Special teams have special night in Flyers’ 4th straight win

NEWARK, N.J. – When both sides of special teams show good numbers on the scoresheet, it’s a safe bet a team will wind up in the win column.

And so it was on Saturday night when the Flyers took on the Devils in their perennial house of horror, the Prudential Center.

The Flyers went 2 for 2 on the power play and stopped New Jersey on five of seven chances with the man advantage, paving the way for a 5-3 win, the Flyers’ fourth straight victory.

Philadelphia now has seven power-play goals in its last four games (all victories) – the most productive four-game stretch of the season.

In the second period, Wayne Simmonds connected at 11:53 while a man up and Sean Couturier followed with another goal (his second of the game) at 16:16 for a 3-2 lead.

The Flyers got an insurance goal during a delayed penalty call at 4:28 of the third, with Travis Konecny doing the honors.

The team entered the game ranked 11th on the power play at 20.8 percent.

The Flyers’ seven power plays allowed tied a season high. It’s the most the Flyers have surrendered in a game since they allowed five on Nov. 28 (San Jose).

New Jersey, which is winless in six games (0-3-3), had only one power-play goal until garbage time, scoring with just 45 seconds to play.

For a Flyers’ penalty kill that came into the game ranked 28th at 75 percent, that’s not too shabby.

Meanwhile, balanced scoring has been the key to the Flyers’ power play.

Simmonds has eight goals with the man advantage, followed by Couturier with six, Shayne Gostisbehere with five and Giroux with four.

What’s made the difference?

“We have different looks, we adjust during the game,’’ said Couturier. “I think it makes it tough for teams to pre-scout us.’’

Coach Dave Hakstol went along with that assessment.

“I think you’re seeing a lot of different looks,’’ he said. “If you look back over the last half-dozen games, there are a lot of different sets and some different looks there. Within the same power play you’re going to see some different things.

“That’s important with how heavily pre-scouted everything is. You have to have some versatility to all areas of your game. That group has worked hard to create those different options.’’

As for the penalty kill, players such as Claude Giroux and defenseman Ivan Provorov have shored things up when the Flyers are at a manpower disadvantage.

They need to get the PK back up into the middle of the pack if they fancy themselves as playoff contenders.

“We’re probably better positioned, better sticks,’’ Couturier said. “Guys are focused. That’s what it’s all about. Paying attention to detail. Being willing to sacrifice the body to kill the penalty.’’

For the helter-skelter nature of Saturday night’s game, goaltender Brian Elliott appreciated the effort.

“That’s a big win for us, a lot of good penalty kills,’’ he said. “And our PP was really going tonight. On the PK, we kind of executed on everything. I thought we did a good job just not allowing them to get in with good control. When you do that, they spend more time going back to their zone. That was a big key for us.’’

If the Flyers can keep their power play hot, they figure to get back into the very tight Metro Division race. Just 11 points separates the first and last teams.

“Any team does well when their power play is clicking,’’ Konecny said. “We’re sticking to our game plan, finding ways to get pucks to the net. Tonight wasn’t our best effort for a full 60 (minutes) but we found a way to win. That’s what we have to do for the rest of the season.’’

Added Jake Voracek: “The power plays were 7-2, right? So it’s a good thing we scored on that. It helped us.’’

 

Short shots

 

Defenseman Travis Sanheim returned to the lineup to spell  Gostisbehere, who was scratched due to illness. . .Giroux registered two points, giving him 629 for his career and moving him past Mark Recchi into eighth place on the Flyers’ all-time scoring list. . .

Hakstol picked up his 100th NHL career win. . .Couturier now has 25 goals, moving him to within three of NHL leader Alexander Ovechkin. . .Michael Raffl added a fifth goal late in the third period to halt any thoughts of a Devils comeback. . .The Flyers had not won at the Prudential Center since Feb. 16, 2016. . .Before Saturday night’s game, the Flyers had allowed just 35 power plays in their previous 17 games. . .The Flyers are 16-0-3 when leading after two periods.

Wayne Fish
About Wayne Fish 380 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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