PHILADELPHIA – Another home game, another win for the Flyers.
The Flyers somehow eked out a 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center and in the process gained ground on Metro Division leaders Pittsburgh, which lost to Buffalo, and Washington, which lost to New Jersey.
Suddenly, the Flyers are just three points out of the top spot.
The Flyers extended their home winning streak against the Jets to seven games dating back to 2012.
Philadelphia, which improved to 21-5-4 on home ice, took a 3-0 lead into the late stages of the second period, then had to hold on against the offensive-minded Jets.
The third line of Scott Laughton-Tyler Pitlick-James van Riemsdyk accounted for three of the Flyers’ four goals.
Flyers goalie Carter Hart improved his home record to 16-2-2.
If not for some outstanding individual play by Laughton, the Flyers might not have enjoyed a 3-1 lead after two periods.
Laughton scored twice in the first period, the second goal giving him 12 for the season, which ties a career high for the veteran center.
On top of that, Laughton survived a shot from Winnipeg’s Nathan Beaulieu with 7:45 left in the second period to a very private part of the body.
Laughton limped off to the bench and later, when asked about it, gave a smug grin and said, “Just (wanted to) make sure everything was there.’’
It took Laughton only 2:06 to score his first goal, this one off an entry pass from Ivan Provorov. Laughton was able to get a short shot past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck for a 1-0 lead.
“I tried to drive the middle lane on the first goal and Provy made a really good pass through their defender,’’ Laughton explained.
Laughton had a chance for a hat trick in the closing minute with an empty net but shot just wide. He’s never had one in the NHL.
How bad did he want it?
“Pretty bad,’’ Laughton said.
On Laughton’s second goal, as a penalty to Sean Couturier expired, the Flyers found themselves in a three-on-one situation. Laughton led the charge, then made a nice hesitation move across the slot and waited for Hellebuyck to go down before shooting and scoring at 9:03.
“He (Laughton) was great,’’ Pitlick said. “He came out flying, got a couple big goals for us right away.’’
Couturier believes the Flyers have four lines on which they can depend.
“Yeah, I think we have some good depth this year compared to the past,’’ he said. “Different guys are stepping up in different moments. That is what you want. When you make a playoff run or go deep, usually the depth players, role player guys have big impacts on games, and we need everyone every night. That is the kind of team we are.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault likes the four-line balance right now.
“This rotation right now is permitting me to play a good four-line rotation, to have a good pace,’’ he said. “In the third (period) in the last five I went down to three a little more. For the most part we do have good balance. The fourth line with ‘Raffi’ (Michael Raffl), ‘Bunny’ (Connor Bunnaman) and ‘Q’ (Nicolas Aube-Kubel) when they get the puck deep and they get on the forecheck they are tough to handle.
The Jets continued to swarm Hart in the second period and outshot the Flyers, 15-4, but it was Philadelphia which took a 3-0 lead on a goal by Couturier.
After his line (Jake Voracek, Claude Giroux) enjoyed a strong shift, Couturier topped it off by pulling the puck out of a scrum and firing it past Hellebuyck.
Winnipeg did get one back toward the end of the period. The Flyers fumbled around a bit in their zone and Josh Morrissey blasted home a set-up pass from Mark Schiefele at 18:04.
The Jets closed to within one goal in the third period on a power play. Robert Hagg took the first Flyers penalty of the game and Patrik Laine made the power play pay by beating Hart with a rocket from the left circle at 3:00.
Pitlick got that one back at 9:34 when he deflected a point shot into the net.
For Hart, the defense played a big role.
“They made sure they didn’t get too many second opportunities and they got a lot of big blocks,’’ Hart said. “The one in the first period Braun blocks a shot on the line and then we go down and score. That’s the hockey that we’ve been playing lately. It’s sometimes not always pretty, but it’s effective and the guys are really buying in right now.’’
Flyers director of sports medicine Jim McCrossin worked his 2,000th game. . .With Braun back after missing one game due to illness, defenseman Mark Friedman was assigned to the Phantoms. . .The Flyers return to action Tuesday night when they play host to the San Jose Sharks.