A strong, hard-working effort from the Flyers led to their impressive 4-1 over the visiting Nashville Predators tonight. Wayne Simmonds put home a pair of goals in the win, as Ilya Bryzgalov made 26 saves for his ninth game of the season where he allowed one goal against or less. Claude Giroux had a goal and an assist, while Kimmo Timonen had a pair of assists in a win that extended the Flyers’ point streak to five games and handed the Predators their second loss in their last 10 games.
Ryan Suter, who will most likely remain in Nashville following the trade deadline, had the Preds’ only goal in the loss. Anders Lindback stopped 24 of the Flyers’ shots on the night for his fifth straight loss.
The Flyers’ penalty kill played a huge role in the win, as they kept the Preds from converting on any of their four chances.
“Oh, our PK was unbelievable tonight,” said Simmonds. “We have four, five, six guys that go out and do a great job for us and every single defenseman does a great job for us. It was huge for us tonight, Bryz kept us in and he played great as well.”
Entering the game with the second best power-play unit in the league, Nashville’s lack of production with the man advantage hurt the Predators, as they saw their five-game winning streak snapped.
Simmonds, who now has 15 goals and 14 assists for 29 points, has one more goal and two more assists than Mike Richards this season. Granted, the former Flyers’ captain has played in seven less games, not many individuals expected Simmonds to have this kind of season.
“Yeah, we push forward more in Philly as in LA where we kind of sit backin the trap,” stated Simmonds. “I think this style of game suits me better. We have the players that do it, we’re all hard working and we bust our butts going for it as hard as we do coming back. It’s been good.”
To start the game, the Flyers’ fourth line came out and gave Philly a better start than they had against the Jets on Tuesday. After Harry Zolnierczyk deflected a Tom Sestito shot off the post, the line of Matt Read-Zolnierczyk-Sestito cycled to set the tone early.
Later in the first period, Jaromir Jagr was called for a hooking minor after he fought David Legwand for the puck behind Lindback’s net.
In the middle of the Nashville man advantage, Craig Smith deflected a puck past Bryzgalov and into the net. Unfortunately for Smith and the Preds, the deflection was caused by a blantant high stick and didn’t count.
Philly killed off the remaining time in the power play to keep the game goal-free.
In the final five minutes of the period, Simmonds gave Philly the 1-0 lead.
After receiving a pass from Brayden Schenn along the boards, Simmonds guarded the puck from Suter while moving into the slot with his back to the net. Just before he entered the slot, Simmonds spun counterclockwise and threw a wrister towards Lindback. Thanks to a screen from Zac Rinaldo, Lindback never saw the puck, as Simmonds registered his 14th goal of the season past the goalie’s blocker.
Less than a minute after Simmonds’ goal, Matt Carle was the second Flyer in the period to commit a hooking infraction on Legwand to send the Preds’ potent power-play unit to the ice for a second time in the opening 20 minutes.
The Flyers kept Nashville from tying the game on the man advantage, as Bryzgalov denied both of the Predators’ shots that reached the net.
The time left in the period following Carle’s minor ticked by without another goal to give Philly a 1-0 lead to start the second period.
Thanks to six blocked shots and 10 hits, the Flyers had a lead after the first period for their third straight game.
Neither team gained a strong scoring chance for the first several minutes of the second period until Smith rang a one-timer off the pipe halfway through the period.
After the line of Giroux-Scott Hartnell-Jagr cycled in the zone for a bit, the Preds countered with an odd-man rush. Rushing towards the net, Smith found himself alone in the faceoff circle with the slot to his right when he one-timed a pass from the boards. Smith clanked the outside of the post behind Bryzgalov’s blocker to keep the Flyers’ goalie’s shutout intact.
Seconds after Smith’s second painfully close scoring bid of the game, the Predators found themselves down two men.
Suter threw the puck over the glass in the Preds’ zone 26 seconds after the visitors were called for a too many men on the ice bench minor to give the Flyers a two-man advantage for 1:34.
