Ekblad, Reimer excel but Panthers fall to Flyers in shootout
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Valtteri Filppula hasn’t practiced yet with Philadelphia and barely even had time to talk to his new teammates and coaches.
But Filppula made the transition to his new team look easy.
Filppula scored in regulation and Jakub Voracek and Jordan Weal netted goals in the shootout to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
Aaron Ekblad scored for the Panthers, who were trying to tie a franchise record with their sixth straight road victory. Florida has lost four of its past five.
Philadelphia won its second straight game to keep within close range of a playoff berth.
“You’d like to have a little bit of time to talk and have some practices,” Filppula said. “But it feels good now when we won, so everything is good.”
General manager Ron Hextall acquired the veteran Filppula from Tampa Bay on Wednesday for defenseman Mark Streit in an effort to give the Flyers’ struggling offense a lift as it makes a playoff push.
The Flyers entered Thursday four points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference but needing to jump four teams, including Florida.
“It hasn’t been an easy four or five weeks for us, but this group still has a real strong belief in one another,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “And being able to add (Filppula) to our group does nothing but strengthen that belief.”
The Panthers also are fighting for a playoff spot. They began the day tied with the Islanders and one point behind Toronto. The Maple Leafs played at Los Angeles on Thursday night.
Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe was pleased to pick up a point.
“I thought it was a great hockey game,” Rowe said. “That’s two teams fighting for the playoffs. I thought the fans got entertained unbelievably.”
Weal opened the shootout by going high on James Reimer. Aleksander Barkov, Florida’s second shooter, tied it with a nifty move on Steve Mason. Voracek put Philadelphia ahead with a low shot past Reimer before Mason stopped Jonathan Huberdeau to secure the much-needed two points for Philadelphia.
Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo was trying to move into a tie with Curtis Joseph for fourth place all-time in wins, but Luongo left after making 13 saves in the first period because of a lower-body injury. Luongo has 453 victories.
He will be out at least a week, although Rowe said the injury wasn’t serious.
Reimer finished with 35 saves.
“Reimer was unreal,” Rowe said.
Philadelphia had the best chance in the 3-on-3 overtime, but Voracek was denied by Reimer on his initial shot and follow attempt after the Philadelphia forward got in alone on the goalie with 40.3 seconds left in the extra session.
Both teams had good chances to win it at the end of regulation. Voracek couldn’t convert on a forehand attempt from right in front after a turnover by Michael Matheson with just over a minute left.
And Mason robbed Barkov with a stellar glove save with 18.2 seconds left in regulation after Barkov’s wrist shot from the slot.
“I don’t think you can get a better one,” Hakstol said of the save.
Mason finished with 39 saves.
Filppula tipped home Brayden Schenn’s pass with 9:22 remaining in the third period to tie the game at 1. The 33-year-old forward was cheered loudly when his eighth goal of the season and first as a member of the Flyers was announced.
“When you go to the net with a strong stick and position, that’s what finished that play off,” Hakstol said. “He went to a hard area. At this time of year, you have to go to those areas.”
It was Filppula’s first goal in 16 games.
“Hopefully I can score a few more in this uniform,” he said.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux set up Florida’s opening goal. Giroux misfired on a cross-ice pass in his own zone, and it landed on Ekblad’s stick. Ekblad then deked past Giroux before firing a slap shot from the slot past Mason’s glove side for his first career short-handed goal.
The Flyers missed a chance to take an early lead when they failed to convert on a 5-on-3 with 5 minutes left in the first period. Philadelphia managed just two shots on the power play.
Forward Thomas Vanek, whom the Panthers acquired from Detroit on Wednesday, didn’t register a point.
NOTES: Fourth-line winger Pierre-Edouard Bellemare replaced Streit as one of the club’s assistant captains. … Philadelphia D Brandon Manning served final game of a two-game suspension for his hit on Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel last Saturday. … The Flyers swept the three-game series. The Flyers won 3-1 at Florida on Nov. 22 and 3-2 in overtime Dec. 6 in Philadelphia. … Flyers’ Michael Raffl (lower body) missed the first game of what is expected to be a 4-to-6 week absence. Raffl was injured in the second period of Tuesday night’s win over the Avalanche.
Panthers: Start three-game homestand Saturday night against Dallas.
Flyers: Begin four-game road trip Saturday night at Washington.
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