Flyers vs Blue Jackets: Johnny Gaudreau ruins John Tortorella’s return to Columbus
John Tortorella did not have a memorable trip to Columbus, Ohio.
Instead, it was frustrating for the head coach, an ultra-competitive guy who didn’t care to remember until he returned.
Tortorella saw the Flyers give away the puck and get burned by it in a 5-2 loss Thursday night at Nationwide Arena.
The bench boss was back where he last coached for six seasons. The Blue Jackets’ best streak of success in franchise history came under Tortorella’s leadership.
“I have a lot of friends there, it’s a great place,” he said Wednesday, “but I’m going back to coach the Flyers and try to win.”
Johnny Gaudreau ensured that the Flyers (7-4-2) did not come away with a victory. He had a season-high three points (one goal, two assists) after just 20:37 of play as the Flyers trailed 3-0 early in the second period.
They made the game interesting by cleaning up the rest of the way and getting goals from their best defensive pair.
But the Blue Jackets (4-9-0) scored twice into an empty net to finish off the Flyers.
Due to injuries, Columbus had just four defensemen in the third period. Up front for the Blue Jackets, former Flyer Jakub Voracek was out with an upper body injury.
• Gaudreau was the best free agent in the NHL last offseason and was not heavily chased by the Flyers.
“We don’t have enough space to pursue these high-end free agents,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said July 13.
The Flyers’ decision not to make room to attempt to sign the hometown kid was heavily criticized. The club went 25-46-11 the previous season and Fletcher said they would re-equip aggressively. This plan did not involve Gaudreau.
“Is it time to sign a free agent like this?” Tortorella said on July 20, defending the Flyers’ plan. “I think we have a bit of building to do here and a bit of growth.”
To Tortorella’s credit, despite injuries to key elements, the Flyers have shown some growth at the start of this season. But the former team of Gaudreau and Tortorella brought a break to this Thursday evening.
The Flyers didn’t help themselves one bit by committing poor turnovers on Columbus’ first three goals.
“I always think we’re making it harder for ourselves with our turnovers,” Tortorella said three days ago. “We have unnecessary rotations.”
Owen Tippett had a turnover on each of the Blue Jackets’ two first-period goals. Travis Konecny had a pass intercepted by Gaudreau, who led a 3-on-1 run the other way for a goal 37 seconds into the second period.
Gaudreau scored Columbus’ first goal and assisted the next two. The Blue Jackets are 3-0-0 in multiple point scoring and 1-9-0 in the other 10 games.
Tippett finished with a minus-5. He was on the ice for both empty nets. Heading into Thursday night, the 23-year-old had five points (three goals, two assists) in six games after returning from a head injury.
• Carter Hart suffered their first regulation defeat of the season, falling to 6-1-2.
He was no problem for the Flyers. He stopped 24 of 27 shots and made a few key saves to keep the Flyers within striking distance.
Columbus goaltender Joonas Korpisalo earned his first win of the season stopping 32 of 34 shots.
• Tony DeAngelo and Ivan Provorov provided the goals for the Flyers.
Provorov finished with a two-point game.
Noah Cates got an assist on DeAngelo’s goal, giving him three points (one goal, two assists) in the last two games. He got one point (one goal) in the first 11 games.
Konecny and Joel Farabee also recorded assists.
• The Flyers put together a back-to-back set this weekend as they host the Senators on Saturday (1 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and the Stars on Sunday (1 p.m. ET/NBCSP).
Saturday’s game marks the return of Claude Giroux, who will play in Philadelphia for the first time as a visitor.
The 34-year-old played 15 seasons with the Flyers. He ranks second in the franchise’s all-time rankings for games played (1,000), points (900) and assists (609), behind only the Hall of Fame and Flyers icon. , Bob Clarke.
Before Saturday’s game, the Flyers will recognize Giroux. They encourage fans to arrive early for the tribute.
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