Panthers can’t solve Michal Neuvirth in shutout loss to Flyers
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Michal Neuvirth’s move from mop-up reliever to ace starter helped the Flyers make a dent in the win column.
Neuvirth stopped 31 shots for his first shutout in more than 3 1/2 years, leading Philadelphia to a 1-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.
Brayden Schenn scored to help the Flyers win for the first time in three games this season under new coach Dave Hakstol.
Neuvirth replaced Steve Mason after Florida scored four goals in a 7-1 victory Saturday night. Mason left the team Monday because of unspecified personal reasons, giving Neuvirth the chance to shut down the Panthers from the opening faceoff. He had his first shutout since March 11, 2012, against Toronto.
"I really enjoyed tonight, playing in front of the Philly crowd," Neuvirth said. "The more I play, the better I play."
Hakstol won for the first time in the NHL game after spending 11 seasons coaching North Dakota. The college-to-pros move in the NHL is a rare one. Hakstol was the first to make the jump since Bob Johnson went from Wisconsin to the Calgary Flames in 1982.
"Winning’s what we’re here for," Hakstol said. "It’s one win and it pushed us in the right direction."
With the Flyers again struggling in the first week of the season, Hakstol had to wait longer than he wanted for his first victory. The Flyers were 0-2 and held a players-only meeting following the blowout loss Saturday night.
The Flyers had been doomed by slow starts the last few seasons, and hadn’t won a home opener since 2011. They started 0-2-2 last season under former coach Craig Berube, were 1-7 in 2013-14, and 2-6 in 2013. The 0-3 start in 2013-14 cost coach Peter Laviolette his job and he was replaced by Berube.
Laviolette landed as the head coach in Nashville, and Berube was back Monday in Philadelphia watching from the press box as a scout for Hockey Canada.
The Flyers were a wreck Saturday. The Panthers scored four goals on eight shots against Mason in the first 6:46 of the game, a modern NHL record for the fastest four goals to start a season, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Neuvirth replaced Mason after the fourth goal and made 19 saves.
"The last game helped me a lot," he said. "I came into this one more relaxed."
Neuvirth stopped 10 shots in the first period and a whopping 14 in the third to hold off a late Panthers’ charge.
Florida was 0 for 6 on the power play.
"We went into a hot goaltender," Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. "I think at the end of it, we made it easy on them."
Schenn gave Neuvirth all the offense he needed when he knocked in a rebound 5:57 into the game for his second goal of the season.
"I’ll take those goals all the time," he said.
Roberto Luongo had 32 saves.
"We knew it wasn’t going to be like the first game at home but we still had some chances," Florida forward Jonathan Huberdeau said. "Luongo kept us in the game all the way through."
Looking for backup help after letting Ray Emery go, the Flyers signed Neuvirth to a $3.25 million, two-year contract in the offseason after he shared time last season with Buffalo and the New York Islanders. He could be in the lineup again Wednesday against Chicago. There was no immediate timetable on Mason’s return and general manager Ron Hextall asked for privacy on a "sensitive issue."
"It’s sad news but you’ve got business to do," Neuvirth said.
Notes: Flyers C Sam Gagner made his season debut after he was a healthy scratch in the first two games. … Flyers chairman Ed Snider missed the game because the team said he was "resting and recharging after recent medical therapy." The Flyers said Snider’s involvement in team and company operations is unaffected. … Florida hasn’t won its first two games since the 2005-06 season.