LAS VEGAS – When the chips are down, don’t bet against the Flyers.
Few gave the Flyers a chance to beat the surprising Vegas Golden Knights, even when No. 1 goalie Brian Elliott was healthy.
So when Elliott went down to a lower-body injury on Saturday night at Arizona and Michal Neuvirth had to play on Sunday night, the odds seemed even longer.
But as the Super Bowl-winning Eagles have shown, ruling out underdogs can be dangerous.
The Flyers brought a resilient effort to T-Mobile Arena, got a strong performance from Neuvirth, a three-point game from Sean Couturier and went on to a startling 4-1 win.
The Knights entered the game sporting the NHL’s best home record at 19-3-2. But the Flyers, who had a rooting contingent of several thousand in the stands, took over in the second period with goals from Andrew MacDonald and Claude Giroux for their fourth straight win.
Philadelphia was outshot 39-18 in the contest, but no matter.
The Flyers, now 20-8-2 in their last 30 games since a 10-game winless streak in late fall, increased their hold on third place in the Metro Division.
It was the first time in their inaugural season the Knights have lost two home games in a row.
With goals from Couturier and Giroux, the Flyers’ top line now has 27 goals in its last 21 games.
One big key to the Flyers’ win: Staying out of the penalty box. With the exception of an unsportsmanlike penalty to Brandon Manning in the first period, the Flyers managed to stay at even strength.
It was only the second time in the last 15 games the Flyers have allowed just one power play.
By the way, the Flyers had no power plays, the first time that has happened all season.
After the game, the Flyers didn’t look all that surprised they had pulled off the upset. They’ve played good hockey of late and continuing that trend seems almost expected.
“Coming in here and playing (off back-to-back games) against a team that’s been playing pretty good at home, it’s great to find a way to get it done,’’ Giroux said. “They’re a class team, play a good team game. We just found a way to get it done.’’
Good measuring stick game against the best team in the West?
“When you play top teams like that, you want to give your best hockey,’’ Giroux said. “You get to see where you stand as a team. We could have played a better game but we got it done.’’
The Flyers actually fell behind in this game when Brayden McNabb scored at 11:22 of the first.
But an off-the-rush pass from Travis Konecny set up Couturier’s goal at 17:50 to tie the score at 1-1.
Philadelphia had to battle like crazy to stay above water in the second period, at one point getting outshot 14-2.
Konecny again ignited the Flyers’ second goal, hustling out of the corner and getting the puck to Couturier. The puck caromed off MacDonald’s skate past Marc-Andre Fleury.
“I scissored down the wall when G (Giroux) was carrying it up so I just tried to create some space for him,’’ MacDonald said. “I went to the net because he was covering me up high. We got the puck down low to Coots in front and I happened to be at the back post and it went off my foot and in.’’
Then, with time running out, Couturier rushed in and set up Giroux, who managed to shovel in the loose puck with only 5.8 seconds remaining on the clock.
As time was running out, Radko Gudas fired a clearing shot into the Knights’ empty net with 2:26 to play. It was Gudas’ first goal of the season.
Suddenly the Flyers are just five points behind Washington for first place in the Metro.
“It really was a tiring road trip,’’ Konecny said. “Coming in tonight, it was just important for us to get through the first period.
“Just keep pushing,’’ he added of the Flyers’ eye on a top playoff seed. “We know where we are (in the standings) but we’re not pushing for a specific spot. We’re just going to keep playing.’’
It might have been Neuvirth’s best game of the year.
“Great atmosphere right from the start, great crowd,’’ Neuvirth grinned. “It’s so much to fun to play in front of a crowd like that. On the way to the rink, I saw so many fans wearing our jersey. It’s nice to see.’’
Couturier was a dominant figure in this game and now stands at a career-high plus-21.
“They probably outplayed us most of the night and Neuvy kept us in the game,’’ Couturier said. “Got some lucky bounces to get going a little bit. We found a way to win and that’s all that matters.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol will take it.
“Hell of an effort,’’ he said. “Back to back, we had to survive the second period a little bit but we checked hard. Our goaltender did a really good job.’’
Couturier’s two assists give him 29 assists, a new career high, eclipsing his 28 in 2015-16. . .Konecny now has 29 points, also a career high. . .Flyers are 20-1-3 when leading after two periods. . .Couturier’s three-point game was his fifth of the year. . .This was the Flyers’ fourth sweep of a back-to-back and third in the last four