The Philadelphia Flyers grinded out a third-consecutive win on Saturday, remaining heavily in the race for a possible Metropolitan Division title. It wasn’t just one player or two, it was every player making an impact at the Wells Fargo Center against the Winnipeg Jets.
Scott Laughton recorded his first two-goal game of the season, Sean Couturier scored a goal and won 12 of his 16 faceoffs, Justin Braun registered his second three-assist game over the last two weeks, and Carter Hart made important saves when his team needed it most. It was an inspiring performance against a Jets team, who like the Flyers are making a push to play postseason hockey.
“I thought in the first period it as a little sloppy on both sides and in the second they had a real strong push,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said. “When you look at their top two lines, they are big skilled, fast, lines so they were tough to handle in the second but I thought in the third once they made it 3-2 on their powerplay goal, we played the best we played all night. When the game was on the line, we played the right way, we make the right plays defensively, we made the right plays with the pucks and we were on our best when the game was on the line tonight and I thought that was a real positive sign.”
“It was a big performance,” Laughton said. “We came out and got a lead early and rode it all the way to the end of the game. I thought we had a better job of closing gaps and not giving them as much space in the third. I thought in the second we weren’t really giving our D support, so we had a tough time getting out of the zone. Other than that, clean game I guess and continue to move forward.”
Just like their 5-1 win Tuesday over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Flyers needed strong starts and finishes to grab two points. Laughton scored his goals in the opening period, but Winnipeg did not lay down after coming in on a three-game winning streak. Jake Morrissey pulled Paul Maurice’s team to within one before Couturier scored his 19th goal of the season.
Patrik Laine’s slap shot made things interesting at 3-2, but eventually the Flyers did enough to get the job done. Tyler Pitlick’s goal capped a strong overall day for the third line forward, who has also four hits and finished with a -3. A 21st home win of the season moved the Flyers to within three points of both the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, who both suffered losses on Saturday. The goals however remain the same for this group.
“We take it day by day,” Laughton said. “I think we just continue to grow as a team. Wherever we finish, we finish. Take it day by day, continue to grow and try to get wins. We are at home a little bit this month, so continue what we have to do at home.”
Hart returned between the posts for his first start since Tuesday’s home win. He was impressive early, stopping all 10 of the Jets first period efforts before shutting the door down late against one of the underrated attacking units in the NHL. The 21-year-old finished with 27 saves to earn his 19th win of the season. He admitted that the Flyers may not be playing their best hockey overall, but they are doing the job to get results.
“They made sure they didn’t get too many second opportunities and a lot of big blocks,” Hart said. “The one in the first period Braun blocks a shot on the line and then we go down and score. That’s the hockey that we’ve been playing lately. It’s sometimes not always pretty, but it’s effective and the guys are really buying in right now.”
Not only did other players step up, but it was a different sign than what we’ve seen in the past few weeks. Star players like Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, James van Riemsdyk, and Jake Voracek only combined for one assist, giving Vigneault a chance to see his third and fourth line guys play the heroes. With the Flyers down to 20 games left this regular season, it’s important that every player continues to be ready with the playoffs a possibility come April.
“I think we have some good depth this year compared to the past,” Couturier said. “Different guys are stepping up in different moments. That is what you want. When you make a playoff run or go deep, usually the depth players, role player guys have big impacts on games, and we need everyone every night. That is the kind of team we are.”
The Flyers continue a three-game homestand on Tuesday against the lowly San Jose Sharks (7 p.m. CSN Philly) before taking on Metro rivals New York Rangers on Friday (7 p.m. CSN Philly). Both games are winnable, especially at the Wells Fargo Center where the Flyers are 21-5-4 this season (tied for second best home record in NHL). It is unlikely if any late additions will come on the roster before Monday’s Trade Deadline, but the players are just focused on this group of guys for now.
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“We will see what happens,” Laughton said. “You never know what can happen, but all we can control is ourselves and our performances. If some new players come in, we will worry about that when it comes.”