VOORHEES — From the time he was 16 years old, Flyers center Sean Couturier always remembers thinking defense first.

Whether it was World Juniors or an under-18 team, Couturier’s coaches always trusted him to shut down the opponent’s top line and in his third NHL season, the Flyers’ coaches are no different.

“We knew from junior he was going to be that kind of two-way player,” coach Craig Berube said. “That’s what he is.”

He’s quietly become one of the Flyers’ most valuable players in that role. Most noticed that Couturier could handle the tall order when he shut down Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin in a playoff series two years ago.

Not Berube, though.

“It was before that,” the Flyers’ coach said. “We started using him with 20 games to go in the season in a checking role. I thought our team took off there and started playing really well.”

Because he knows his defense is so valuable, Couturier tried not to let a 25-game scoring drought bother him. It still did until he finally lit the lamp Tuesday night against Ottawa, raised his arms and looked skyward with a toothless grin.

“It felt good to finally get that first one out of the way,” Couturier said. “I feel 20 pounds lighter just getting that in.