Sestito scores twice to lift Flyers over Lightning

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Sestito scores twice to lift Flyers over Lightning

BOX SCORE

Tom Sestito had played all of 31 NHL games in his career. He had never scored a goal in 18 games as a Flyer and hadn’t hit the back of the net in more than two years.

But after Tuesday’s 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, in which he scored both Flyer goals, Sestito joked that maybe he ought to ask coach Peter Laviolette about taking on some time on the team’s first line.

“Should have got the hat trick, though,” a smiling Sestito said. “I think one more shift.”

In a way, Sestito was emblematic of the Flyers’ effort against the Lightning, a notoriously dangerous team that has given the orange and black trouble in recent seasons. Instead of falling back on their heels, as they did just over a week ago in Tampa, the Flyers played a complete game, making every shift in every zone count.

Or, as Max Talbot put it: “Everybody contributed.” Even the on-again, off-again healthy scratch Sestito.

“Tonight, everybody really played a solid game,” Talbot said. “We played great defense, and by ‘playing great defense’ I don’t mean only in our defensive zone, I mean in all three zones. There was good gaps, good checks, good backchecks from our forwards.”

There were early chances by both sides and equally sharp responses by the two netminders. Few sharper, arguably, than Ilya Bryzgalov’s first-period stop on Lightning center Steven Stamkos.

The Wells Fargo Center was at its loudest, though, when Zac Rinaldo took on Tampa Bay’s B.J. Crombeen. It didn’t take long for the underdog Rinaldo -- three inches and 40 pounds lighter than Crombeen -- to knock the Lightning winger unconscious.

That contest must have inspired horror flick director Rob Zombie, in the building to observe Flyers fans in their natural habitat. Zombie is working on a film influenced by the Broad Street Bullies.

“It gave us a huge bolt of energy that came through the building and the fans and players, teammates, coaches -- everybody,” Laviolette said. “It was one of those ones that really can pick up a game, pick up a building.”

Sestito, who broke the scoreless tie at 4:25 of the second period, had scored all of two goals in his entire NHL career spanning back to 2007-08. He shocked the sellout crowd when he showed some skill in beating Lindback for his first goal, but he surprised his coaches and teammates when, with the same exact move in the third period, he beat Anders Lindback for a second time to give the Flyers the lead they would need to win.

“I think he was [surprised], too, by the look on his face,” Danny Briere said. “It’s good to see. It’s good to see different guys stepping up and being a part of it. It hasn’t been easy since the start for Tom, but finally having the chance to get in the lineup and scoring two big goals like that.”

Sestito, who has worked on that particular backhand-forehand move in practice, said he’ll keep attempting it in games “’til it stops working.”

Bryzgalov, once again, put in a stellar performance. He held the Lightning scoreless for almost 50 minutes, coming up big more than a few times and remaining calm and composed as he did so. It was only just after he was shook up when Tampa Bay center Cory Conacher collided with him that he gave up the lone Lightning goal to Benoit Puliot.

But thanks to Bryz -- and the defense in front of him -- that was all the Flyers allowed. And thanks to Sestito, the Flyers were able to answer back.

“It’s great that Tom chipped in like that,” Laviolette said. “He’s a big body that goes up and down the wing. He does a lot for our club. For him to get the two goals tonight, it’s got to make him feel good and make us feel good, as well.”

The Flyers weren’t able to capitalize on either of their power-play chances, but they kept the Lightning silent on all four of their opportunities, arguably the larger task. Stifling the Bolts in both the neutral zone and their defensive zone was something the team had practiced ahead of Tueday’s game, and clearly, that work paid off.

“They’re a dangerous group out there,” Laviolette said. “I thought our guys took time and space, the defensemen did an excellent job of sticks on pucks and eliminating gaps. We did a real good job of reloading coming back to our end, we blocked a lot of shots tonight and cleaned out the front of the net.

“There was still a lot of quality chances, there’s a talented group on the other side. When we needed it, Bryz was outstanding.”

Flyers regroup behind Steve Mason for big win over Wild

Flyers regroup behind Steve Mason for big win over Wild

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When Zach Parise scored for the Minnesota Wild just 2:07 into Thursday's game, the Flyers were in another difficult position on the road.

This time, they responded with the type of game they've needed on the road all season.

The Flyers scored three unanswered goals by Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek to beat Minnesota, 3-1, and snap a four-game losing streak on the road (see Instant Replay).

"They're a tough team to handle in their transition," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Parise's goal. "It's quick and it's fast. The players on the bench were outstanding, talking, real calm. Just go out and push it the other way the next shift and I thought we were able to do that."

The Flyers responded with one of their best efforts on the road in nearly two months and pulled within six points of Boston for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference (see standings). The Bruins lost, 6-3, at home to Tampa Bay.

