Things were looking up for the Panthers with Nick Bjugstad making his season debut and having come off a successful 3-1 road trip, but the offense hardly clicked and the Flyers scored timely goals en route to 3-1 decision at the BB&T Center on Tuesday night.
Steve Mason was headed for his 1st shutout of the season until Reilly Smith deflected a Jonathan Marchessault point shot into the net for his 4th goal of the season and first since November 7th.
Up until then, the Panthers struggled to create any momentum or put together a string of good shifts as the Flyers were content with slowing them through the neutral zone most of the night. Wayne Simmonds spoiled what was mostly a good opening period for the Panthers by corralling a bouncing puck off a defensive zone face-off and skating all the up the ice for his 10th goal of the season.
Dale Weise made it 2-0 for the Flyers by backhanding a rebound into a wide open net after Travis Konecny put a hard wrist shot off the glove of Roberto Luongo, who made 25 saves on 28 shots in the loss. Jussi Jokinen turned the puck over in the neutral zone and allowed the Flyers to turn the puck the other way.
“The penalty kill did an outstanding job,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “Obviously, twice we gave them the puck on turnovers and they went down the other way and scored. So, yeah, we made some bad decisions with the puck.”
The lead was increased to 3-0 in the 3rd period when Wayne Simmonds fed a lead pass to a streaking Nick Cousins for a breakaway goal on the power play, and that essentially sealed the deal, allowing the Flyers to end Luongo’s 4-game winning streak.
Nick Bjugstad returned to the lineup tonight for the first time since breaking his wrist in an October 4th pre-season game against the Stars and performed admirably, getting close to scoring and setting up goals on a few occasions. He was on the 3rd-line left wing with 19-year old Denis Malgin at center and Colton Sceviour on the right side, although interestingly enough, he got no time on the power play which went 0-for-4 tonight.
“I felt alright,” said Bjugstad after making his season debut. “Obviously I want to come in and make a difference, but I didn’t really do that tonight, as far as changing the score. I got my feet wet and I’ll keep rolling from here.”
“I really liked him,” said Gallant. “I thought he played hard, he worked hard, he skated hard. First game, I was really happy with Nick.”
The Panthers will face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday at home after a 3-day holiday break. Saturday’s game will be the second of a back-to-back set for the Blue Jackets who will face the Lightning on Friday after playing host to Calgary on Wednesday. They’ve had a solid start to the season with 10 wins already and have gotten contributions from several young players, including rookie defenseman Zach Werenski and Alexander Wennberg.