SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The last extended road trip of the season ended for the Flyers on Monday night with them picking up a crucial two points on the second-best team in the Pacific Division.
A three-goal outburst saw the Flyers stun the Sharks, 5-2 at SAP Center, giving Craig Berube’s club a 2-1 record (four points) on their three-game, six-day West Coast trip.
It was the Flyers' first victory in Northern California since Nov. 5, 1999, back in the Lindros Era.
Trailing 2-1 when the third period began, the Flyers scored three times on goalie Antti Niemi in 2:45 to chase him for backup Alex Stalock.
The third-period comeback victory was the Flyers' 10th such win this season, establishing a new franchise record.
The Flyers had a very strong second period against Niemi and simply could not find the net, even though they led in shots at intermission, 19-13.
When the third period began, however, they made the most of their chances. First, Matt Read scored off right wing at 1:11 to tie the game at 2-2.
Then rookie Michael Raffl buried a rebound off an Erik Gustafsson point shot to give the Flyers their first lead since the opening period at 2:29.
Sixteen seconds later, Claude Giroux ripped one from the left circle for his 18th goal, making it 4-2. That’s when Sharks coach Todd McLellan yanked Niemi.
San Jose was 26-1-2 when leading after two periods until this game.
Because Columbus defeated Anaheim, 4-2, the Flyers remained fourth in the Metropolitan Division.
Both teams have 62 points, but the Blue Jackets have played one less game (56).
Tyler Kennedy took warmups for San Jose and was expected to play, but missed his third game with a lower-body injury.
San Jose had a nine-game win streak against the Flyers coming into the game.
The Flyers struck it rich early with a power-play goal at 4:23 of the first period. Mark Streit sent a blistering point shot down the center of the ice. It happened so fast, Niemi never flinched a muscle, never saw the shot. Wayne Simmonds was originally credited with a tip, but he went to officials and told them to review it because he didn’t think he touched it. He was right. Streit had gone 12 games without a goal.
Nick Grossmann’s interference call gave the Sharks a power play almost immediately after the Flyers scored. Despite the Flyers’ PK units clearing the puck three times, Matt Nieto blew past Luke Schenn down the line and banged home a hard-timing pass from Tommy Wingels at 7:33 to tie it, 1-1.
Berube talked at the morning skate about San Jose’s speed and it was a factor, too. Nieto came into the game with four goals but scored his second at 12:32 of the first period to give the Sharks their first lead, 2-1. He eluded Grossmann and Braydon Coburn in the slot on an over-commitment, got a pass from Brent Burns, put on two moves and slid it under Steve Mason. No Flyer D-man could handle his quickness. The Flyers' defense is very slow when moving laterally and that’s what the Sharks did to them.
The Flyers had some very good chances in the first period by Scott Hartnell, Giroux and Matt Read but Niemi came up strong with 11 saves. Hartnell had a terrific rebound opportunity late in the second period, but had to rush his shot from a tough angle before Niemi could get back and ended up shooting wide.
Gustafsson wishes he had that one back after blowing an open net in the final five minutes of the second period off the rush from the left circle.
Jakub Voracek’s goal late in the game was his first in eight games. He has 15 goals.
Giroux had his third game with three or more points in his career.
The Flyers were 1 for 2 on the power play. The Sharks were 1 for 5.
Joe Thornton’s assist on Nieto’s second goal was his 550th as a Shark.
Through two periods, the Sharks won 56 percent of the draws.
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen (left foot); Forward Jay Rosehill and defenseman Hal Gill were healthy scratches. Gill has sat 21 consecutive games.
Updated: 7 p.m.
Flyers winger Matt Read will miss approximately a month with an upper-body injury suffered in Sunday's 4-2 win over the Predators when he was checked by Filip Forsberg. Sources tell CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio the injury is an oblique muscle pull in Read's upper torso.
The 30-year-old has six goals and four assists for 10 points through 27 games. Five of those goals came in the Flyers' first five games.
To replace Read's roster spot, the Flyers recalled Taylor Leier and sent Scott Laughton to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. That likely means penalty-kill specialist Boyd Gordon (back), who is eligible to come off long-term injury reserve, will be activated.
Leier, 22, has been playing well with the Phantoms, posting six goals and 14 assists in 22 games (see Future Flyers Report). This is Leier's second stint of the season with the Flyers, albeit his first was short — one game on Oct. 25 in which he was a healthy scratch. He made his NHL debut last season and played six games.
Laughton was a healthy scratch the past five games.
If for some reason Gordon is not activated, the Flyers can call up another forward from Lehigh Valley. Jordan Weal is tied for second in the AHL with 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 20 games, while veteran winger Colin McDonald is an experienced, bottom-six option.
The low point of the Flyers' season thus far came less than a month ago.
On Nov. 11 at Toronto, the Flyers were horrific in a 6-3 loss to a Maple Leafs club they should have beaten handily.
Since then, there has been gradual improvement, some setbacks, yet a calming effect has taken over Dave Hakstol’s Flyers, who are a riding a five-game winning streak in early December.
They've pulled within four points of the Metro Division-leading New York Rangers. And they own the No. 1 wild card in the Eastern Conference.
Indeed, Hakstol’s club has come a long way since the Toronto loss, when the Flyers were sixth in the division and 13th overall in the East.
“You go back to that poor performance up in Toronto, which was about a dozen games ago,” Hakstol said.
“Since that point in time, I think we’ve really taken pride in the consistency of our play and worrying about what we do on a day-to-day basis. It’s real important that we continue to do that.”
This is the best the Flyers have been after 27 games since 2013-14, when they were 12-13-2 with 26 points and within two points of the wild card.
“It’s an absolute dog fight every night and it’s going to continue to be the same dog fight in the standings all the way through,” Hakstol said.
The last time the Flyers won five straight was March 15-22, 2014 under Craig Berube.
There’s been a number of heroes during the five-game streak. Obviously, goalie Steve Mason sits atop those reasons with a 1.71 goals against average, .945 save percentage and four wins over that span.
“His play over the last stretch has been outstanding and he’s been a strong anchor for us,” Hakstol said.
“His confidence kind of goes hand-in-hand with our team’s confidence. They both feed off one another. You can see that throughout our entire game.”
Rookie Anthony Stolarz had the first victory to begin the streak against Calgary.
Mason will start Tuesday against Florida at Wells Fargo Center as the Flyers try to make it six in a row.
Offensively, the Flyers have gotten some significant contributions from others, too.
Jakub Voracek has a goal and six points, while Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux each have five points and a combined six goals.
Brayden Schenn and Chris VandeVelde, often overlooked for his offense because of his focus on the defensive side of the puck, each have four points and a combined three goals.
And don’t overlook a couple of defensemen who have had some moments — Michael Del Zotto and Ivan Provorov have a combined four goals during the streak.
Brandon Manning returned from a concussion on Saturday against Chicago, then had two pivotal plays near the end of Sunday’s game in Nashville by twice clearing the puck with the Preds attacking with six players.
His second clear resulted in VandeVelde’s clinching goal.
Little plays mean a lot during a winning streak and right now, the Flyers are getting them.
Matt Read suffered an oblique muscle pull, sources said, early in the game after being checked into the net by the Predators' Filip Forsberg during Sunday’s victory in Nashville.
The 30-year-old is out approximately a month (see story).