PHILADELPHIA -- Thirty-four seconds in, Brayden Schenn and Scott Hartnell tag-teamed Dion Phaneuf in the corner and sent the Maple Leafs' captain flying, inducing a roar that hasn't echoed in South Philadelphia for months.
The Flyers are back.
After a furious first period of forechecking, which produced three power-play chances, the Flyers ran out of gas in a 3-1, home-opening loss Wednesday night in front of 19,872 fans. The only problem was that it came against a Toronto team that played less than 24 hours earlier -- in a different country, no less.
"We had our chances," Claude Giroux said. "In the first period, we got a lot of offense and we kept it going all game.
"We were moving our feet. It's tough playing back-to-backs for them. When we had a step, they were trying to catch up with sticks, holding and tripping."
The Flyers are now 21-18-7 all-time in the first game of a season and 26-14-6 in their home opener. It is the second year in row the Flyers dropped their opener, but there were numerous positives.
For one, the Flyers appeared to play much more crisply than they looked at any time during their 1-5-1 preseason. Their first period was perhaps their most complete period in nearly 18 months -- which would include all of last year's dismal, lockout-shortened season. Most of that is due to their forecheck.
The Flyers earned most all of their seven power plays through relentless pursuit, but they were only able to capitalize on one of their opportunities. Newcomer Vincent Lecavalier, in his first game with the Flyers, fed Brayden Schenn in front of the net for a one-timer behind Jonathan Bernier 19:53 into the first.
"I thought we played a good game," Lecavalier said. "We had great opportunities, especially in the first period. If we go up 2-0 there in the second period, it might be a different game.
"The effort was there. We came out with 30-some shots and only one goal. We moved the puck around well. I don't think we lost it in the second period ... But after that, it wasn't like it was in the first period."
That relentless pursuit, which dissipated when Toronto sat back after Dave Bolland gave the Leafs a 2-1 edge just 2:30 into the third period, was missing all of last season.
Netminder Steve Mason picked up where he left off last season. He wasn't perfect, stopping 22 of 25 shots, but he did give the Flyers a chance to win.
He also got help. During one penalty-kill sequence in the second period, Nick Grossmann blocked three straight shots -- more than the Sixers might tally in their entire first game.
"We had a lot of opportunities," Mason said. "Guys did a good job of generating chances."
Mason, 25, earned somewhat of a surprise start considering Ray Emery appeared to have a stronger preseason and more polished pedigree. Yet, Mason said he thought he had a great meeting with Peter Laviolette earlier this week that inspired confidence.
"It could just as easily have been Ray in net as it was me," Mason said. "I felt really calm out there and our guys did a good job of making sure traffic was clear in front of the net."
There was fire, too. Not only did Brayden Schenn come to the aid of Giroux not long after scoring the Flyers' first goal, but Jay Rosehill was also incensed after being cross-checked in the face by Colton Orr. Perhaps some of that fire will carry over as the Flyers look to build on the positives they did have in their first trip out of the gate.
"It's frustrating, we played well. But it's only one game," Giroux said. "We've got 81 more."
Claude Giroux played a game-high 26:02 ... Wayne Simmonds failed on his last-second penalty-shot attempt in the second period. He tried to shoot five-hole on Jonathan Bernier but the opening quickly closed. The Flyers are 19-for-47 (40.4 percent) in franchise history ... According to the opening-night rosters, the Flyers have the ninth-oldest (28.1 years), the 10th tallest (6-foot, 1.25 inches) and the 24th heaviest (201.3 pounds) team ... Peter Laviolette switched up the lines to start, moving Brayden Schenn to play with Giroux and Scott Hartnell on the top line ... Rookie Scott Laughton and defensemen Hal Gill and Erik Gustafsson were healthy scratches.
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