Valtteri Filppula Comes Up Big in Flyers Debut in Win Shootout Win


The acquisition of Valtteri Filppula on Wednesday was general manager Ron Hextall's subtle way of finally admitting, after several years of searching, that the Flyers may finally have a true second-line center.
Sean Couturier should be that guy given his glittering offensive stats in junior. Yet he's never reached his offensive potential.
Brayden Schenn? He's shuffled back and forth between center and left wing more times than the old U.S. Airways Boston Shuttle to LaGuardia.
Fippula's biggest asset will be what he can provide on the road to Claude Giroux. He can help the Giroux get a better matchup, so the captain can reverse the fact he's been minus all season away from home.
Filppula is the man now and Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers represented his first stab at the one spot the Flyers need goal scoring, or at least consistent offensive line production.
In fairytale fashion, the soon-to-be 33-year-old Fin scored a tying goal in the third period that swung the momentum to the Flyers in a 2-1 shootout victory over Florida (see Instant Replay).
The Panthers are one of four teams Dave Hakstol's Flyers have to catapult to earn a wild card.
Like a base runner sliding into third, Filppula crashed the net midway into the third period to redirect Schenn's shot/pass from a tough angle past goalie James Reimer to tie it at 1-1.
"It was a real good pass as I was trying to go to the net," Filppula said. "Just hit my stick."
He hadn't scored since mid-January. This goal turned the game around for the Flyers, who need about 28 more points to make the playoffs.
"Yeah, I hope I can score a few more," Filppula said. "Doesn't happen too often for me."
The Flyers needed a spark and he provided it on this night.
"There's different momentum swings to this game," Hakstol said. "Third period, not a whole lot happening and those guys go out and make a play. That's the play we needed. 
"I thought he played a real good hockey game. For the turnaround he's had over the last 24 hours, that calm presence is very evident. I thought he played that way for 65 minutes."
Filppula had three shots and 15:12 ice time. He didn't play on the power play but had 34 seconds on the penalty kill.
Florida's only goal -- shorthanded -- came off a ghastly Giroux turnover during the Flyers' fourth power play.
The Panthers got a rush and forced a faceoff in the Flyers' end. Giroux won the draw, then tried a stretch pass on the outlet that Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad picked off in neutral ice. 
Ekblad attacked, pulled off a big-time juke around Giroux and then beat Steve Mason from distance for a 1-0 lead as the boos rained down. It was a perfect shot just wide enough where Mason had no chance.
"I thought Schenner was open, then I played that wrong defensively," Giroux admitted. "It's frustrating. I'm pissed off and I gotta be better. The team played a great 55-minute game and, personally, I gave Florida a point. … I gotta be better."
We would be remiss if we didn't mention the outstanding 39-save effort from Mason. His glove stab on Aleksander Barkov in the final 19 seconds of regulation saved the game. 
"I had a good read on it and the initial pass across to him," Mason said. "He made a good shot. If that goes in, it's game over and we get zero points instead of two." 
They got the two on Voracek's team-leading fifth shootout goal this season. He said this new second unit showed some chemistry, too.
"He's a very good player on the puck and he has a heavy stick," Voracek said of his new teammate Filppula. "For me and Schenner, it's important to have the puck on our stick the most part of the game."
They stayed patient. They came at relief goalie James Reimer (Roberto Luongo suffered a lower-body injury the first period) and came up with 40 shots in all.
"I don't know what we were drinking, but we wanted to win," defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. "A great team effort. We got the new guy in there and he contributed big. He fit in great."
The new guy. 
Filppula only had a few hours to assimilate as much as he could via video. He didn't have time to absorb the Flyers' system, so he just freelanced around what he didn't know.
"It goes a little both ways," Filppula said. "Same time, you'd like a little time to talk about it and a couple practices."

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