One trademark the Flyers usually can rely upon to produce positive results, is skating combined with physical play.
When they do both, like they did Sunday night against the Buffalo Sabres at Wells Fargo Center, the results speak for themselves.
In this case, a 3-2 victory that produced a vital two points for a desperate Flyers club, following the disastrous previous five days in which they lost three straight to top Eastern Conference contenders.
“It’s do or die, pretty much,” goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said.
Peter Laviolette’s club has a very l-o-n-g road to climb after this past week if the playoffs are to become a reality.
“I think guys know exactly where they are at. We can’t continue to take on losses, not at this point,” Laviolette said. “You have to win hockey games if we want to put ourselves in a position in the last month to qualify for playoffs.
“We talked about the month of March and we still have to battle for it. We need to try and have a decent record through this month, getting through tonight and now we are presented with the Devils coming up this week and it’s a great spot, they’re right in front of us and it’s a good opponent for us.”
The third period was a bit hairy, but the Flyers didn’t disappear like they did in Boston on Saturday.
“The last 10 minutes was exceptionally-tight hockey,” Scott Hartnell said. “We didn’t give too much. The two lines, we were rolling at the end, were blocking shots, getting pucks out, diving in front of shots. It was great to see and great to get two points.”
They played physical -- Zac Rinaldo had five hits -- and it carried over into Flyer hockey.
“Yeah for sure,” Max Talbot said. “We talked about coming out here tonight and actually playing with an edge.
“We’re finishing our checks a bit more; we’re a dangerous team when we skate, play physical and have two guys on the forecheck. I think we did all that better tonight.”
Talbot scored the Flyers’ first shorthanded goal of the season. They had six last season.
“Specialty teams are such an important part of the game,” he said. “When you go on a PK, it is about killing the penalty first but when you get the chance and put it in the net it definitely gives the team a boost.”
Bryzgalov (18 saves) had a 3-1 cushion going into the third period. The Flyers were on the power play, but were so lethargic they couldn’t get the puck in the zone.
It was costly, too, because on their next power play, Giroux turned it over at the point and Jochen Hecht made it a one-goal game with a shorthanded goal at 4:32.
The good news is, the Flyers quickly tightened up. A minute later, Brayden Schenn cleared a puck across the goal line off Cody Hodgson’s stick that had gotten behind Bryzgalov, which would have tied the game.
“I just remember it was just two-on-two, from the red line in. They shot it, it must have deflected and I actually thought [Bryzgalov] made the save originally,” Schenn said.
“I saw it squeak through. I don’t know how close it was, I haven’t seen the replay yet. But it’s always good to help the goalie out.”
Players spoke last week about not helping each other enough. They did that in this one and the common bond was the physicality among them.
“It just puts us on the puck,” Schenn said. “[Rinaldo] is always physical. He had a good opening shift and just got the team involved. When guys are hitting it get us on the puck and creates offense for us.”
Indeed, the Flyers had four quality chances on goalie Ryan Miller right away and outshooting Buffalo 12-4 in the first period.
Had the Flyers shown that kind of determination against the Rangers and Boston, they might have gotten some points. They had it early against Pittsburgh, then lost it.
“We did a lot of good things,” Laviolette said. “We were smarter with the puck. We were physical.
“Established an offensive game right away. Just more determination going towards their net. That includes physical play and people on pucks.”
Simon Gagne broke the Flyers streak of 104 minutes, 39 seconds without a goal at 4:31 of the period, taking a terrific stretch pass from Kimmo Timonen up center and ripping a shot that squeezed through the pads.
Getting the first goal did wonders for the Flyers’ psyche.
“Not that you're nervous about the start, but now the last two games, especially the one in Boston, they got the lead pretty early in the game,” Gagne said.
“We know that the start in Boston was not the way you want to start a game, so getting that first one can help us to -- I don't want to say be more comfortable, because you can't not be comfortable out there.
“Play more and more your style, more relaxed out there, and not nervous with the puck. That seemed to help us get that first one and get rolling after that.”
Four minutes later, Talbot, who is having trouble scoring even strength, tallied just his second goal of the season on a Flyer penalty kill.
Sabres forward Steve Ott threw a pass across the blue line to no one. Ruslan Fedotenko intercepted and went 2-on-1 up ice with Talbot, who measured a high shot over Miller for a 2-0 lead at 8:47.
“I saw Feds kind of having a little bit of time on the wings so I just figured I would burst through their hole and Feds did a great play of giving me the puck,” Talbot said.
It took Buffalo almost 12 minutes to get a shot and when the Sabres did, they turned it into a goal, partially because the Flyers had just four skaters on the ice -- yet another bad line change. Brian Flynn’s shot beat Bryzgalov.
Naturally, there was some controversy that period on Wayne Simmonds’ board check of Tyler Ennis, who turned his head into the boards as Simmonds was hitting him. Under the rules, that’s a clean hit.
The hit ignited a fight between Simmonds and Sabres defenseman Mike Weber, who lost in rather dramatic fashion. Again, physical, inspired play.
When Gagne scored, no Sabre was within a zip code of him.
Later, on a carry-over power play in the second period, Giroux skated the puck nearly 60 feet without a single Sabre moving toward him to make it 3-1 at 17 seconds.
“We had fun today,” Giroux said. “That’s a step forward. We needed those two points tonight and we obviously have a big test in front of us so we need to make sure we’re pretty sharp going forward.”
Bryzgalov didn’t face a lot of difficult shots, but he had a quality save on Hodson from point-blank range in the period’s final two minutes.
“Big save! Big save!” Bryzgalov smiled.
Big win, too.