By Annie Ross
Maybe Flyers coach Dave Hakstol cracked the code on Jakub Voracek’s offensive problems.
Voracek looked comfortable in his first game at left wing with a goal and two assists to help the Flyers to a 4-3 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes last night at the Wells.
Voracek scored early in the second period and assisted on Shayne Gostisbehere’s goal at 1:42 of overtime.
Sean Couturier had a goal and an assist for the Flyers (13-12-6), Brayden Schenn scored, and goaltender Michal Neuvirth made 29 saves.
Jeff Skinner had a hat trick for the Hurricanes (12-14-5), Phillip Di Giuseppe had two assists, and Eddie Lack made 27 saves.
It was the fourth NHL hat trick for Skinner, who had one last Friday at the Anaheim Ducks. He has nine goals the past six games.
Hakstol shifted Voracek from his natural right wing to the left side on a line with center Sean Couturier and right wing Wayne Simmonds to try to get Voracek some better looks offensively. It paid off 23 seconds into the second period when Voracek got to the front of the net and redirected a point shot by Radko Gudas past Lack.
It was Voracek’s second goal in 31 games, each against the Hurricanes. He has 19 points after his first three-point game of the season.
“I think as a line we had a great game,” said Voracek, who had 38 points through 31 games last season, when he finished tied for fourth in the NHL in scoring with a career-high 81 points. “But it’s just one game. We’ve got to get back to work tomorrow and be good Thursday [against the Vancouver Canucks].”
Although Voracek tried to downplay his big night, his teammates saw a more relaxed player, especially after the goal.
“He probably won’t say it,” Simmonds said. “He’ll just say he wants the team to win. But you can see the relief on his face.”
Voracek set up Couturier’s goal at 16:29 of the second that gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead, and then in overtime he led a 2-on-1 breakout and centered the puck to Gostisbehere, who tipped it past Lack.
The goal was Gostisbehere’s sixth of the season and third in overtime, tying him with Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames for the League lead. He’s the first rookie to have three overtime goals in a season since Andrew Cogliano in 2007-08, the Elias Sports Bureau said.
“Three-on-three is built for him,” Voracek said of Gostisbehere in overtime. “He’s a great skater with a great shot. He’s smart as well, so he knows when to jump in and what to do with the puck when he’s got it. It’s why he is where he is right now and it’s why he’s scoring those goals, because he’s a hell of a player.”
Gostisbehere also scored in overtime Nov. 23 to defeat the Hurricanes.
“[Voracek] was tremendous with the pass,” Gostisbehere said of his goal Tuesday. “He’s one of the best in the NHL for a reason, and I’m going to go back post every time when we have a 2-on-1.”
Gostisbehere has enlivened the Flyers offense. In 15 games since his recall from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League on Nov. 14, the Flyers are averaging 2.40 goals per game; in 16 games before his arrival, they averaged 1.81.
“I think it’s pretty easy to see with him out there,” Simmonds said. “He brings that extra spark. The things he can do with the puck. I think the penchant he has for scoring big goals has been really evident during the time he’s been here.”
Skinner started the scoring 1:56 into the first period, batted in the rebound of a Jordan Staal shot for a power-play goal at 3:37 of the second for a 2-1 lead, and then scored at 9:07 of the third to force overtime.
“His compete is very good,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said of Skinner. “He’s on the puck, he’s taking it to the net, he’s paying the price offensively. He’s been hot for a little while. Even prior to him starting to show up on the score sheet, he was dangerous offensively. We talked about some of the posts that he was hitting on a consistent basis. All of a sudden, instead of the post, now it’s going in for him. Hopefully he can ride that as long as he can.”
It was the Hurricanes’ sixth straight game with at least three goals; they’re 4-1-1 in that span.
“Offensively, I thought we were dangerous,” Peters said. “Think we have to clean up some of our puck management, some of our decisions through the neutral zone and make it a little easier on ourselves. You’re not going to win very often when you give up three and four goals on a consistent basis.”
Carolina went 2-1-1 on a four-game road trip that ended Tuesday, giving them confidence heading into a weekend back-to-back set at home against the Florida Panthers on Friday and at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.
“Obviously, there’s lots of things we can build on,” Peters said. “Lots of guys starting to play better individually. That’s going to build to us playing better collectively.”