By Mary Cunningham
This is what life has come to in the 2015-15 National Hockey League.
The Flyers knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in overtime on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, and now their mettle will be tested tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Flyers try to avoid a seventh consecutive road loss to the Lightning as these Eastern Conference foes square off Thursday night.
Philly (4-3-2) has won three straight and four of five after opening 0-2-2. Jakub Voracek (photo above) notched a pair of assists and Brayden Schenn scored in overtime in Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over Los Angeles, snapping the Kings’ six-game winning streak.
“We feel good,” forward Wayne Simmonds told NHL.com. “Going to keep pushing forward and trying to play good hockey. Over the last week or two we started playing a lot better and we’re going to continue.”
Ray Emery continued his impressive start, stopping 38 shots to earn his fourth consecutive win.
“It helps when the boys are playing like they are,” Emery said. “When things are going well, it’s always a bit easier in there.”
Things haven’t gone very well of late against Tampa Bay, which is 11-2-1 against the Flyers since 2010-11. The Lightning have taken four straight meetings and six in a row at home by a 24-9 margin. Steven Stamkos has 13 goals and 19 points during a 14-game stretch in the series.
The Lightning (6-3-1) have won three of four overall after a 7-3 rout of Arizona on Tuesday. Nikita Kucherov recorded his first hat trick, giving him four goals and three assists over the last three games.
“Right now, he’s mature,” teammate Tyler Johnson said of Kucherov. “He’s gotten to that point where he’s just always in the right position. When you’re in the right position, you’re going to make those plays and he’s doing that for us.”
Brian Boyle added a pair of goals while Johnson racked up a career-high four assists. Johnson, Kucherov and Ondrej Palat have formed a dangerous trio on the second line.
“I talk about this quite a bit about synergy and chemistry on a line, there’s something to be said about that and when guys are feeling where each other should be, some pretty cool things can happen. It’s starting to happen for those guys,” coach Jon Cooper said. “They’ve really given us that boost we’ve needed to take a little pressure off (Steven Stamkos). … They’ve really kind of found a niche with each other.”
Johnson leads the Lightning with 12 points after notching 11 assists during a seven-game point streak. Stamkos has a team-leading six goals despite scoring once in the last five games.
Ben Bishop made 22 saves against the Coyotes, improving to 5-1-1 with a 2.31 goals-against average. He stopped 39 shots in his only appearance versus Philadelphia, a 2-1 road loss with Ottawa on March 2, 2013.
Backup Evgeni Nabokov is 10-4-0 with two ties and a 2.69 GAA against the Flyers, though he hasn’t faced them since 2012-13.
Emery is 0-2-1 with a 3.99 GAA in his last three starts against the Lightning, who are fourth in the league with 3.4 goals per game. Philly isn’t far behind at 3.2.
The Flyers have split four road games, scoring a combined one goal in their losses and 11 in their wins. Tampa Bay has outscored opponents 20-10 in going 3-1-1 at home.