SUNRISE, Fla. – A victory but at what cost?
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That’s about the only way you can look at the Flyers' 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Tuesday.
Centerman Sean Couturier suffered an MCL sprain of the left knee, sources said, in the opening 1:40 of the second period when he literally became entangled with Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck, who fell on top of him (see story).
He will return to Philly today to be seen by the Flyers’ medical staff.
“Tough to lose Coots, but other guys stepped up and did a good job,” coach Dave Hakstol said.
“We went the entire second period with three centermen. We used Schenner (Brayden Schenn) there, which is the benefit of him playing both spots.”
“We played a helluva game. I thought we were better tonight, especially against a team like this that feeds off [turnovers] and transitions extremely well. You see their team speed when you see them up close.”
It remains to be seen who replaces Couturier for Wednesday’s game in Tampa.
Goalie Steve Mason had a strong game with a season-high 38 saves. He was tracking pucks through traffic very well.
“A real strong game from the entire team and from a personal standpoint, I felt good,” said Mason, who lost a shutout in the final two minutes. “The guys in front did a great job of moving bodies and giving me a lane to the point shots and shots from the outside.”
This was a grind game for the Flyers. Nothing came easy despite a 3-0 lead in the third period.
“That’s a good team over there. They can make plays,” said Dale Weise, who scored his first goal as a Flyer.
“They got some talented guys up front who can fly and their defense has some good skill back there. Full credit to our guys. We don’t want to play a run-and-gun game.”
All three goals by the Flyers, however, were off rushes starting in the other end.
In the first period, Wayne Simmonds took a puck in the defensive zone off a draw from Couturier and carried all the way up the right side, faking a pass across the middle, then wristing the puck under the crossbar on Roberto Luongo.
“They won the faceoff, but their defenseman bobbled the puck,” Simmonds said. “I picked it up and we had a two-on-one going full. The D took TK (Travis Konecny), so I decided to shoot.
“We played a simple road game. We didn’t turn over too many pucks. We were solid one-on-one.”
The scouting report on Mason these days apparently reads, “try wraparounds and if it fails, try it again.”
The Panthers did it twice in the opening period and also attempted a setup play in which Jaromir Jagr makes a soft dump into the corner for Jussi Jokinen, who quickly lines a pass to the post for Jagr.
Mason made the save. Florida began many of its play attacking from behind the net to rattle Mason but it didn’t work.
“Start to finish, he was very sharp, seeing the puck, reading plays well. He did a great job for us,” Hakstol said of his goaltender. “Just seeing the puck. Part of that is reading the play. Working to find the puck.
“They do a good job in the offensive zone. They got a lot of motion and they’re not shy putting pucks to the net. He handled it well and he had good help around him. Our D did a good job in and around him.”
Couturier’s injury cast a long pall over the second period as it occurred within the opening two minutes. Yet, the period ended on a positive note.
Weise’s goal at 13:03 of the second period was on the power play and made it 2-0. He rebounded Konecny’s hard shot from the left circle off the rush and with both teams previously skating four-on-four.
“It’s been a long time coming, a real struggle,” Weise said. “It hasn't been a very good start for me. To get the first one, to get the monkey off your back, you instantly feel lighter and instantly feel so much better about yourself.”
Konecny led a two-on-one charge to the net.
“TK put the puck on the net and it was a pretty good bounce,” Weise said. “It was kind of an empty-net backhand for me.”
Nick Cousins scored on a power-play breakaway in the third period to put the game away. He fell awkwardly into the boards after the goal because he was so excited about his third goal.
“I lost an edge there,” Cousins said. “I was going too fast, I ran into the boards. I tried to turn quickly and celebrate with Simmonds.”
The Flyers didn’t sit back in the final period. They kept coming and as a result, seemed to play better at both ends of the ice.
“We talked about it here not to sit back,” Cousins said. “Earlier we get leads and sit back on it and not pressure as much. In the third period, I thought we took it to them … I liked our third period and we got to continue it.”