MONTREAL – Just call them the “first place’’ Flyers.
That may sound odd but true. After Monday night’s 1-0 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens the Flyers are alone at the top of the Metro Division standings.
Sean Couturier scored in the sixth round of the shootout for the victory.
With the win, the Flyers move past the Washington Capitals by one point. The Caps lost to Columbus on Monday night.
The two teams scored a total of 13 goals in their first two meetings but were scoreless after three periods in Monday night’s game.
Both sides had several good scoring chances in the first 40 minutes but Montreal rookie goalie Charlie Lindgren and recently acquired Petr Mrazek of the Flyers were up to the task on all of them.
The shootout ended in a 2-1 score, with Jake Voracek also scoring in the third round to keep the Flyers alive after Paul Byron had scored in the second round for the Canadiens.
Philadelphia is still only just 2-5 in the shootout.
The Flyers finished the month of February 10-1-2, just the second time in franchise history they have won double-digit games in February.
Philadelphia chose not to make any trade deadline transactions, other than plucking veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya off waivers from the Ottawa Senators.
Much of that has to do with how close the Flyers have become as a team.
“Chemistry is a big part of this game,’’ coach Dave Hakstol said after the game. “I think that’s been a major factor in our group being able to dig out of a real big hole a couple months back and continue battling together.
“Sometimes chemistry is the highest thing on the list in terms of the game of hockey. Right now we have an awful tough schedule coming up down the stretch. So we’re going to be tested at a lot of different levels. We have to keep growing during that time period.’’
Mrazek turned in one of the finest performances by a Flyers goaltender this season, stopping everything fired his way (28 shots in all during regulation and overtime), including a point-blank shot by Jacob de la Rose in the closing minutes.
“Every point in this month and the next is big,’’ Mrazek said.
As for the shootout, he doesn’t seem to have a strong opinion either way. But he has had a lot of success, going 12-5 for his career and 8-0 over the past two seasons.
“I like to challenge the guy,’’ he said. “I flip (a coin) for chances who is going to win.’’
First place has a nice ring to it and several players said it’s a just reward for all the hard work they’ve done the past three months (the Flyers have 55 points since Dec. 4 – 26-8-3 – most in the NHL).
“We didn’t play a great game but we found a way to grind it out and get two points,’’ Couturier said. “It (first place) feels good. Who would have thought a few months ago. . .I think we deserve some of this (success) going right now.’’
Added Claude Giroux: “We’ve been through a lot this year. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fun but we stuck with it, worked harder and good things happen.’’
Defenseman Andrew MacDonald, for one, is glad the current cast was kept together.
“The group we have has been playing really well together,’’ said MacDonald. “We’re a confident group right now.
“I think everyone was under the impression that Hexy (GM Ron Hextall) was only going to make a move if it helped our team and made us a better team. Nothing came to fruition so it’s status quo.’’
Oduya played on two championship Chicago teams, so he brings that valuable experience both on and off the ice.
“That’s great leadership and experience,’’ MacDonald said. “He’s got a couple championships under his belt and that can go a long way.
“There are little things along the way through the playoffs where a guy like that can be very valuable with his knowledge.’’
The last time the Flyers won a division title was 2010-11 when they took the old Atlantic Division with a record of 47-23-12. . .The Flyers’ 18 road wins top the Metro Division. They are the only Metro team with more road wins that home wins.
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