PHILADELPHIA – It turns out eight was enough, at least to move closer to first place in the highly contested Metropolitan Division.
The Flyers ran their season-high winning streak to eight games with a 4-1 dispatching of the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals lost to the New York Rangers, 6-5, in overtime, meaning the Flyers and Capitals are now in a virtual tie for first place with 87 points.
Technically, the Capitals remain in first place because they hold the tiebreaker (regulation/overtime wins).
Don’t think for a minute the Flyers aren’t aware of the standings.
“We want to make the playoffs and the highest seed you get can be huge down the road,’’ Sean Couturier said after the game.
“We’re in a good position. We just need to keep looking at ourselves and control what we can control.’’
Even coach Alain Vigneault, who usually doesn’t want to talk about where his team is situated in the standings, commented on the closeness of the race.
“I think it’s quite normal for everybody to be excited,’’ Vigneault said. “Players, coaches, fans, I mean this is great hockey. The competition is unreal.
“And we’re playing well right now, so everyone should be excited.’’
And yes, goalie Carter Hart remains virtually unbeatable at home, running his record at the Wells Fargo Center to a staggering 19-2-2.
Philadelphia won its 24th home game of the season, taking over the league lead for that many successes (Pittsburgh and St. Louis have 23).
One night after a grueling 5-2 win at Washington, the Flyers came right back and stopped the Hurricanes, who had been off for five days, in their tracks.
Ivan Provorov scored in the first period, Michael Raffl in the second to give the Flyers a two-goal edge. Then, after Carolina scored early in the third, the Flyers came back with goals by Nicolas Aube-Kubel (4:28) and Couturier (4:54) and that was enough for Hart.
“We knew they were going to push hard in the third, being down 2-0,’’ Hart said. “We just stuck to our game plan. It’s huge the way we responded right away (after Carolina scored). Everyone’s chipping in, we have all four lines rolling.’’
Provorov is playing some of his best hockey of the season.
“We knew it was a back-to-back for us and they were fresh,’’ Provorov said. “We knew we would kind of have to weather the storm a little bit early in the first. I think we’ve done a great job doing that. After they scored, we didn’t sit back.’’
The Russian backliner now has 13 goals, just four off his career high.
“As a player, you always want to score,’’ he said. “When you do score, it makes you feel good. The most important thing is we got two points.’’
Vigneault appreciates what Provorov has been bringing to the table.
“We have a lot of faith in him,’’ Vigneault said. “There’s no doubt he’s one of the top-end ‘Ds’ in the league.’’
The Flyers are now 29-0-2 when leading after two periods.
Provorov kicked things off with a nifty solo play at 18:23. The defenseman took a pass from Scott Laughton, fired a shot on goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, then gathered in his own rebound and swept past the netminder for a backhander into the net.
In the second period, Raffl powered his way toward the net as Tyler Pitlick executed a timely toe-drag around Carolina defenseman Haydn Fleury. Pitlick’s pass caught Raffl in stride and it was lights out at 9:34.
The Flyers still seemed to have plenty of energy despite playing such a tough game in the nation’s capital hours before.
“Sometimes it’s just easier to start coming off a back-to-back, I think you are still in game-mode a little bit,’’ Raffl said at the second intermission. “I think we had a good start and followed it up in the second. They are an extremely dangerous team and ‘Hartsy’ made a couple of really good saves.”
Carolina got a goal from ex-Flyer Justin Williams 2:55 into the third period to ruin Hart’s bid for a shutout.
Then Aube-Kubel scored by skating over the end line and banking a shot off Nedeljkovic’s back into the net. Later, Couturier finished off a play which involved both Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek.
Before the game, Vigneault said most of the credit for this streak goes to his players.
“They understand what it takes to go on the ice and play the winning way,’’ Vigneault said. “They want to prove that they can be successful, that they can win. That’s what everyone is trying to do now, pushing in the same direction.’’
Laughton said the raucous atmosphere in the WFC helped the cause.
“Our crowd was really good tonight,’’ Laughton said. “I had chills a couple times. Really, really loud. They were behind us all night. It’s lots of fun to play in front of them. They gave us some energy for sure.’’
>Strong in back-to-backs
The Flyers raised their record to 6-5-2 in the second half of back-to-back games. They are 7-4-2 in the first half of those situations. . .The Flyers return to action Saturday when they host the Buffalo Sabres. . .Philadelphia has outscored the opposition 36-16 during the eight-game streak.