The Philadelphia Flyers extended their home winning streak to nine games tonight, as they beat a shorthanded Minnesota Wild club by the score of 4-1. Wayne Simmonds had two goals and an assist in the win, while Jakub Voracek produced two assists and Claude Giroux had a goal and an assist for the Orange and Black. Only Mikael Granlund beat Steve Mason in the win, as the Flyers’ netminder denied 26 shots. Scott Hartnell also notched his 500th career point in the NHL.
The visitors were without the services of Josh Harding, Clayton Stoner, and Zach Parise, but they still managed to keep the game respectable. So far this season in these situations, where they have faced a backup or third-string goalie or take on a squad with key injuries, the Flyers have come out flat and underperformed. Tonight, however, the Orange and Black jumped on the opposition early and took care of business.
All three lines played well in all three zones of the ice and the defensemen played sound on both offense and defense, as Mason made tonight’s win look rather easy. Highlighted with a huge cross-crease stop to deny a Mikko Koivu one-timer bid and keep it a two-goal contest late, Mason provided another strong performance.
The line of Simmonds, Hartnell, and Brayden Schenn looked good for a few periods nearly a week ago, but they were considered to be the weakest of the top three lines for Philly over the last few days. Thanks to a point-producing effort from Simmonds, it’s easy to understand now how this line functions; it won’t be pretty, but hard work in the corners and in front of the net will lead to good things. Although Simmonds scored on the power play and potted the empty-net tally to ice the score, it should be noted this line still produced a nice effort.
As for the defense, Luke Schenn may have put forth his best game of the season. Not only did he score, he seemed more confident with the puck, as he utilized his fake shot which was impactful last season, and had five hits on the night, some of which were monstrous.
Along with Schenn’s display, the rest of the blue liners each had great games, including Andrej Meszaros. Filling in for Erik Gustafsson, Meszaros was plus-2 with five hits and a blocked shot in 16:07 time on the ice. Braydon Coburn set up Giroux’s goal and Nicklas Grossmann’s impact on the team was evident tonight, as Mason dealt with less traffic in front than Ray Emery did on Saturday when the defenseman was out with the flu.
The older Schenn opened the scoring early for Philadelphia, as he potted his second of the year just 1:52 into the contest. After Hartnell received a pass from Simmonds, the former Nashville Predator worked his way around the boards to Niklas Backstrom’s left before attempting to circle out in front and stuff the puck. Although Hartnell had his bid denied, the older Schenn promptly pinched from the point and blasted one by Backstrom’s blocker to give the Flyers a lead on the team’s first shot of the game.
Almost exactly nine minutes later, Simmonds registered his second point of the night, as he finished a beautiful passing play to extend the lead to two.
Just 10 seconds after Giroux drew an interference minor out of Marco Scandella he possessed the puck along the side boards to Backstrom’s right. The captain tossed it cross ice to Voracek, who quickly found Simmonds at the far post. Simmonds slammed home his ninth goal of the year, as Backstrom didn’t stand a chance on the play.
In a period where they dominated puck possession and the shot count, the Wild managed to cut their deficit to one goal before the end of the opening frame.
With both Schenn and Coburn taking minors 20 seconds apart, Minnesota had 1:40 of a 5-on-3 to work with. They needed 1:31 of it before Jason Pominville set up Granlund for a one-timer that easily beat Mason’s blocker.
In the second period, the Orange and Black killed off a roughing minor to Simmonds that stemmed from a scrum at the end of the opening stanza and then extended their lead to two goals.
Voracek dealt the puck from along the side boards to Backstrom’s left to Coburn at the point, who released a shot that looked to be going wide right until Giroux redirected it into the cage for his 10th goal of the 2013-2014 campaign.
Play started to swing Philly’s way before the start of the third period, as the Flyers erased their shot differential from the end of the first frame and entered the final period tied with the Wild with 19 shots on goal.
Philadelphia will now have a four-day break before they start a six-game road trip in Edmonton against the Oilers.
Notes: The Flyers have won nine straight home games for the first time since October and November of 2005…Simmonds has put up back-to-back multi-point games for the first time since Games 3 and 4 of the Flyers’ ECSF against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012…With tonight’s performance, Simmonds recorded back-to-back multi-goal performances for the first time in his career…Tonight was Simmonds’ first three-point night of the year and his first game with three points or more since April 20th, where he had a hat trick and an assist…Giroux extended his point streak to seven games with a goal and an assist tonight. He has five goals and eight assists during the point streak…Voracek extended his point streak to eight games. He has six goals and seven assists during his point streak…Simmonds now has a four-game point streak. He has five goals and two assists during the streak…The Wild now have 12 goals in their last nine games…The Flyers improved to 1-1-0 against the Minnesota Wild this season. They are now 4-6-1 against the Western Conference and 3-3-1 against the Central Division…The Flyers are now 17-16-4. They were 17-17-3 after 37 games last season.