Flyers beat Canucks 5-4 in home opener

Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo blocks Philadelphia Flyers Jaromir Jagr, right, from scoring during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

October 12, 2011 7:46:15 PM PDT
Andrej Meszaros scored the go-ahead goal in the third period to keep the Philadelphia Flyers undefeated with a 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.

James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger and Jakub Voracek scored for the Flyers in their home opener and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov won his third straight start.

The Flyers have been a needed bright spot in a city suffering through a major sports hangover because of the Phillies' unexpected elimination in the NL division series and the Eagles' miserable 1-4 start that has coach Andy Reid under fire.

They delivered in front of nearly 20,000 fans badly needing a reason to cheer. The Flyers underwent a major offseason overhaul and the new names delivered. Voracek, Jaromir Jagr and first-round draft pick Sean Couturier all had points.

The most valuable offseason acquisition was Bryzgalov, who gives the Flyers their first star No. 1 goalie in ages. Bryzgalov stopped all 20 shots Saturday in a 3-0 win over New Jersey for Philadelphia's first shutout since April 6, 2010. He was shaky against Vancouver, as 3-1 and 4-2 leads were sliced to one before he allowed Daniel Sedin to beat him for the tying goal early in the third.

Meszaros wasted no time putting the Flyers back in front, this time for good, rushing the ice and snapping a wrister past Roberto Luongo 59 seconds later for the winner.

Bryzgalov held off the Canucks from there and gave Flyers fans the morale boost they needed this week.

Mikael Samuelsson, Henrik Sedin and Chris Higgins scored goals for Vancouver.

The fans were ready to go wild and saved their loudest cheers for Pronger, in his first home game as captain, and forward Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds was involved in two preseason dust-ups - a man threw a banana at him and he had an altercation with Sean Avery - and the fans showed their appreciation for one of the newest Flyers with a huge ovation.

Simmonds and Voracek were involved in two of the biggest trades in recent Flyers history. Voracek was acquired from Columbus in the deal that shipped out perennial 30-goal scorer Jeff Carter and Simmonds was part of the trade that sent former captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles.

Richards, furious with the deal at the time, makes a quick return to Philadelphia on Saturday night.

Simmonds set a textbook screen in the first period that allowed Pronger to get his first goal of the season. He followed Giroux with a second straight power-play goal and a 2-0 lead.

Voracek made it 4-2 in the second when he was set up by the 18-year-old Couturier. The 6-foot-4, 197-pound Couturier impressed during training camp and made the roster. He's expected to last the season in Philadelphia.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren felt he had the luxury of trading Richards and Carter because Giroux and van Riemsdyk were ready for increased responsibilities and could carry a team looking for their first Stanley Cup since 1975.

Luongo failed to cover a rebound late in the first and was sprawled on his chest when van Riemsdyk popped in the puck for a 3-1 lead.

Henrik Sedin knocked in a rebound and Higgins scored in the second to cut Philadelphia's lead to 4-3.

It wasn't enough and the Flyers improved to 3-0 for the 11th time in team history.

Fans were antsy for this game to get going.

One Flyers fan bellowed in the parking lot, "Come on Flyers, you're our only hope!" as he tailgated with friends. When an usher was told rain was in the forecast, he said, "the clouds are staying over there this year," a reference to both the Phillies and Eagles stadiums across the street.

Notes: The Flyers traded F Stefan Lagein and a sixth-round draft pick in 2012 to the Los Angeles Kings for future considerations. Legein was placed on waivers and reported to the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms before the start of the regular season. ... The Flyers are 26-12-6 in home openers. ... The Flyers held a moment of silence for former defenseman Brad McCrimmon, who died in the crash of a chartered Yak-42 jet in western Russia that took the lives of 28 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl players.

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