By Jack Ryan
The Flyers are beginning to look like a legitimate playoffs contender.
Not a flash in the pan.
Not after last night’s 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins.
Wayne Simmonds (above left with Jake Voracek) and Mark Streit scored goals 1:22 apart in the third period, and the Flyers rallied for victory against the Bruins at the Wells.
Voracek had a goal and two assists, and Claude Giroux had three assists for the Flyers (19-15-7), who won their fourth straight game. Steve Mason made 30 saves.
Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz played in his 1,000th NHL regular-season game. He’s the 301st player in league history to reach that milestone.
Loui Eriksson and Kevan Miller scored for the Bruins (21-16-5). Tuukka Rask made 18 saves.
Forward David Pastrnak did not play because of an upper-body injury. The Bruins said he is day-to-day.
The Flyers trailed 2-1 entering the third period but turned the game around midway through the period.
It was a comeback the players weren’t sure they could have pulled off earlier in the season.
“Possibly two or three months ago, this game maybe would have ended on a different note,” Streit said. “I think we’ve improved a lot in the last little while. We just keep playing. We don’t lose faith. We keep working hard, we stick with the game plan and it pays off eventually.”
Streit helped make it pay off with the game-winning goal at 11:32 of the third. He knocked in his own rebound of a Voracek centering pass for his fifth goal of the season but first since Oct. 30. Streit missed six weeks following Nov. 17 surgery to repair a detached pubic plate.
“[Voracek] passed it back to me, caught me a little off guard,” Streit said. “I thought it was for [Giroux]; he was right in front of me. I got it with not a really good shot, it got blocked. But I kept going, and all of a sudden it was back on my tape and I tried to get it on net, and it went in.”
The goal came after Simmonds tied it 2-2 at 10:10. Giroux chipped a puck out of the Flyers end to Voracek, who broke out on a 2-on-1 rush with Simmonds. Rask stopped Simmonds’ initial shot from the right side, but he knocked in the rebound for his 11th goal.
The assist gave Voracek 400 points in his NHL career.
Philly’s top line of Giroux, Simmonds and Voracek combined for two goals and five assists Wednesday; they had one goal and two assists in their first three games after first-year coach Dave Hakstol put them together Jan. 5 against theMontreal Canadiens.
“I think we were getting some good opportunities, but we just weren’t putting pucks in the net the last two, three games,” Simmonds said. “Tonight felt good. Felt like a weight was listed off our shoulders.”
That confidence is prevalent throughout the Philadelphia locker room. It’s taken half the season, but the players feel they have a firm grasp of the way Hakstol wants them to play.
“Everything is becoming second nature to us,” Simmonds said. “The systems — offensive, neutral zone, defensive zone — we’re just going out there and we’re not thinking too much; we’re just playing hockey. It’s good. It’s working well and we’re having success doing it.”
While the Flyers’ confidence is soaring, the Bruins’ is sinking. The loss was their third straight (0-2-1) and seventh in their past 10 (2-7-1).
“You’ve got to be finding some positives in the games,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “At the same time, you have to be honest and you have to correct the mistakes that we repeatedly do.”
Offense has been the main problem for the Bruins. It was the eighth time in the past 11 games they have scored two goals or fewer; they’re 3-7-1 in that span.
“We need to start burying some chances,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We’re looking at every little mistake as a big mistake, and if you’re burying chances, those mistakes can sometimes be overlooked. … I think with the chances that we had, we should have scored more than just two goals.”
The Flyers led 1-0 after Voracek’s goal late in the first period, but the Miller’s goal at 8:38 of the second tied the game, and Eriksson’s power-play goal at 16:26 of the second gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
Since 2010-11, the Bruins were 158-12-12 when leading after two periods, including 14-3-1 this season.
“I thought in the second period we had some really good chances,” Eriksson said. “It felt like we got the momentum a little bit. It’s too bad; a couple mistakes and it ended up not being OK. It’s a tough one. … I think we’ve been playing pretty good, but we just find a way to lose games right now, and that can’t happen in the situation we are in right now.”
They don’t have time to dwell on the loss with upcoming games Friday at the Buffalo Sabres and Saturday at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Flyers, who are two points behind the Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, next play Saturday against the New York Rangers.
“At this time of year, before the All-Star break, you want to be in position to make a little push, and right now we’re just playing the right way and looking at the small picture,” Giroux said. “Next game is the Rangers. Let’s focus on them and nothing else.”