PHILADELPHIA – This time the Flyers didn’t mess around with a 2-0 lead.
Unlike last Thursday night’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, in which they gave up a 2-0 lead and had to scramble to finally win a 5-4 decision in overtime, this time the Flyers kept the pressure on.
Result: A 4-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, running their streak of games with a point to six (5-0-1) on Saturday.
Beating the Blackhawks in a regular-season game at the Wells Fargo Center is nothing new for the Flyers.
In fact, Saturday’s verdict ran the Flyers’ winning streak over the Blackhawks at WFC to 15 games, dating back to Nov. 9, 1996. That’s the longest home active streak by the Flyers against an opponent.
Of course, the Blackhawks are a mess right now.
They are 0-6-1 in their last seven games and early this past week fired three-time Stanley Cup champion coach Joel Quenneville.
Claude Giroux scored a goal in the first period and Sean Couturier added goals in the second and third for the Flyers, who continue to move up the Metropolitan Division standings.
Philadelphia is 2-0 at the start of this five-game homestand after a 3-0-1 road trip.
Goaltender Brian Elliott started his first game in the past four and recorded the shutout, his first of the season and 38th of his NHL career.
Elliott said the other day that a 2-0 lead is the worst you can have in hockey, implying teams that have one often suffer a letdown, sometimes with dire consequences.
The Flyers apparently learned their lesson from the Arizona game.
“Making it a 3-0 lead (on Couturier’s second goal) was big,’’ Elliott pointed out. “There were a couple big plays defensively that led to it. That’s been the story the past couple games – make a couple plays, block a couple shots and then you go the other way. We did that today.’’
Both Giroux and Couturier finished the game plus-4. Like Elliott, Giroux believes it was pivotal to stay focused after the Flyers took the 2-0 lead.
“They’re a very dangerous team offensively,’’ Giroux said. “It was very important for us to be responsible defensively and make sure we make the right play.
“I think as a team, we played great with five guys on the ice there, everybody’s on the same page and it just makes everybody’s job a lot easier.
Couturier’s first goal at 9:12 of the second was one of the most spectacular of the season for the Flyers.
The play began with the Flyers still shorthanded by way of a penalty to Oskar Lindblom at 7:12 Couturier took control in the defensive zone, shook off one check, skated into the Chicago zone and bounced off another before deking his way past goalie Corey Crawford.
The Wells Fargo Center crowd jumped to its feet and went wild as Couturier raised his stick and skated away.
Clearly, this was more like the Couturier of last season, when he set career records for goals, assists and points.
He credits the team’s recent turnaround for some his success.
“Everything’s going well, guys are battling hard,’’ he said. “We’re recovering pucks, guys aren’t afraid to make plays. That’s huge, when you have that confidence to make plays.
“Earlier in the year, guys were trying to make plays, if you screwed up, we weren’t recovering pucks. Now guys are battling hard to get those pucks back. We’re making it tough to play against.’’
The Flyers didn’t exactly get off to a rocket start in this game. They had only three shots through the first 14 minutes.
But Giroux made the next one count, getting an unassisted goal on a nice steal and score at 14:56.
Giroux finished the day with three points, moving him past Rick MacLeish for fourth place on the Flyers’ all-time points list at 699.
In the third, Couturier scored again when his shot across the crease hit ex-Flyer defenseman Brandon Manning’s skate and slid toward the goal line. Manning tried to sweep the puck away but basically shot it into his own net.
That pretty much locked it up for the Flyers, who now are in close pursuit of the Metro Division lead.
Coach Dave Hakstol likes what he sees.
“We’re playing hard and when you get results, it’s always a little bit easier,’’ he said.
The shutout allowed the Flyers to end their streak of games giving up a power-play goal at 9. The team record is 12 (done four times, most recently 1993-94). . .It was Toyota Military Appreciation Day. One of the honorees was U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Gerry Parrmore from Langhorne. . .Nolan Patrick added an empty-net goal with 1:01 to play.