PHILADELPHIA – When Wayne Simmonds went down with an upper-body injury, folks wondered how much the Flyers’ power play might suffer.
Turns out hardly at all, at least with Nolan Patrick available in relief.
For the second straight game, the Flyers rookie came up with a big power-play goal on Thursday night, netting the game-winner in a come-from-behind 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Patrick connected at 9:49 of the third period, putting back the rebound of a Shayne Gostisbehere shot to break a 1-1 tie.
Goaltender Petr Mrazek, making his first start in the Flyers net, made that goal stand up as the Flyers improved to 8-0-2 in their last 10 games.
With a loss by Metro Division leader Washington, the Flyers moved within one point of the Caps and into a tie with idle Pittsburgh for second place.
The Flyers also moved four points up on fourth-place New Jersey, which lost to Minnesota.
Patrick scored while Brandon Dubinsky was off for kneeing (tripping) Claude Giroux. He beat goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who entered the game with a career 9-2-1 mark against the Flyers.
That’s five goals in his last 12 games for Patrick after just three in his first 40 games.
Giroux started the comeback when he notched his 21st goal at 2:34 beating Bobrovsky with a wrist shot from the high slot.
Patrick looks comfortable working down low on the power play.
“With Simmer’s absence, ‘Patty’ has done a good job,’’ coach Dave Hakstol said. “Good job on that PP in the net front. He’s a little bit different player there than Simmonds but he’s been effective. I’ve been happy with his play.
“Patty is a good player. His approach to the game, his hockey sense and intelligence are what give him an opportunity to be successful in any situation. Each time we’ve been able to give him a little more opportunity, he’s taken advantage of that.’’
Patrick, the Flyers’ No. 2 pick in last June’s draft, has matured on the fly and seems more relaxed with the increased responsibility.
“It’s tough to come in, Simmer’s obviously the best in the league in front of the net,’’ Patrick said. “I watch him every game there. He’s unbelievable at tipping pucks. You learn from watching him everyday.
“I’ve played there (in front) in junior. I kind of know how to play there. I just try to get in the goalie’s eyes and look for rebounds.’’
Part of that is because Patrick is trying to find his game at greater distances from the net.
“I think there’s a little less pressure (than on the half wall), you don’t have the puck on your stick as much,’’ Patrick said. “I think my shot is something I need to improve on. It’s nice not trying to beat goalies with my shot.’’
The only shot Mrazek couldn’t stop came at 12:51 of the second when Anteri Panarin scored off a two-on-one rush.
Mrazek was wearing the game robe after the game and said he was glad he could contribute right away.
“I didn’t have too much work in the first period (only two shots),’’ he said. “The guys did a great job there, blocked a lot of shots.’’
The Flyers actually had to kill a couple penalties, something they had not to do in the last three games – a feat accomplished only twice in the NHL in the past 40 years.
Other than that, it was all about the big comeback.
“You could see when we tied it 1-1, the fans were going crazy,’’ Mrazek said. “You can hear the fans here. They’re so loud. I appreciate that.’’
Giroux came up with yet another big goal and now has 72 points, which moved him past Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin into a temporary hold on second place in the NHL scoring stats.
“It’s fun to win these kinds of games,’’ said Giroux, mindful that the 3-14-3 mark when trailing after two periods shows how difficult the task is. “Knowing that we can come back in these games, it’s good to know. But at the same time, we need to get the first goal and go from there.’’
Travis Konecny, who suffered a lower-body injury in Tuesday night’s games against Montreal, was scratched and is listed as day to day. . .The Flyers are 26-9-8 when Giroux registers a point, 6-10-2 when he does not. . .Gostisbehere had two assists, giving him 100 for his career. He has 16 points in his last 11 games.
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