VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers got some swagger back Sunday night.
But especially so on the power play, which entered Sunday's clash just 2 for 19 over the last six games.
Two markers on the man advantage helped the Flyers edge the Canucks, 3-2, at Rogers Arena in Vanvoucer (see Instant Replay).
“It all comes back to finding a way to produce – and they did that tonight,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who had called for his power-play participants to rediscover that swagger.
Hakstol’s club won for the first time in its last nine games in Western Canada. More importantly, the Flyers (28-24-7) moved within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently shared by Florida and Boston, in the Eastern Conference.
Thanks to the power-play success, the Flyers built a 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes and then hung on, atoning for a sub-par effort in a one-sided loss to the Oilers in Edmonton on Thursday night.
The Flyers converted two of three power plays while blanking the Canucks on all four of their man advantages. The loss prevented the Canucks (26-28-6) from getting closer to a Western Conference playoff berth.
“I thought we were playing some pretty good hockey of late, but the pucks weren't going in,” said Flyers center Brayden Schenn, who scored the winning goal on the power play at 2:38 of the second period. “Tonight, we tightened up defensively again from Edmonton's game and were able to score a few more goals. It's a huge two points going home."
Wayne Simmonds, also on the power play, and Jakub Voracek scored the Flyers’ other goals.
“We needed a win,” Simmonds said. “Especially after the game in Edmonton, this is good for the morale."
Shayne Gostisbehere assisted on all three goals, recording the first three-point night of his career.
Schenn’s winning goal came only a minute and 27 seconds after Voracek gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead at 1:11 of the second by sending Sean Couturier’s huge rebound into a gaping net behind Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller. Voracek’s goal was his first in 10 games. He had not scored since Jan. 25 against the New York Rangers.
How did long sought-after goal make him feel?
"Like I scored a goal,” deadpanned Voracek. “We won the game. That’s the way I looked at it. It doesn't matter who scored the goals. Special teams were huge tonight. I liked our power play. We were going all 60 minutes. This one kept us in the race."
The Flyers were a well-rested team thanks to a two-day break between games and a three-day break before the start of the road trip. The Canucks, on the other hand, were playing their second of back-to-back home games with only a day’s rest following a grueling six-game United States road trip. But there was still considerable suspense over the final 30 minutes.
Markus Granlund and Jannik Hansen tallied for the Canucks, who are known as comeback artists, at 3:43 and 12:42 of the second, respectively, before the Flyers shut Vancouver down the rest of the way. Voracek indicated the Flyers were not nervous in the final frame.
"I don't think we changed anything to be honest,” he said. We were pretty tight in the neutral zone. We didn't give them much. When we had a couple of breakdowns, [Michal Neuvirth] was on his act.”
Neuvirth stopped 18 of 20 shots as the Flyers outshot the Canucks, 28-20. He enjoyed a much better start Sunday, holding the Canucks scoreless in the opening period after allowing four goals on his first 12 shots on Thursday in Edmonton. One of his better saves came with just over a minute into the game as he got his toe on Markus Granlund’s dangerous chance from in close.
"I felt good,” said Neuvirth. “I have been practicing well and playing with confidence. The last game, it didn't work out. I put that one behind me and restarted my mind and got back to work tonight.”
“I thought he was excellent,” said Hakstol. “He was calm and settled in there. You can go back through that 60 minutes and you can pick out three or four pretty darned good saves.”
Neuvirth excelled while making his fourth consecutive start and sixth in the past seven games overall.
“It feels good,” he said of the heavy workload. “It feels better when we win.”
But he was not about to get too excited. The Flyers have a tough clash at home Wednesday against NHL-best Washington and a road game Saturday at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field against the rival Penguins as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.
“We have a tough schedule coming and we have to be ready,” Neuvirth said.
All hail the pick swap.
When word got out that the Sacramento Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, Sixers fans on Twitter rejoiced.
On July 10, 2015, the Sixers traded away the rights to Artūras Gudaitis and Luka Mitrović, and, in return, received an unprotected 2019 first round pick, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and the right to swap first-round selections in the 2016 and 2017 drafts.
The Cousins move appears to significantly weaken the Kings, who are 24-33 and just 2.5 games better than the Sixers, so the pick swap looks healthier than ever.
But, for now, enjoy some samplings of Sixers Twitter from after the trade.
Here are some of the best tweets.
LOOK AT GOD pic.twitter.com/nz7zrFXyOm— max (@MaxRappaport) February 20, 2017
RAIN DROP, DROP TOP, GONNA GET MARKELLE FULTZ WITH THE PICK SWAP— shamus (@shamus_clancy) February 20, 2017
Sixers fans looking at that Kings pick-swap after Boogie's departure like... pic.twitter.com/J9lmqdSYyF— Marshall Harris (@mharrisCSN) February 20, 2017
Sixers have 1st round swap rights with SAC and SAC's unprotected 1st round pick in 2019. Sam Hinkie is the gift that keeps on giving.— Joe Dougherty (@jdoc22) February 20, 2017
The Kings won't do this deal in NBA 2K17 pic.twitter.com/ERaK6TzVfq— Bryan Wiedey (@pastapadre) February 20, 2017
guess who has a pick swap with the kings this year..... pic.twitter.com/nvMH8mereQ— mh (@tribecalledquis) February 20, 2017
Pick swap with the Kings and their 2019 unprotected pick... pic.twitter.com/JiS9dvyUp8— Eric Von BroDude (@FINK_BOMB) February 20, 2017