At last, the Philadelphia Flyers have something to feel good about.
After losing their last two games against the New York Rangers by a combined score of 17-3, the Flyers got their first win in five games when they wrapped up a four-game homestand with a 2-1 win over the Blueshirts in a Saturday matinee.
Samuel Morin For The Win
The winning goal came off a one-timer from the blue line by Sam Morin, with 4:27 left in the third period.
Sam Morin gives the Flyers the lead with his first NHL goal! pic.twitter.com/dyEPlE99W8
— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) March 27, 2021
The game-winner was also the first NHL point for the 25-year-old, who was drafted 11th overall by the Flyers in 2013.
“I just saw Raf (Michael Raffl) put his hand in the air and screaming,” Morin said after the game, when asked to describe the moment. “Ghost (Shayne Gostisbehere) flying on me.
“I’m really happy. It’s the best moment in my life.”
It was a special moment for a well-liked player who has maintained a positive attitude despite numerous injuries, including two ACL surgeries, which have limited him to just 15 NHL games in his career.
“Sam’s been through more than anyone, the last couple years,” said Nolan Patrick, who has been on an odyssey of his own with his migraine disorder issues. “He came out on the other side of it. To see him score was pretty cool in that fashion. Everyone was extremely happy for him.
“It was great moment for him.”
It was also a great moment for the team, which had seen the Rangers climb even with them in the East Division standings after Thursday’s 8-3 loss. After getting on the ice for a spirited practice on Friday, Saturday’s matinee was absent the lethargy that we so often see in weekend matinees.
Philadelphia came out flying, if you will. The home team built an early 11-3 lead in shots on goal. Then, Travis Konecny was penalized for a net-front shove which caused Mika Zibanejad to tumble to the ice.
On the ensuing power play, red-hot Zibanejad connected for his 11th goal of the year — and his seventh against the Flyers in the last three games.
But on Saturday, there was no natural hat trick. In fact, the Rangers didn’t score again. Brian Elliott was solid all game, making 24 saves. It was just the second time in their 15 games in the month of March that the Flyers limited their opponent to less than three goals.
The Flyers also took care of business physically, outhitting the Rangers 31-28 while still staying relatively disciplined.
In Thursday’s game, tempers flared. Morin was fined $5,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct after he went after Rangers forward Brendan Lemieux late in the game.
Down 8-3, Sam Morin takes out the frustration on Brendan Lemieux pic.twitter.com/dpoaBEyi4b
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) March 26, 2021
On Saturday, power-play opportunities were 4-3 for New York. Patrick scored his fourth of the year with the man advantage to tie the game 1-1 late in the second period, following a failed 5-on-3 advantage.
Saturday’s win was the first in nine days for the Flyers. They’re now in sole possession of fifth place in the East Division, three points out of a playoff spot. The Boston Bruins have four points in hand, while the Pittsburgh Penguins are now eight points ahead in third place.
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Something To Build On?
Can Morin’s goal be a turning point for the team, which has struggled so much in its own end?
Injuries had limited him to just 31 pro games over the past three seasons — eight with the big club and 23 with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, including three playoff games. At the beginning of this season, Morin was fully recovered from last year’s ACL surgery. Alain Vigneault elected to try turning the 6’6″ native of Lac-Beauport, Quebec into a winger, in hopes of helping him salvage his hockey career.
Morin cleared waivers at the beginning of the season, and was assigned to the taxi squad. He played his first NHL game of the year on the wing on Jan. 30, then three more in late February, while the Flyers were shorthanded due to Covid-19.
In March, injuries on the farm led Lehigh Valley coach Scott Gordon to re-deploy Morin on the blue line. The results were impressive.
With Robert Hagg sidelined by a shoulder injury, the Flyers’ coaching staff noticed. As the club’s goals against inflated to second-worst in the league, Morin was recalled before Thursday’s game against the Rangers.
Paired up with Gostisbehere, the two play the kind of contrasting styles that should complement each other.
Up next, it’s back to the road for four games. The Flyers will wrap up the month of March with two games in Buffalo, starting Monday. The last-place Sabres’ winless streak has now reached a record-setting 17 games.
Samuel Morin first star with his first career NHL goal. It was the game-winner. pic.twitter.com/H0StirYyzB
— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) March 27, 2021