They’ll admit it was choppy, sloppy hockey much of the night.
They didn’t bring their “A” game. Or “B” for that matter.
What the Flyers did have, however, was the confidence of a winning streak. And a hot goaltender in Steve Mason.
That was all they needed to nudge the injury-riddled Florida Panthers, 3-2, in overtime at Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
That’s six wins in succession for the Flyers, who moved to within two points of the Metro Division-leading New York Rangers. This equals the Flyers’ longest winning streak in five seasons, going back to Dec. 2011.
“That part of it, but the biggest thing was the saves we got,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “No doubt about that throughout the game. One of those nights where Mase was our best player.”
Mason had 42 saves, including a gamer-saver on Aaron Ekbald in overtime.
Meanwhile, Wayne Simmonds continued his personal tear with another two-goal effort to give him 15 on the season. One of the goals came on the power play as Simmonds now leads the NHL with eight power-play goals and 14 power-play points.
“I’m playing with great linemates and trying to give pucks up and get to the net,” Simmonds said. “It’s not all on me. It has a lot to do with my teammates.”
During the Flyers’ winning streak, Simmonds has seven points (five goals) as does Jakub Voracek, who nailed the game-winner with 8.6 second left in OT.
“Sometimes, it’s important for us if we don’t necessarily play great hockey to win the game or get at least a point,” Voracek said. “That’s how you make to the playoffs. Mase was outstanding with a lot of big saves. And we scored when we needed [to].”
Voracek notched the winner off a broken play from Claude Giroux.
“I was tired,” Voracek said. “It was a long hockey game. Three in four [nights]. I lost the puck, G made the turnover happen and I knew if I turned around and shot it quick he (goalie James Reimer) wouldn’t be able to get down.”
You’d never know this was a tired Panthers squad finishing up a six-game road trip given the way it out-skated and out-hustled the Flyers throughout the night.
“I think Florida played a great game. They played an outstanding game and they might have deserved better, but so many times this year we played teams and lost a game,” Voracek said. “So, it’s kind of good to get out of it [with a win].”
Florida out-shot the Flyers 14-3 at one point in the first period and led 1-0 lead on Aleksander Barkov’s third goal in four games. He had a sweet give-and-go with the puck with Mark Pysyk across the high slot.
With less than three minutes remaining in the period, Reimer looked like a shortstop muffing a ground ball hop as he fanned on Simmonds’ shot from 45 feet to tie the game. That was Simmonds’ first goal of the evening.
“I think the puck hit the top of their defenseman’s stick,” Simmonds said. “It was a lucky goal.”
Reimer made up for it during the second period with a sensational glove stab of Michael Raffl’s tip that was headed under the crossbar.
Yet he couldn’t do anything to stop Simmonds’ tip of Giroux’s shot from the high slot during a second-period power play.
Florida was energized for the third period while the Flyers tried to sit on that 2-1 lead. Mason stood on his head as he faced 17 shots.
“We have to change our mindset,” Simmonds said. “That’s the first time we’ve done that in a while.”
Mason had an incredible stop on Jussi Jokinen, but Jokinen got the tying goal nonetheless with 4:48 left in regulation to force overtime.
“It was a game where you had to come up with big saves,” Mason said. “Good game to come out with two points, but we all understand we have to be better.”
Speaking of better, rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov, evoking memories of Chris Therien, did a number on Jaromir Jagr to hold the all-time great without a point.
Also, that’s five games now the Flyers haven’t allowed more than two goals. Don’t think that isn’t huge in their surge in the standings, as well as climbing out of their team goals-against hole.
“That’s unbelievable for us,” Simmonds said. “At the beginning of the year, to say we’d have five straight without giving up more than two would be a stretch.
“We’ve locked it down defensively and Mase has played unbelievable. We’ve been pretty good as five-man units.”