Mark Streit already knew the Flyers were in desperate need of a win.
Then he looked up at the scoreboard and saw that the Columbus Blue Jackets had won their game against the New York Islanders -- meaning they were suddenly tied with the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division standings.
“Sitting on the bench I saw the score, that they won 4-0,” Streit said. “So I’m like, wow, we’ve really got to win today.”
And that’s just what they did Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center, easily handling the floundering Buffalo Sabres, 5-2, to snap their four-game losing streak (see Instant Replay).
The two points the Flyers gained were critical, and not just because they gave them a bit of breathing room over the Blue Jackets (see standings). The Flyers’ victory, their first since March 28, went a long way toward rebuilding their confidence
“I think it really helps,” coach Craig Berube said. “Even though we played well against Boston and St. Louis, we lost the games in a shootout, so it feels like a loss. There was no goals scored against in the St. Louis game, and then we lose the next two. So it was important for the confidence level, just to get guys’ spirits back up.”
The Sabres, to be fair, were the perfect opponent for the slightly distressed Flyers. In last place in the Atlantic Division, and with just 21 wins on the season, they are a far cry from the tougher competition the Flyers have seen so frequently in recent weeks.
But even games against struggling teams are no guarantee. And the Flyers, who had lost to the Boston Bruins just a day earlier, didn’t play a perfect game Sunday night. Early on, in fact, the teams traded time in each other’s zones, with the Flyers finally breaking the scoreless tie at 13:30 of the first period when Matt Read bested goalie Nathan Lieuwen.
“It was one of those games where you had to be a little bit patient and wait,” Streit said. “You don’t want to force it too much and then get scored on. Obviously getting the lead made it way easier and got some weight off our shoulders, and after that I thought we played well and were consistent.”
The game opened up in the Flyers’ favor in the middle period. Zac Rinaldo scored first, and then Brayden Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier followed to give the Flyers a 4-0 lead after 40 minutes (see highlights).
By then, they led 29-11 in shots and had completely taken over the game’s pace.
“I think we just played the first two periods really well,” Read said. “We were playing great defense, not giving up much in the defensive zone. And there was a lot of offense for us, a lot of shots, a couple breaks, a couple bounces, things kind of going our way.
“It’s good to get our confidence up a little bit, but we’ve still got a couple games here to find our full potential.”
The Sabres broke Steve Mason’s shutout in the third period, with goals from Cody Hodgson and Mike Weber. Rinaldo was tossed from the game in the final stanza, as well, for a hit on Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (see video), but the Flyers never lost control of the pace. (Rinaldo, who faces suspension, admitted after the game he regrets the hit.)
In the game’s closing minutes, in fact, Schenn scored his 20th of the season -- adding personal relief to the collective relief no doubt felt by all of his teammates. With just four games remaining in the regular season, the win was exactly what the Flyers needed.
“It was a good response after yesterday’s game, for sure,” Streit said. “A few games to go here, a week, and the standings are really tight. It’s a big win for us.”