Steve Mason made 24 saves in goal for his 100th win with the Flyers as the team was rarely challenged thanks to an all-around performance that has been missing on the road. The Flyers entered the night tied for the second-fewest road wins in the conference this season.

"Certain things on the road, you've got to be a little more specific with your game and detailed, and I think we did a better job of that tonight," said Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz, who returned to the arena where he played 10 seasons with Minnesota. "Everybody throughout the lineup did that and that's why we got a big win."

The beginning looked all too familiar, though.

An innocent looking dump-in slid to Mason, who tried to cover the puck. The puck went off his stick and Parise quickly poked it past Mason. The Wild had four quality chances early before the Flyers took control.

"They came hard early on in the game and to be able to match that speed; that was a completely different pace of game compared to what we came from in Winnipeg," Mason said. "So, it almost took a second to get your bearings straight to get up to speed."

The Flyers weathered the early flurry by Minnesota, which is safely in playoff position in the West but is facing its own late-season issues. The Flyers killed off both Wild penalties, allowing just two shots on the penalty kill.

Couturier's 12th goal of the season was critical in tying the game with 2:01 left in the first (see feature highlight).

"Coming into the room after the period, I think it's important when you get a big goal like that," captain Claude Giroux said. "You feel like you have the momentum a little bit, so it definitely helped us a lot."

Read provided the lead in the second and the Flyers, who are now 15-2-2 when leading after two periods, pressured in the third. They outshot the Wild, 9-4, in the final period.

"We didn't sit back," Hakstol said. "I thought we were confident with the puck and made some plays and spent a good amount of time in the offensive zone. We played with real confidence in our game."

Mason had been critical after the Flyers lost in Winnipeg on Tuesday, saying the team needed to be more desperate. The Flyers responded Thursday in the difficult position of being on the road and allowing the first goal.

"We knew we had to be better," Schultz said of Mason's comments. "I think on the road, you've got to be at least a .500 team and take care of business at home, and we haven't done that this year. So, obviously, we've got to get better and I think we did respond tonight. Now we have to build on it."

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Wild 1

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Wild 1

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A much-needed win for the Flyers came in an unlikely spot: on the road against one of the Western Conference's top teams.

Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek scored for the Flyers, and Steve Mason made 24 saves in a 3-1 win over the Wild on Thursday. It snapped a four-game winless streak on the road and kept the Flyers' playoff hopes alive.

Mason allowed an early goal to Zach Parise but recovered, and Couturier tied the game in the first. The Flyers responded as a whole and Read scored for the second time in an as many games, while Voracek had his first goal in 11 games with his 18th of the season.

Goalie report
Playing for the 11th time in 12 games, Mason was a little shaky at the start after not covering the puck twice and then coming far out of the cage, leading to a wraparound opportunity for Minnesota. But after Parise's goal -- one of the times Mason thought he had the puck covered -- the netminder was very steady. He didn't get out of position and allowed less than two goals for the fourth time in 12 games.

The victory marked Mason's 100th in a Flyers uniform. He is third in franchise history behind Ron Hextall (240) and Bernie Parent (232).

Faceoffs
The Flyers were dominant in the faceoff circle on Thursday, winning 61 percent of the draws.

Power play
The Flyers didn't take advantage of their one opportunity in the game as defenseman Ivan Provorov was called for a hooking penalty halfway through their lone power play. The Flyers are now 3 for 40 on the power play over the past 12 games.
 
Penalty kill
The penalty kill had one of its better performances in recent games. The Flyers killed off both penalties and allowed just two Minnesota shots in the three minutes of penalty time. Entering the game, the Flyers had allowed 10 goals in 28 occasions on the penalty kill in the previous nine games.

A small move
With the win, the Flyers were able to pull closer to the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston lost, 6-3, at home to Tampa Bay, allowing the Flyers to close within six points with nine games left. The Bruins have only eight games remaining. Two of the teams between Boston and the Flyers -- the Lightning and Hurricanes -- did win Thursday, while the Islanders were idle (see wild-card standings).

Lines change
Looking for a spark, three of the four lines were changed for Thursday's game. Claude Giroux centered Read and Voracek. Valtteri Filppula was between Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde. Coach Dave Hakstol kept the line of Brayden Schenn, Couturier and Dale Weise together.

Blue line return
Defenseman Brandon Manning made his return after missing five games with a shoulder injury.
 
Scratches
Forwards Nick Cousins (upper body) and Roman Lyubimov (healthy), and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (healthy).
 
Up next
The third game of the four-game road trip is Saturday at Columbus. The Flyers are 0-1-1 against the Blue Jackets this season, including a 5-3 loss at home on March 13.