PHILADELPHIA – What a difference a day (plus an hour) can make.
Saturday at 7 p.m. in Carolina, the Flyers were kind of wondering if they had the right stuff to make the playoffs.
But after a character, come-from-behind 4-2 win over the Hurricanes, followed by Sunday’s 5 p.m.-start 6-3 win over the Metro Division-leading Capitals, the Flyers can exhale a bit.
Against Washington, the Flyers looked like a much more confident bunch, starting with goaltender Petr Mrazek, who had fallen on hard times of late.
It continued with contributions from rookie Oskar Lindblom, who came up with his first NHL goal at 18:19 of the second period to break a 1-1 tie.
That was quickly followed by a goal from Ivan Provorov at 19:41 and the Flyers were on their way to taking the season series from the Capitals, 3-1. They outscored the Caps for the season, 19-11.
Wayne Simmonds scored twice in the third period to keep the Caps at bay.
With the win, the Flyers move to within four points of first-place Washington (the Capitals have a game in hand) and two points of second-place Pittsburgh, which also has a game in hand.
“Yeah, I think we were struggling to find some points,’’ Claude Giroux confirmed. “We have to build on this.’’
Other Flyers said they never really lost confidence in themselves.
Now, with nine games to go, they have put themselves eight points up on ninth-place Florida (the Panthers do have four games in hand) but at least there’s a little more breathing room.
“It (the weekend sweep) was definitely huge for us,’’ Shayne Gostisbehere said. “But we’ve been in the driver’s seat the whole time. We didn’t change anything.’’
Added Provorov of the ups and downs of the standings: “It’s got to motivate the team, give your best every night and that’s been driving us the past month, month and a half and we have just got to continue to do the same things.’’
The Flyers play at Detroit on Tuesday and home to the Rangers on Thursday, so the chance is there to make up more ground.
And this was a big win for Mrazek’s peace of mind as well.
“I just tried to focus on the puck from the start,’’ he said. “This we good for my confidence.’’
The Flyers know this race is far from over. It’s still a dogfight.
“It was critical just to get points,’’ coach Dave Hakstol remarked about the weekend. “I guess to put it in perspective, these are all playoff games now. We went through a stretch where we lost a lot of points and this was a chance to get some back.
“We’re in the middle of a battle here so every point we can get is critical.’’
The teams battled to a scoreless first period before Gostisbehere’s long shot through a Simmonds screen eluded goalie Philipp Grubauer at 2:15.
After an Alex Ovechkin goal at 15:08, the Flyers came back with the goals from Lindblom and Provorov.
Giroux makes history
Claude Giroux’s assist on Gostisbehere’s goal was his 659th career point, moving him into a tie with Eric Lindros for fifth place on the Flyers’ alltime points list. . .Michael Raffl suffered an upper-body injury and did not return to the game. He will be re-evaluated on Monday. . .Travis Konecny had another crowd-pleasing fight, this time with T.J. Oshie in the third period. Konecny held his own against the bigger man. . .Voracek put the game away with an empty-net goal with 37.1 seconds left.