By Mary Cunningham
Tonight is a showdown of sorts for the Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens.
Just two points separate them in the Eastern Conference standings, though the Flyers (25-21-10) hold two games in hand in addition to a slim lead.
The Flyers seem ready to make a postseason push after breaking out of an offensive funk in Tuesday’s 6-3 win at New Jersey, one of several teams they’re chasing. After totaling two goals in weekend losses to the Devils and New York Rangers, they scored four times in the third period to break a 2-all tie.
“We’re not satisfied until we’re in the playoffs,” said forward Wayne Simmonds, who scored the go-ahead goal with 7:38 left and added an assist. “We’ve got a lot more work to do. This is a step forward. We just have to build on it and continue to push forward.”
With the trade deadline approaching, Montreal (27-27-4) appears closer to sell mode as it continues its free fall. Atop the NHL in points after the season’s first two months, the Canadiens have gone a league-worst 8-23-1 since Dec. 3 while failing to overcome reigning Hart Trophy winner Carey Price’s likely season-ending knee injury.
The Canadiens looked to have reversed their fortunes with three consecutive home wins from Feb. 6-9, but then allowed 15 goals over an 0-3-0 trip that concluded with Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Colorado.
Montreal held a 2-1 lead in the second period before yielding two goals to Jarome Iginla, the last coming with 2:03 remaining in the game.
“There were a lot of broken plays in the third, but there were some encouraging things in the second period. I think we can build on this,” center Lars Eller said. “Hopefully we can build some more chemistry together back home. I think it was a step in the right direction for us as a team compared to last game in Phoenix (a 6-2 loss), for sure.”
Current No. 1 goaltender Ben Scrivens did make 25 saves in an improvement from his previous outing, when he permitted three goals on eight shots before being removed early in the second period of last Friday’s 6-4 loss to Buffalo.
The Flyers have lost three straight in Montreal but own two home victories over the Canadiens this season, including a 4-2 win on Feb. 2 behind Simmons’ two goals and Steve Mason’s 30 saves.
Simmonds has nine goals in his last 11 and Brayden Schenn, who posted a goal and two assists Tuesday, has seven over a 12-game stretch.
Shayne Gostisbehere also registered a goal Tuesday to extend his point streak to 13 games, the longest by a rookie defenseman in NHL history. The 22-year-old has 16 points over the run.
Gostisbehere had a goal and assist and Schenn recorded three points in Philly’s 4-3 win over Montreal on Jan. 5.