PHILADELPHIA – Throughout nearly a month of futility, the Flyers kept hearing from their coach that their effort was fine, they just needed to finish games.
On Tuesday night they took that wisdom to heart.
They grabbed a lead halfway through the game against the New York Islanders and this time, unlike recent games against Montreal, Washington and the Isles in which they held leads, they made it stick.
A 3-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center ended the Flyers’ somewhat embarrassing 10-game (0-7-3) winless streak.
After taking it on the chin in a 5-2 drubbing at Elmont, N.Y., the Flyers came back with a bit of anger in their eyes a few nights later.
The embarrassment of a lengthy drought had to end at some point and this was as good a game as any. Philadelphia was getting sick of being the butt of jokes around the NHL.
The 10-game winless streak ended tied for the second-longest in franchise history.
Goaltender Carter Hart called it the Flyers’ best game of the season.
In Saturday night’s game at the Island, the Flyers took a similar 2-1 lead late in the second period but then got a little tentative with their play and gave up a tying goal. Then three more in the third turned it into a laugher.
On Tuesday night, the Flyers found themselves in the same position but this time they kept the pedal to the metal, outshot the Isles by a 4-0 margin near the end of the period and took that one-goal edge into the second intermission.
And they made it stand up for the rest of the game.
Here’s what led to the victory:
>A pair of fights just seconds into the game (Zack MacEwen getting the best of Matt Martin; Nick Deslauriers exchanging blows with Ross Johnston) got the Flyers energized.
>Kevin Hayes scored a pair of goals and played a strong two-way game, something he’s been working on at his new right wing position.
>Rookie defenseman Egor Zamula blocked a shot early in the third period which very likely could have been a tying goal.
>Instead of going into a shell with a third period lead, the Flyers outshot the Islanders by a 12-7 margin in the final 20 minutes.
>The penalty kill was good for a change, stopping the New Yorkers on a power play in the closing minutes and actually getting a shorthanded goal.
But it was the strong third period which ultimately made the difference.
“That’s one of our more complete games,’’ coach John Tortorella said. “Finish is the right word. We talked between the second and third periods that we needed to finish a game. Not going in the back door.
“I liked that we didn’t give up 15 or 16 shots or we went in the back door. That’s a really good steppingstone for us for how to finish games.’’
A goal by Hayes (his first of two in the game) at 9:45 of the second period broke a 1-1 tie. Hayes scored off a faceoff set-up by Lukas Sedlak. Hayes flipped a shot past goalie Ilya Sorokin.
New York opened the scoring at 3:12 of the first period during a five-on-three power play. Noah Dobson sent a shot past Hart. It was the 17th time in 23 games the Flyers have surrendered the first goal of the game.
The Flyers struck back on a shorthanded goal by Travis Sanheim at 4:37. Sanheim finished off a feed from Noah Cates. It was just the Flyers’ second shorthanded goal of the season.
“Obviously things didn’t end well the other night,’’ Sanheim said during the first intermission. “A lot of things we didn’t like and we had to respond and I thought we did that.’’
With 33.2 seconds to play in the game, Hayes hit an empty net to clinch it.
Tortorella said Hayes, who has been moved from center to wing to work on his defensive play, is getting a handle on what it takes to play good two-way hockey.
Hayes said he will do whatever it takes.
“It doesn’t matter, whatever he (Tortorella) wants me to do,’’ Hayes said. “I try to stick to my game. I know what I bring to this team. I try my hardest, whether it’s center or wing.’’
Ironically, Hayes was the one who put the game on ice with his insurance goal.
“There are games we should have won and all of a sudden we’re tied,’’ Hayes said. “Then lose in overtime. We’re trying hard and everything. Tonight I thought we played a full 60 (minutes) and we closed it.’’
>Deslauriers sums it up
The Flyers admit the winless streak was weighing on them.
“We wanted to get that out of our mind,’’ he said. “It was good to get a win. Torts said it, we’ve been playing 58 minutes. That kills us. It sucks going on a 10-game losing streak but we’ll look at this one and try to build on what we did tonight.’’
>Sanheim impressed by Zamula
Sanheim liked what he saw on Zamula’s diving block.
“I think that’s what we’re trying to build as a team,’’ he said. “No matter what your role is or who you are. Guys coming up (from the Phantoms) we’re expecting them to do the exact same thing.’’
>Hart appreciates the help
Hart got some help from his defense and he ended a personal six-game winless streak.
“After the five-on-three goal, I thought we really beared down and played hard,’’ he said. “Got pucks deep, got on the forecheck and didn’t give them a lot. I thought we did a good job of going into the third period and not letting off the gas. It’s good we kept our foot on it.’’