Forget about the "new-look" NHL. Goals appear to be just as scarce as they have been in recent years, at least judging by the Philadelphia Flyers' 1-0 season-opening victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night.
"I felt very confident City pages:
out there (with the defense)," Flyers goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck said. "The team played very well in front of me."
And Vanbiesbrouck did the rest, making a successful debut with Philadelphia as he won a goaltending duel with former teammate Mike Richter.
Vanbiesbrouck, who signed as a free agent with the Flyers in the offseason after playing with the Florida Panthers, only had to make 20 saves for his 30th career shutout.
The way the Flyers played defense in front of Vanbiesbrouck, who played 10 years in New York, it was a relatively easy night for him. Richter had it tougher, facing 30 shots and giving up only a second-period power-play goal to Alexandre Daigle.
"We had a real good game," Flyers captain Eric Lindros said. "We tried to keep their shots as low as possible. The penalty-killers worked well. We pressured the puck up ice."
Vanbiesbrouck, 10-8-5 with two shutouts against the Rangers since leaving them in 1993, made his best saves early in the game when he held off a flurry.
| Philadelphias' Dave Babych jostles with several New York Rangers, which enabled Alexandre Daigle to score the game-winner. (AP) |
"It was a real high-flying first period," Vanbiesbrouck said aout the first 20 minutes when the Flyers outshot the Rangers 10-7. "It was as good a game as I've been involved in."
Rangers coach John Muckler was impressed with the Flyers.
"I thought defensively they played very well," he said. "They did a great job on our forwards."
The Flyers picked up where they left off against New York last season, when they won the series 3-1-1. The Rangers also picked up where they left off, continuing to struggle at home. They won 14 of 41 games at Madison Square Garden last season, when they failed to make the playoffs despite having the highest payroll in the NHL.
The only goal came at 5:45 of the second period when Daigle scored from in front during a scramble. Richter was still trying to recover after a hard shot from the point by Chris Gratton when Daigle slammed the puck past him into the far corner.
The Rangers were 0-for-6 on the power play, while the Flyers were 1-for-5. Despite the 11 power plays, the game showed little evidence of the improved offense expected by new rules changes.
Among them, the NHL made more room behind the goal line to help skill players operate in that area, and a smaller neutral zone to help the offensive flow. On only one occasion did New York's Wayne Gretzky, the foremost setup man in hockey history, go behind the goal line to try and find a teammate in front.
"They gave us very few chances from the slot," Gretzky said. "They came after us."
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