PHILADELPHIA – It took the better part of a year but for Flyers goaltender Felix Sandstrom, getting his first NHL win was worth the wait.
Sandstrom, filling in for starter Carter Hart (illness) on Tuesday night, finally started a game this season which wasn’t on the second half of a back-to-back.
And he cashed in.
The Swede, who entered the game 0-7-1 for his NHL career, kicked out 28 of 29 shots as the Flyers took care of the slumping St. Louis Blues with a 5-1 win at the Wells Fargo Center. It was St. Louis’ eighth straight loss.
Sandstrom stood his ground against a Blues team, which while languishing last in the NHL in points, still sports some dangerous shooters on their roster.
But the Swedish goalie was up to the task. He and his teammates knew St. Louis had played a tough, physical game in a 3-1 loss at Boston on Monday night and figured they could wear down the visitors.
“They (teammates) battled hard for me today,’’ Sandstrom said. “So I’m really happy with the win here. It (the late call to play) was nothing special. I know how quickly things can change. I try to prepare the same way, whether I’m playing or not.’’
Of course Sandstrom’s teammates were pleased to see the goalie get rewarded for all his hard work in practice and limited game action.
“He’s playing the back-to-backs and we haven’t done much to help him out,’’ said Noah Cates, who scored for the first time in nine games. “So it was good for us tonight to take care in front of him. He was the lead again tonight. All the credit in the world, he’s a big reason why we won.’’
Coach John Tortorella said Sandstrom did what he needed to do at just the right times.
“Sandy’s given us some good minutes and found a way to win,’’ the coach said. “We gave him some run support tonight. He made some big saves when the game was still where we didn’t know where it was going to go. He worked hard. I’m happy for him because he gets the results.’’
Tortorella said Hart took ill in the morning so Sandstrom knew he probably would have some advance time to get mentally ready for the task at hand.
The Flyers, who have outscored opponents in the second period by a 14-4 margin this season, took the middle frame of this game by a 3-0 margin.
After the second period, Scott Laughton said it came down to playing an up-tempo game.
“We were moving our feet,” he said. “We were playing tight together and we’re supporting the puck. . .guys are starting to really believe in each other.”
After a scoreless first period, the Flyers finally broke through at 10:11 of the second.
Joel Farabee’s pass caught a rushing Ivan Provorov in the left circle. The defenseman sent the puck into the crease and Wade Allison banked it past Thomas Greiss for his third goal of the season.
Sandstrom kept the Blues at bay through the first two periods, facing only 16 shots in the process.
Travis Konecny made it 2-0 at 16:37. Taking a pass from Owen Tippett, Konecny swept across the top of the slot and fired home a shot to the far side.
With only three seconds left in the period and the teams playing four-aside, Travis Sanheim took control in the right circle and spotted Noah Cates open at the far post for an easy put-back.
Ryan O’Reilly broke up Sandstrom’s shutout bid with a goal at 5:22 of the third period. Lukas Sedlak countered with his first goal as a Flyer at 6:44. Owen Tippett added a late goal for the final margin.
Tortorella said this game and Saturday night’s 2-1 win at Ottawa were probably the Flyers’ best two performances of the season from a teamwork standpoint.
“The past couple games it’s probably been out of a dozen games, two we’ve played as a team,’’ he said. “We haven’t depended on just one or two guys, especially our goaltenders. Maybe we’re taking steps in the right direction.’’
>Tuesday night fights
Defenseman Nick Seeler put some energy into the WFC early with a quick fight against ex-Flyer Brayden Schenn. Seeler got the best of the fisticuffs and the Flyers seemed to feed off that spirit.
The Blues, mired in last place in the NHL, were looking for a spark and Seeler was more than willing to oblige Schenn.
“I think he just wanted to get things going for them,’’ Seeler said. “He asked me right off the faceoff there and I said yeah and we went.’’
The Flyers have more than their share of players who can hold their own in a donnybrook. Right after the Seeler-Schenn fight, the Flyers’ Zack MacEwen got into it with the Blues’ Robert Bortuzzi.
“I have mean we have quite a few guys,’’ Seeler said. “It’s nice having a few of those guys but I think honestly, everyone on our team is sticking up for each other and have each other’s backs, which makes it easy to play.’’
The Flyers are also among the league leaders in blocked shots. Rasmus Ristolainen got in front of a few nasty ones.
“I’m sure those are going to hurt tomorrow,’’ Seeler said. “But it’s worth it. He’s doing a great job so it’s nice to have him on the back end.’’
Philadelphia returns to action on Thursday when it visits Columbus. . .Kieffer Bellows was a healthy scratch.