Philly wasn’t able to convert on the big power-play advantage, as tension grew after a pair of post-whistles scrums. After Giroux was put in a headlock by Shea Weber behind Lindback’s net, Hartnell whacked at the puck in the crease after the whistle to start a scrum that concluded with Jakub Voracek and Roman Josi dropping the gloves. The pair didn’t fight, but the Preds experienced another power play, as Hartnell was given an additional slashing minor.
On the penalty kill, Read made a great defensive play at the blue line that led to his 16th goal of the season.
After he poked the puck away from Kevin Klein at the blue line and into the neutral zone, Read jumped on the biscuit and flew down the ice. The rookie released a shot that beat Lindback five-hole for his second shorthanded goal of the season with 5:28 left in the second period.
The Flyers’ killed off an Andreas Lilja roughing minor that came shortly after Read’s goal to hold on to their two-goal lead as the second period concluded.
Philly’s lead didn’t come without a few scares, as the Flyers gave the Preds four power plays in the first 40 minutes. Despite their lack of discipline, the Flyers limited the Preds to 16 shots and kept them off the scoreboard.
Coming into the third period down by a pair of goals, the Predators came out fierce offensively, as they dictated play for the first half of the third period before they finally beat Bryzgalov.
A Zolnierczyk pass went through the slot and missed everybody before it wrapped around the boards to start an odd-man rush for the Predator. Smith held on to the puck until he was at the bottom of the circles, where he was able to make Bryzgalov drop to his knees before he tossed the puck cross ice to Suter. The defenseman deposited his sixth goal of the season to make it a one-goal game with 11:23 left in regulation.
The Preds kept surging, but had their momentum end abruptly when a Jerred Smithson minor led to Simmonds’ second goal of the night to give Philly a two-goal lead late in the game.
With Smithson in the sin bin for interference, Giroux ripped a shot from the point through traffic. Tipped by Hartnell on the way to the cage, Simmonds stopped the shot with his skate before he spun around to dunk home his 15th goal of the season. His tally put Philly up by two goals with 4:41 left.
Giroux put home the empty-netter to end his 12-game goal drought for his 19th of the season, as the Flyers rolled over the Preds 4-1 for the win.
The Flyers look to extend their point streak to six games on Saturday, when they host the New Jersey Devils for the clubs’ fourth meeting of the season.
Notes: The Flyers have won three straight games against the Predators in Philadelphia…Simmonds recorded 10 shots tonight, which is a career high. His previous career high was seven shots on March 14, 2009 with LAK vs. San Jose. It was his third career two-goal game. The last Flyer to have 10 shots in a game was Jaromir Jagr on Dec. 2 at Anaheim…Read’s goal made this the 13th out of the team’s last 15 games in which a rookie has scored a goal, including 10 of the last 11…Giroux was 11-for-18 (61 percent) in the faceoff circle. He has been 50 percent or better in 10 of his last 11 games…Giroux’s two-point night pulls him within two points of Evgeni Malkin for the league lead in scoring…The Flyers now have a power-play goal in five consecutive games. They are 8-for-20 (40 percent) in that span. The unit is 16-for-66 (24.2percent) in the last 17 games…The Flyers out hit the Predators 30-19 on the night. Schenn led the Flyers with five hits…The Flyers are 20-4-5 when scoring first. The Predators are now 10-15-1 when trailing first…Tonight was the seventh time this season the Flyers entered the third period with a lead while shutting out the opposition. They are 6-0-1 in those games…In his first game back from injury, Rinaldo had an assist in 11:11 TOI…The Flyers improved to 1-1-0 against the Predators, 3-2-0 against the Central Division (DET 0-0-0, NSH 1-1-0, STL 0-1-0, CHI 1-0-0, CBJ 1-0-0), and 9-2-2 against the Western Conference this season…The Flyers improved to 30-14-6. They were 33-12-5 after 50 games last season.