PHILADELPHIA – Even when the Flyers aren’t at their best, they’re still finding ways to win games.
And the number one way is to watch rookie Carter Hart perform his nightly acrobatic act in the Flyers’ goal.
Such was the case on Monday night when the Flyers didn’t play quite up to their usual standard of late but still came away with a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center, extending their winning streak to eight games.
It was the 2,000th victory in franchise history and was recorded in 4,106 games, second-fastest in the history of the NHL behind only Montreal.
With the win, the Flyers moved to within five points of idle Columbus for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Flyers picked up goals from Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek, while Hart, named the NHL’s second star of the week earlier in the day, earned his seventh straight win.
Hart was brilliant, especially in the third period when he was tested time and again. His crowning moment came when he made a spectacular save on Nickolay Goldobin on a Vancouver power play in the closing minutes, flashing across the crease and somehow blocking a shot as it approached a yawning open net.
“I just kind of saw the play bounce to the guy on the side,’’ said Hart in a modest tone. “I just dove across, was hoping that it hit me and it did.’’
Send the footage of that one to the NHL Network.
Hart faced 42 shots in all and the Flyers really relied on him to pull this one out.
“I played against him a few times in junior,’’ Nolan Patrick said. “Obviously I knew he was good, highly talked about, but I didn’t know he was that good.
“He’s going to be a superstar for a long time. So it’s awfully nice to have him on your own end.’’
Couturier appreciates what Hart has achieved at such a young age (20).
“He’s been remarkable,’’ said Couturier, who took the penalty that set up the Goldobin play. “He’s done some miracles out there, it’s nice to have him back there when you know he can steal one.
“I’m just thankful they didn’t score on that power play.’’
Couturier scored on a power play at 18:37 of the first on a pinpoint lead-in pass from Travis Konecny. It was the Flyers’ seventh power-play goal in the past three games.
What’s been the difference recently on the power play? The Flyers were 31st and last in the NHL just three games ago. Now they’re at 23 and climbing.
Couturier was moved to the second unit but that just gives the Flyers’ two balanced groups.
“It’s all about winning,’’ Couturier said. “The power play wasn’t rolling. You have to switch personnel. It’s rolling again and we’re creating a lot of momentum on the power play and we’re winning some games with it.’’
Voracek made it 2-0 at 3:20 of the second. Phil Varone’s outlet pass sent Voracek in alone on goalie Jacob Markstrom and beat him with a nice deke as Alexander Edler was hacking at the Flyer forward with his stick.
Vancouver got one back at 5:14. Hart strayed about 30 feet from his net in an attempt to clear the puck but the move backfired and Brock Boeser fired the puck into the unguarded net.
The Flyers admit they’re starting to think about the playoff picture more and more but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Hart is the first to express some honest feelings on the subject. Yes, most players are starting to think about getting back in the race.
“A hundred percent,’’ Hart said. “For sure. We seem to keep things rolling and keep climbing up. I think if we just do our part, and keep battling, I think things will work out for us.’’
Coach Scott Gordon knows that the Flyers can’t afford any letdowns these last 29 games.
“What’s important for us is every single game,’’ he said. “It’s about making sure that we’re just living in the moment. Take care of the game at hand. We can’t think about ‘we win this game, then win this game, then win this game and then we’re in. We have a long way to go here and one win tonight isn’t going to put us in the playoffs.’’
>Giroux gets ovation
Claude Giroux received a nice ovation when it was announced he was playing in his 791st game as a Flyers moving him into third place past Brian Propp on the franchise alltime list. Bob Clarke (1144) and Bill Barber (903) are one and two. . .Flyers are 18-2-2 when leading after two periods. . .Edler took a hard fall at 9:38 of the third period and had to be taken off on a medical gurney. His head hit the ice after he fell when his stick caught on Voracek’s leg going by the net. Edler was taken to a Philadelphia hospital with a suspected facial fracture.