Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny scored in the first period, Carter Hart stopped 31 shots and the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 on Thursday night in the opener for two teams looking to rebound from disappointing seasons.
The Blue Jackets lost their top defender, Zach Werenski, to a leg injury in the second period. The team said he had a quad contusion, but coach Pascal Vincent said it isn’t believed to be serious.
The Flyers ruined the Columbus coaching debut of Vincent as well as the first NHL game for Adam Fantilli, the third overall pick in the 2023 NHL draft, who started at center on the Jackets’ third line.
Playing on his 19th birthday, Fantilli picked up his first NHL point with the primary assist on Jake Bean’s first-period goal. Patrik Laine also tallied for the Jackets.
Vincent was more than pleased with Fantilli, who is seen as a generational talent for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2020.
“I think this guy is a driver,” Vincent said of the teenager. “I think he’s a guy that will compete every shift. Everybody makes mistakes, (but) he never makes a mistake of not working. I’m really impressed with him.”
Elvis Merzlikins made 32 stops for Columbus.
Merzlikins didn’t have much of a chance on the Flyers first goal. With all the Blue Jackets caught behind the puck, Farabee and Sean Couturier brought it back down with Farabee finishing at 3:33 into the first.
The Blue Jackets tied it at 8:24 when Fantilli snapped a shot from above the left circle, and Bean was in position to beat Hart with the rebound.
Another Columbus turnover led to the Flyers’ second goal, with Konecny zipping a shot past Merzlikins’ outstretched glove from the left circle at 12:43 of the first.
“(Konecny) just makes important plays, just like that,” Flyers coach John Tortorella said. “I don’t think he was playing that well, prior to him scoring a goal. He had a couple of turnovers. But eventually he’s going to be a big part of things (in the game). That’s what’s so unique about it. He’ll get his game going sooner or later.”
Cam Atkinson had an empty net goal for the Flyers with 1:29 left in the game. Laine scored for Columbus with 44 seconds left, and, with the net open again, Konecny picked up his second goal.
“We did good job of in front of our net. We did a good job in front of theirs, as well,” Hart said. “Tied up some sticks and blocked some shots and battled hard.”
Laine recorded a point in his eighth consecutive season-opening game, the longest streak to begin a career in NHL history. He surpassed Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic and Wayne Gretzky. All had seven in a row.
Werenski had to be helped off the ice after being checked into the boards by Garnet Hathaway. He went down and stayed face down in apparent pain. Hathaway went to the penalty box for kneeing. Vincent said Werenski isn’t expected to be out long term. Werenski was playing his first regular-season game since last Nov. 9 — against the Flyers — when he went out with a shoulder injury that wiped out the rest of the season.
Flyers: At Ottawa on Saturday.
Blue Jackets: Host the New York Rangers on Saturday night.