PHILADELPHIA – Justin Williams probably shouldn’t have been traded away from the Flyers way back in 2004.
But compounding the error was the Flyers’ inability to bring back their former 2000 first-round draft pick when he was available through free agency or a trade over the past decade or so.
So, at 36, Williams continues to perform at a high level. And if the Flyers needed any reminders, Williams did just that Thursday night, scoring a pair of goals and adding an assist to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center.
Williams scored a goal in the first period and added another in the second as the Flyers had their streak of consecutive games with at least a point snapped at 12 (10-0-2).
Or as Eagles fans like to point out, they were unbeaten in regulation time since the Super Bowl.
Williams said it’s still special to come back to Philadelphia and perform well here.
“There’s a little something there, of course,’’ he said. “There’s a little something in the air for sure. I know they boo everybody when they score, they booed me when I scored. I appreciate that. It means they kind of remember (laughs).
“It’s special. My wife’s family is from here. I have a lot of friends here. It’s where I started, it’s always special.’’
Carolina played like a desperate team, the Flyers didn’t.
“They’ve been playing very well lately,’’ Williams said. “Got themselves comfortably into a playoff spot, maybe the division. So, they’re rolling fine. We need to get something going ourselves. Um, we need to start games like that, impose our will, suffocate teams and make it hard on them and we did that today.’’
Getting Jordan Staal back (after the recent death of his daughter) was also a big part of the Carolina win.
“Having the big man, No. 11, back in the lineup (Staal),’’ Williams said, “a huge hole is plugged. He takes away one great line, whoever he plays against. He did a great job coming back.’’
The Flyers have been winning some games they probably didn’t deserve, most recently the 1-0 shootout win at Montreal on Monday night.
That’s the way these things usually happen. As long streaks continue, some bad habits begin to show and it takes a game like this one to highlight the problem.
“I think the last few games some bad habits crept into our game,’’ Andrew MacDonald said. “I think we got exposed in some of them tonight. They were the better team the whole night and definitely deserved to win.’’
The Flyers have to get back on track quickly because they have a pair of tough games coming up – at Tampa on Saturday and at Florida on Sunday.
“You kind of get into a groove and you’re feeling it,’’ MacDonald said. “Think things are always going to go right for you. Obviously that’s not going to be the case. Tonight was a good example of that. We were just out of sync all night, a half step behind, swinging away from pucks we wouldn’t normally do.
“We have to get back to the way we were playing.’’
Travis Konecny scored at 1:20 of the third period to prevent Carolina goalie Cam Ward from recording a shutout.
Pittsburgh lost at Boston so the Flyers remain two points clear of the Penguins for second place in the Metro Division standings.
Flyers goalie Petr Mrazek suffered his first loss after three straight wins following last week’s trade from Detroit.
Williams, whose 41 points are third on the Carolina roster, scored at 4:40 of the first when Mrazek failed to completely stop a Jeff Skinner shot. Williams poked it across the line.
In the second, Williams managed to tip a Brett Pesce shot into the net.
Coach Dave Hakstol says lessons can be taken from a game like this.
“We were on the outside a lot,’’ he said. “We only had 40, 45 shot attempts and that’s not enough. I didn’t think we were direct enough. At times, we were looking for one more play, rather than a direct hard play to the net.
“We didn’t have a lot of energy tonight. There’s no excuse for that. You have to take it for what it is, we have to make sure we flip that page real quick.’’
Claude Giroux registered an assist on Konecny’s goal, a point which moved him into a tie with Tim Kerr on the Flyers’ alltime scoring list. . .Jordan Weal, a team-worst minus-9, was a healthy scratch.
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