Rinaldo rouses crowd, keys Flyers' win

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Zac Rinaldo mixes it up with Canadiens' Brandon Prust in Flyers' 10th consecutive home win.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Zac Rinaldo mixes it up with Canadiens' Brandon Prust in Flyers' 10th consecutive home win.
Posted: January 10, 2014

ZAC RINALDO crossed the top of the Canadiens' circle and let a wrist shot go.

Rinaldo said his initial thought was: "I was praying that puck came back to me."

His second thought was: "Sometimes, I watch clips of myself and I think, 'Why didn't you hold onto the puck more?' or 'Why didn't you shoot it there?' Watching myself makes me realize I can hold onto the puck a lot more than I think and shoot."

Rinaldo got his second chance. He wasn't about to squander it.

Rinaldo crammed his first career game-winning goal, a game-high four shots, a crowd-captivating fight and two hits into just 4 minutes and 53 seconds of ice time, powering the Flyers to a rather easy 3-1 victory over the visiting Canadiens last night.

Oh, and Rinaldo was also on the ice to kill three of the Flyers' four penalties.

With the win, Rinaldo helped the Flyers earn their 10th consecutive home win in regulation, something they haven't done since 1985. They last won 10 games in a row at the Wells Fargo Center in 2003, but needed overtime in some of those games.

It has been 62 days since the Flyers lost a home game.

When your team is rolling like the Flyers are - with a 19-7-3 mark in their last 29 games, including 19 road games - it's almost impossible to do it without unheralded players like Rinaldo and even Andrej Meszaros, who piled up three assists.

"He's playing good hockey," coach Craig Berube said of Rinaldo. "We're using him killing penalties at times. His [physicality], his skating, I think it really rubs off on guys at times. He can really skate. He's been physical and not taking penalties, which is important."

If you didn't know any better, you would have thought the Flyers were the team enjoying a night off Tuesday night - like the Canadiens, who arrived in town hours before the Flyers did from their win the in New Jersey.

Even with tired legs, the Flyers fed off Rinaldo's combustible energy. If he's not putting a puck on net or making a big hit that causes defenders to look over their shoulders, Rinaldo is chirping at opponents from every angle about every subject.

He is also rousing the crowd - like after his second-period fight, when he brought 19,949 to their feet after taking punches to the face from fellow agitator Brandon Prust. Rinaldo raised his arms on the way to the box, screaming "Let's Go!"

"When I'm into the game, I'm a lot more vocal," Rinaldo said. "I have a lot more fun. Sometimes, the more I play, the easier it is for me."

Ice time hasn't always been easy to come by, but Rinaldo has made the most of his minutes. His goal last night was his first of the season, a welcomed "monkey off my back," Rinaldo said.

Rinaldo also hits at a more furious pace than any player in the NHL. His two hits last night pushed his season total to 135 - good for 10th in the league. But Rinaldo has played only 331 minutes. That comes out to an average of 24.5 hits per 60-minutes played.

"I've been waiting for [more ice time] for a long time," Rinaldo said. "It sucks sometimes, waiting for it. But I just stay positive, that's the kind of person I am. When I get that opportunity, I'm not going to let it slip."

Islanders forward Matt Martin leads the NHL with 220 hits. But he has played 541 minutes, 210 more than Rinaldo. Martin's hit total comes out to 24.41 hits per 60-minutes played.

Even some of the best "energy players" in the NHL pale in comparison to Rinaldo's checking frequency: Chris Neil (17.8), Cal Clutterbuck (15.7), Colin Greening (14.5), Dustin Brown (12.66), Milan Lucic (11.26), Radko Gudas (11.2) and Steve Ott (9.94).

"He's a player who plays the game hard," Brayden Schenn said. "Some nights, he only plays 8 minutes and he'll have eight or 10 hits. He's a team guy who will stick up for you, fight for you. It was nice to see him get rewarded."

Michael Raffl was limping with an ice pack on his left foot after blocking a shot in the third period . . . The Canadiens didn't even bother pulling Peter Budaj, trailing 3-1 in the waning minutes. Michel Therrien waved the white flag since his team had just five shots in the period, anyway . . . Montreal dressed seven defensemen and 11 forwards instead of the usual six defensemen and 12 forwards . . . Canadian Olympic netminder Carey Price was given the night off, probably for good reason. Price has lost six straight in Philly. He's 1-5-0 with a 3.58 GAA against the Flyers in any venue since November 2011.

Those words, spoken in German by President Kennedy on June 26, 1963, mean, "I am a Berliner." Yesterday, it is a phrase that resonatedwith both Claude Giroux and Danny Briere.

A group of 20 fans of Eisbaren Berlin hockey club, the team Giroux and Briere played for last season during the NHL lockout, traveled to Philadelphia to present both players with their championship rings.

Berlin won the German league's title last season. The group, outfitted in Briere and Giroux jerseys and scarves, also brought with them the championship jersey for proof.

Briere, in town for the second time with Montreal, finished fifth in scoring for Berlin with 34 points in 21 games. Giroux left Germany early with a neck injury but had 19 points in ninegames.

A little more than 2hours before last night's game, Giroux crossed paths with Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban in the hallway between their locker rooms.

Giroux congratulated Subban, who was named to Canada's Olympic team.

"You should be there," Subban said in response.

Though he was booed every time he touched the puck last night, for some unknown reason, Subban can empathize with Giroux. He won the Norris Trophy last year as the NHL's top defenseman and many experts said Canada's brass waffled with him as a bubble selection.

Making tough roster decisions is something Paul Holmgren also understands. He was involved in USA Hockey's selection process of their Olympic team.

"I was a little bit surprised," Holmgren said. "I'm disappointed more for Claude. Personally, I know how badly he wanted to be named to the team."

On Twitter: @DNFlyers

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