went to the locker room; he missed the rest of the game as the Flyers were left with just five defensemen. … The Flyers had a 33-23 shots advantage. … Egor Zamula, the 23-year-old defenseman who scored his first career goal Tuesday, center Morgan Frost and injured defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen were scratched from the lineup. Ristolainen did lots of extra skating Thursday morning and appears close to returning. … Emil Andrae returned to the lineup and was paired with Nick Seeler. … The top line had Sean Couturier centering Owen Tippett and am Atkinson. … The Flyers play in Dallas on Saturday night.