PHILADELPHIA – When you’re missing a major part of your offense, namely Jake Voracek, it never hurts to get big contributions from a couple third-liners.
Michael Raffl, playing in his 400th NHL game, and Scott Laughton, who set a new career-high for goals in a season with 11, filled the Voracek (suspended) void nicely in Monday night’s 3-2 win over Ottawa at the Wells Fargo Center.
The victory, combined with a loss by Columbus to the New York Islanders, moved the Flyers to within three points of a playoff spot for the first time since Nov. 15.
Goalie Brian Elliott recorded the win, running his record to 5-1-1 since returning from a three-month injury recovery.
Also, he is now 5-0-2 for his career against the Senators.
Several Flyers said it’s nice to be within hailing distance of a playoff spot but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
The Flyers’ next three opponents? Washington, Toronto, Pittsburgh.
“For us, I think it’s just focus on ourselves,’’ Radko Gudas said as the Flyers ran their record to 18-4-2 in their last 24 games dating back to Jan. 12. “It’s getting closer and closer, for sure, but we have to focus on the next game, we can’t be looking at the big picture. It’s been working for us, just look at the game ahead.’’
Playing the team, Ottawa, with the fewest points in the NHL (52) could have been viewed as a trap game but after a slow start, the Flyers came on strong and now trail Columbus and Montreal by just three points with 13 games to play.
“That’s nice to know but we’re focusing on the next game here,’’ said Raffl, keeping to the party line. “It can be a little too much if you look at the big picture.
“We’re a pretty confident group right now. We just find ways to win games. But tonight was not easy.’’
Raffl’s goal was part of a three-goal Philadelphia rally after the Senators took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
A great hustle play by Nolan Patrick set up Raffl to break a 1-1 tie at 6:02 of the second period.
Patrick hunted down Ottawa defenseman Mark Borowiecki in the left corner and fired a pinpoint pass to Raffl at the far post. Raffl’s shot easily beat goalie Craig Anderson.
“I think I was yelling (at Patrick) right away so he had an idea where I was,’’ Raffl explained. “I actually never thought he was going to put the puck right there and it was an easy tap-in. I love those kind of goals.”
With 36.7 seconds left in the period, the Flyers took advantage of a bad Ottawa line change to create a four-on-two situation. Laughton’s shot zipped past Anderson to give the Flyers a two-goal cushion going into the third period.
“TK (Travis Konecny) made a good play to me,’’ Laughton said, “and I just tried to get the shot off as quick as I could and it went in.”
It’s good for the Flyers when players on lower lines chip in.
“Everybody has to come a lot closer together, you feel, when Jake is not there,’’ Raffl said. “He’s one of our best players and I think we did a heck of a job stepping up.’’
Philadelphia is now 25-2-2 when leading after two periods.
Chris Tierney gave Ottawa its 1-0 lead at 9:48 of the first but the Flyers got that one back just 2:02 into the second.
Shayne Gostisbehere cranked up a slap shot from the left faceoff dot and Oskar Lindblom tipped it in.
It was Lindblom’s ninth goal in the last 23 games after none in the previous 30.
Lindblom echoes the sentiments of Gudas and Raffl.
“We have a goal of making the playoffs,’’ Lindblom said. “It can’t be more fun than that, hunting that playoff spot. Just keep going, have fun and I think we’re going to make it.’’
The Flyers’ forecheck was really effective against an Ottawa club which has the most road losses (25) in the NHL.
“One of the biggest parts of our game is our forecheck with speed and make their defense cough up pucks and going the other way,’’ Laughton said.
Coach Scott Gordon doesn’t want his team to take its foot off the gas pedal either.
“I try not to (look at the scoreboard),’’ he said. “But you’ll look up and see it. We can look all we want but the night we’re playing, we can’t control that, we can only control our game. Make sure we do what we have to do because we don’t know what’s going to happen a week, two weeks from now. We just have to stay up to the task and worry about ourselves.’’
The Flyers return to action on Thursday when they play host to the Washington Capitals. . .With Voracek suspended, the Flyers went with seven defensemen and just 11 forwards. Andrew MacDonald, scratched for Sunday’s game at New York, returned to the lineup.