Their goalie made a couple of timely momentum saves.
Their still fairly-new top line had another big game with four points.
And they got secondary scoring once again from a familiar face.
All three things played a role in the Flyers' 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Monday that sent the team into the Christmas break over .500 and secured a hold on a playoff spot as the third-place club in the Metropolitan Division (see Instant Replay).
You can talk at length about how Claude Giroux’s unit now has 28 points in the six games its been together, but you have to first mention that goalie Steve Mason had two critical saves at different times that gave the offense a chance to score.
First, Mason stoned Jason Pominville shorthanded with the Flyers holding a precarious 2-1 lead in the second period. A few minutes later, Giroux made it 3-1.
Then in the third period, the Wild made a hectic push for several minutes with Mikko Koivu charging down the slot to get his stick on a pass and one-time at Mason’s doorstep.
That save prevented what should have been a certain goal. And it gave the Flyers more momentum. Moments later, Simmonds (two goals and an assist) scored an empty netter (see highlights).
“It was definitely a big save,” Mason said of the Koivu shot that drew thundering applause. “If we don’t make that, it becomes a one-goal hockey game and there is probably seven and a half, eight minutes left at that point.
“That could have become an entirely different hockey game, and those are the saves that we need to come up with in order to have success.”
What can you say about the top line that hasn’t already been said? Giroux has a career-high seven-game point streak (12 points), while Voracek has a career high eight-game streak (11 points).
The line came together Dec. 12 against Washington when Michael Raffl replaced Scott Hartnell at left wing.
“We’re finding the back of the net,” Giroux said. “It’s a lot more fun than the start of the year.
“We’ve got chemistry going. We’re controlling the play better. And [Raffl] is playing great for us. He’s moving everywhere and he has a great stick.”
Raffl had a couple of quality chances against the Wild, himself. His speed makes everyone go.
Coach Craig Berube says that’s the key.
“They all bring a different element,” Berube said. “The speed factor with Jake, the hands of Giroux and Raffl just strong on the puck. But they all skate and that is the key. They move their feet well in the offensive zone.”
Raffl is tough as nails on the wall, too, Berube said.
“It's nice to play with those guys,” Raffl said. “It's a challenge every day but I really enjoy it. I'm trying to stay on that line as long as possible.”
The Flyers kept pressing the offense against Minnesota.
“Our best defense is our offense and we keep pressuring them,” Giroux said. “We’ve got four lines going and everyone is playing great.”
Voracek seems just as relaxed as Giroux right now.
“We’re working hard all the time,” he said. “Back in the day when things didn’t go well, we stayed patient, we work real hard, and I think we’re old enough players to know we’ve got to work hard and we should be fine eventually. That’s exactly what happened and I think we’re making a difference in the game, which everybody is expecting from us.”
What has made it a bit easier on them is the contributions from others. Simmonds had two goals against the Wild. His new unit has Hartnell and Brayden Schenn in the middle.
“I think it’s worked great,” Simmonds said of his unit. “Like I said, we all do the same thing, we play north-south, we get bodies in, we grind on the other team's D, and we get the pucks to the point and we crash the net. I think that’s a good recipe and so far it’s been working.”
Right into Christmas.
Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere took a shot off his right hand in the second period Saturday and has a bone bruise.
The Flyers will watch it because sometimes the swelling prevents wearing a glove comfortably the next day.
Ghost, who has five points – all assists – over his past six games, was hit with a puck in the second period of a 4-2 win over the Stars. He went to the bench and tried to shake it off, but left for the dressing room shortly after a Flyers power play began in the period’s final three minutes.
He participated for part of the power play, then left the ice and did not return until the start of the third period.
“It was good by then,” he said. “Obviously, it hurt a bit.”
The Flyers play in Detroit on Sunday night.
Ghost has 16 points (four goals) in 29 games this season. X-rays were negative, he said, adding he was not worried about the hand, which was badly swollen after the game.
A power play hat trick.
Now that is truly something you don’t see every day in hockey.
Brayden Schenn is one of the very few Flyers to ever do it.
“Third [goal] was a lucky play where he [Jakub Voracek] broke a stick,” Schenn said. “Right place at the right time.”
Schenn’s diving third goal at 17:45 gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead and insured their eight-game win streak Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
Only four other Flyers have had power play hat tricks in franchise history:
• Tim Kerr vs. Los Angeles, November 3, 1985
• Tim Kerr vs. Chicago, November 20, 1986
• Brian Propp at Minnesota, October 13, 1988
• Scott Hartnell at NY Islanders, January 19, 2008
Schenn pretty much doubled his offense in one game given he had just four goals coming in, and just one over his previous 13 games.
Think that’s something?
Voracek had his second consecutive four-point game (empty net goal, three assists). The last Flyer to do that was Eric Lindros on Dec. 31, 1997 and Jan. 3, 1998.
Voracek has piled up 15 points during this Flyers streak. He’s got the blazing hot stick on this club right now.
“I don’t think I have necessarily changed my game,” Voracek said. “If I went without a point a couple weeks back, I’m not playing any different now. When you stick with it, work hard, the points eventually are gonna come.”
In this one, the Flyers changed up their power play moving Voracek into the right slot and having Schenn closer to the net on the opposite side.
“Sometimes it is open [the pass] and sometimes it’s not,” Voracek said of how team’s kill penalties. “Schenner had a free stick a couple times. I’m glad it worked.”
Just like other games during this streak, and the season itself, the Flyers had to come from behind.
They trailed 1-0 early and 2-1 in the third period before Schenn scored back-to-back on the No. 2-ranked power play which went 3-for-6 on the day.
“Coming out in the third period, you see determination,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “That’s the word I would use. Just as an overall group, no matter what the situation is. Very tight, close hockey game all the way through.
“Different parts of our game have pushed us over the finish line on different nights. Most of our game was pretty good all the way through and when needed, the PP was the difference tonight.”
There’s a certain amount of confidence right now with the Flyers. Trailing doesn’t scare them. It invigorates them. They know it. They feel it on the bench.
“You have confidence that you’ve done it over and over again, you can do it again,” Voracek said. “It was a big chance to tie the game and we did. Big points for us. We never give up.”
The Flyers came into play two points behind second place Pittsburgh in the Metro Division.
Hakstol says Voracek’s play has been “pretty consistent” all season.
“When you watch him most nights, very consistently without the puck, he is one of the hardest-working players getting back, reloading, getting on top of plays,” Hakstol said.
“Coming out of the offensive zone. When his line has the puck, or the PP unit, he is very confident in making plays.”
The Flyers had just 21 shots in this one, including only five in the second period. Their offense came in bunches.
Dallas had two goals from Devin Shore and led 2-1 at 10:32 of the final period before Schenn took over.
Steve Mason was the starter in net and looked fresher than he did against Edmonton. Mason starting was a surprise given this was the front end of a back-to-back. With Flyers playing in Detroit on Sunday, it seemed the perfect game to play Anthony Stolarz.
Give Mason a day of rest for a more important conference game tomorrow.
Mason asked to play, however, and most coaches won’t say no to a goalie who has now won a career-high seven in a row.
“It was fun to watch from the back end there,” Mason said of the game. “Power play in general and two late goals to get us over the hump.
“It’s fun right now to find different ways to come out on top. The boys aren’t satisfied. We keep pushing forward here.”