PHILADELPHIA – While the Wells Fargo Center has been friendly to the Flyers this season, over the past 20 years one team has made it about as safe as shark-infested waters.
By that, we’re referring to Sharks of the San Jose variety, the ones who had limited the Flyers to just one win (1-6-4) against them at the WFC since the 2000-01 season.
All that changed Tuesday night when the Flyers ended some of that frustration with a rather convincing 4-2 victory.
Kevin Hayes scored the first of two goals and set up another by Travis Konecny in the second period to move away from a 1-1 tie with the visitors.
Goaltender Carter Hart improved his home record to 17-2-2.
The Flyers got some good news from the out of town scoreboard, too, as the New York Islanders lost to the New York Rangers in overtime and Carolina was beaten by Dallas in regulation time.
Later, Columbus lost to the Minnesota Wild in regulation time.
Scott Laughton stole a puck from Brent Burns and set up a tic-tac-toe goal with Konecny feeding Hayes for the go-ahead goal at 3:51.
San Jose coach Bob Boughner challenged the goal, claiming the Flyers were offsides. But a video review showed the Flyers were legal and the goal stood.
Hayes admitted he was a little nervous when officials reviewed his goal.
“It’s happened to me a couple of times where the call would go the other way,’’ Hayes said. “We watched it on the screen a couple of times and we couldn’t figure if it was offsides or not. So we were just waiting.”
Later, Hayes pilfered a puck in the defensive end and led a two-on-one rush with Konecny for the goal to extend the lead to two goals.
In the third period, Hayes scored again from close range at 3:43 to make it 4-1. Noah Gregor’s goal for San Jose midway through the period closed the scoring.
Philadelphia is 17-0-1 when Hayes scores a goal this season.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game on our end,’’ Hayes said. “It’s a tough building for opponents (the Flyers are now 22-5-4 at home), we’ve been good here all year.
“I think tonight, when we had some bounces go our way we kind of took them and put them in the back of the net.’’
Laughton, taking over Joel Farabee’s spot on the Hayes line, seemed to fit right in.
“Starting off on the PK (penalty kill, where he and Hayes are regular partners), we’ve kind of built it (chemistry) from there,’’ Laughton said. “He’s an easy guy to play with. He holds on to pucks and makes plays. Just trying to build that chemistry so these last 19 games are smooth sailing.’’
Hayes now has 21 goals, the second time he’s reached the 20-goal mark in his career. His career high is 25.
Philadelphia really clamped down on defense in the second half of the game, allowing only four shots over the last 33 minutes after giving up 24 shots in the first 27 minutes.
“After the first three minutes I thought we got a little sloppy,’’ coach Alain Vigneault said. “We weren’t first on pucks, we were chasing the game. But I thought in the second period we started to play a smarter game, more north-south. We got a couple outnumbered situations that we were able to score on.
“In the second half of the game we sort of played the way we wanted to play.’’
The Flyers took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Nicolas Aube-Kubel just 1:32 into the game. Goaltender Aaron Dell stopped Matt Niskanen’s shot but James van Riemsdyk cornered the rebound and fed Aube-Kubel, who took the spot vacated by Farabee’s return to the Phantoms.
San Jose tied the score at 6:30 when Joel Kellman got a shot past Hart.
Aube-Kubel continues to play with more confidence.
“I’ve been watching the video, waiting for my chance to come up on the power play,’’ Aube-Kubel said.
>Newest Flyers fit right in
Both Nate Thompson and Derek Grant, acquired in Monday trades, didn’t look out of place in their first game.
Grant took an overnight red-eye flight from California but didn’t seem the worse for wear, centering the third line.
“Nervous excitement at the start,’’ Grant said. “Didn’t get a lot of sleep but you’re running on adrenaline. It’s good to get the first one out of the way. (In the first period) You’re gripping your stick a little bit. As the game went on, I think we (his line) got better.’’
Added Thompson, “I had kind of a rough first period, trying to find some chemistry with my linemates (Michael Raffl, Aube-Kubel). But I felt good as the game went on.’’
The Flyers are now 34-0-3 when either leading or tied after two periods. . .Laughton’s first assist was his 100th NHL point. . .After a slow start against the Western Conference this season, the Flyers evened their record at 11-11-2. . .Jacob “J-Bone’’ Orlick, a young man who is battling a rare form of bone cancer (Ewing’s sarcoma, the same illness that has afflicted Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom), was in attendance and received a big ovation when he was shown on the scoreboard camera. The Flyers have 22 home wins in 63 games, the first Flyers team to do that since 1986-87. In franchise history, it’s been done 10 times. Six of those teams went to the Stanley Cup Finals.