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Flyers at Predators recap: Power play arrives, top line makes the difference in fifth straight win

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Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl were the heroes tonight, and the Flyers held on late for a fifth straight win to sweep their weekend back-to-back.

John Russell / Getty Images

Since not everything can ever be going well at the same time for us as Flyers fans, there’s been at least one point of consternation among a number of fans and observers during the four-game win streak that they brought into Sunday night’s contest in Nashville. That was the power play, which entered tonight 2 for 18 in these past four wins and, going back a bit further, 4 for its last 34 dating back to mid-November.

Now, a more optimistic fanbase than ours would maybe point out that the Flyers winning games while getting little production from their man advantage is actually a good thing, since they’re finding ways to win in spite of that lack of production. And it’s true — the Flyers have been winning games lately largely due to their much-improved overall play at 5-on-5, as well as their goaltending.

Still, the power play has been a hallmark of this team in recent years, and it’s been tough for the Flyers to string together a lot of goals without any help from their man-advantage.

So tonight, a night on which the Flyers probably weren’t the better team at even strength, was as good of a night as any for that mini-slump of sorts to break. And, as it turns out, that’s exactly what happened!

Goals in the first and second period by Wayne Simmonds on the power play both gave the Flyers a lead, before Michael Raffl’s even-strength goal late in the second period would ultimately be the decider in a 4-2 win that was the orange and black’s fifth straight. The Flyers now have more wins than losses for the first time since the opening night of their season, and after sitting 14th in the East in points percentage just eight days ago, the Flyers have almost completely made up the ground they lost with their early-season woes.

While the man-advantage wasn’t perfect tonight — a four-minute power play in the third would come and go without a goal scored, which didn’t help as Nashville started to push back shortly thereafter — and while it wasn’t the only reason the Flyers would win this game, it was certainly towards the top of the list. Both goals were Wayne Simmonds classics — a deflection of a Voracek shot and a rebound goal in front off of a Giroux pass that was tipped to the netfront. Simmonds’ ability down low is the biggest reason why the Flyers are never that far away from breaking out of a slump on the power play, and we saw that in action tonight.

The highlight of the night, though, was probably Michael Raffl’s goal that would go down as the game-winner, as he took a pass from Andrew MacDonald along the boards and simply powered his way past Mattias Ekholm before switching to his forehand and slamming the puck past Jusse Saros. The top line has looked much-improved during this win streak, and plays like that from Raffl should mean that he’ll get some more time up in that spot.

Steve Mason continued his strong play of this past week, stopping 30 of 32 Nashville shots, including all 12 he’d face in the third period. That was crucial, as the Flyers were clearly running on fumes in that final period, for a number of possible reasons (fatigue due to being at the tail end of a back-to-back, desperation from a Nashville team that was down by just one goal, a forward group that was short a man due to a first-period injury suffered by Matt Read).

Read’s injury does cast a bit of a dark cloud over this one, as the bottom-6 has played well lately and his play is a big part of that, and he looked to be in a fair amount of pain following a cross-check to the upper-body area. But otherwise, not a ton to complain about tonight. This dreaded seven-games-in-11-days stretch the Flyers are currently on has started with a 3-0 record. Can’t ask for much more.

Florida on Tuesday. Go Flyers. Here are your highlights.