Matt Read scores his second goal of Saturday's 4-0 win over the Penguins. (Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com)
There wasn't a more perfect beginning to the Flyers home-and-home weekend series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pure dominance from start to finish was on display on Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers 4-0 win featured many stars. Scott Hartnell and Vincent Lecavalier each scored goals. The Flyers power play got back in rhythm with Hartnell's goal early in the first, with assists from Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds. Apologies for asking three days ago where the forwards had gone.
But two forwards stood out among the rest. Sean Couturier and Matt Read carried the Flyers in Saturday's game.
Read was the beneficiary of two goals. Both were assisted by Couturier. That is how the two stacked up on the scoresheet. But the bigger story was the chemistry the two showed in all situations, particularly while short-handed.
For Read, a lot of the game was about being in the right place at the right time. He found himself in perfect position for a one-timer on a short-handed goal in the first. He finished off a 3-on-1, tic-tac-toe passing play in the closing seconds of the second period to cap the scoring.
In his 15:08 of ice time, Read was plus-two with the two tallies. He also took six of the Flyers 40 shots to lead the team.
"I think defense leads to offense," Read said. "When you're playing Crosby or Malkin out there, you play defense first and let them make the mistakes and you take advantage of that. That's something that we did today."
Couturier led all Flyers forwards in ice time with 19:16. His play at even strength was superb, but his real shining moments were on special teams.
Couturier is not a power-play specialist. The Flyers have prolific scorers all over the power play that don't include the 21-year-old center. But Couturier shines on the penalty kill more than any player in Orange and Black.
Defensively, it was Couturier's best game. Perhaps that's also why the offensive numbers translated to one of the best games of his young career.
"I like his positioning on [Crosby]," head coach Craig Berube said. "He's got a good stick. With Sid, he's so powerful and fast and quick that if you get on the wrong side of him and you're not positionally sound, he'll make you look stupid. Couturier's a very good positional player."
"I think for everyone the rivalry gets into their head," Couturier said. "It's not only me. Everyone's doing the right things. There's always an edge to the game."
Couturier had the primary assist on both of Read's goals. On the short-handed tally, he might as well have been given two points. He also forced the turnover – one of 14 Pittsburgh giveaways – that led to Read's second goal.
The two Penguins players that learned the hard way were Jussi Jokinen and Brooks Orpik. Jokinen was retreating in the defensive zone when Couturier beat him to a loose puck after a clear while short-handed. Seconds later, Read fired a shot top-shelf past Marc-Andre Fleury.
Orpik committed on a pinch play that led to a counter-rush. Couturier made one pass to Giroux before taking the return feed and seamlessly putting it on the tape of Read again.
"It's hard to miss those ones that are right on your stick," Read said. "I benefitted from those two making a great play and it was a good goal to score."
For the Flyers, this was home-ice advantage at its finest. The Flyers controlled the game from the opening face-off. And while the Penguins had several pieces missing – Chris Kunitz joined a lengthy list of injuries moments before Saturday's game – the Flyers did manage to hold Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin off the board completely.
The game was defense first and all six defensemen contributed. The passing lanes were non-existant for the Penguins. Even in a losing effort, the Flyers defense played very well against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
Three days after suffering a late-game, hard-luck loss to the Devils, the Flyers had forgotten the misfortune and responded with fire and energy. But it was only one game. And behind enemy lines, the Flyers and Penguins meet again on Sunday afternoon with Saturday's rout fresh in the memory of both teams.
"Every point is important," Couturier said. "We're in a playoff hunt and it's really tight. Every game is important. We've just got to take care of one game at a time. It's a big two points today but we've got to refocus and be ready for tomorrow."
"It gives us confidence. The guys feels good," Berube said. "I think our team has been confident. Even after a couple of losses, you can just see the confidence. We lost two games but the guys know they played hard.
"It's about just competing and playing hard. There's mistakes that happen and you lose hockey games at times, but if you're competitive and you work hard and you're doing all the right things, you give yourself a chance to win. That's where we are right now."
Kevin Durso is the lead beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.