The Philadelphia Flyers may have played their best all-around hockey of the season in the month of March, but the team's usually-potent top power play unit was more a passenger than a true driver of the newfound success.
If today's performance is any indication, the PP1 is figuring things out at exactly the right time.
The Flyers scored all three of their goals via the man advantage, with Wayne Simmonds leading the way with two and Sean Couturier adding a tally of his own. The power play barrage was just enough to hold off a game Ottawa Senators squad, as Philadelphia came away with a 3-2 victory. Steve Mason made 33 saves, while Senators goalie Andrew Hammond stopped 33 as well despite receiving the loss.
With the win, the Flyers retook exclusive possession of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, moving two points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings while still holding a game in hand. They also climbed to within two points of the New York Islanders for the top wild card spot.
For the first six minutes of the game, the Senators appeared to be the desperate team in the thick of a playoff race while Philadelphia had the look of a squad with little to play for. The Flyers struggled to protect pucks in their own zone and get pucks deep while on the attack, as Ottawa raced out to a 5-0 shots on goal advantage.
Even an early power play opportunity for the Flyers due to a too-many-men penalty failed to get them going. But after a stabilizing shift from the Sean Couturier line at around the 12:00 mark of the period, Philadelphia started to find their legs. They outshot Ottawa 6-4 in the final ten minutes, and looked to be on the right track despite hitting the locker room deadlocked at 0-0.
The score wouldn't stay tied for long. After Alex Chiasson took a high-sticking penalty just 51 seconds into the second period, Wayne Simmonds made him pay. Following a Senators turnover, Jakub Voracek wristed a shot at Hammond and Simmonds deflected it past the surprised goaltender to open the scoring. The power play would strike yet again at the midpoint of the period, when Sean Couturier retrieved a loose puck in front of Hammond after a madcap scrum and roofed it, extending Philadelphia's lead to two goals.
Ottawa was not about to roll over and die, however. In the wake of Couturier's goal, they began to push the play, outshooting Philadelphia 10-1 through the remainder of the second period. They finally capitalized on all that pressure with two minutes left, as Mika Zibanejad took advantage of a defensive breakdown to blast a slapshot past Mason and cut the Flyers' lead to 2-1.
If the Senators were hoping to use their strong play late in the second period as a springboard for a third period comeback, the Flyers ended that plan quickly. Philadelphia controlled the pace of the game throughout the entirety of the final stanza, outshooting Ottawa 13-9 in a situation that often sees teams protecting a lead rather than pressing for more. Wayne Simmonds extended the Flyers' lead with 12:45 left, scoring yet another power play goal for the team's third of the day. Mike Hoffman did an answer with a power play tally of his own five minutes later, but that was as close as Ottawa would get.
Questions to Answer:
- This is a game where the Flyers are the better team and need it more than their opponent. Gas pedal down for 60 minutes? They didn't have the best start, and sagged a bit in the second period after Sean Couturier extended the Flyers' lead to two goals. But a strong third period allowed them to close out the win regardless.
- Beating Ottawa often seems to start and end with containing dynamic defenseman Erik Karlsson. How do the Flyers fare against him today? Classic Erik Karlsson and classic Ottawa. The Senators controlled 61.9% of the even strength shot attempts with him on the ice, and were pasted to the tune of 40.3% with him on the bench.
- The top power play got off of its schneid the other night. Can it keep that moving today? They're back. Wayne Simmonds scored two goals, and even Sean Couturier's goal came on the tail end of a top unit shift (Schenn and Simmonds received assists). It looks like they're finding their game at the perfect time.
- Any signs of fatigue from Steve Mason in his eighth straight start? None whatsoever. His stop of Mike Hoffman on an early second period breakaway helped the Flyers retain their lead and was probably his biggest save of the night.
- Is Bobby Ryan from Cherry Hill? I'm not sure, you'll have to remind me.
Comment of the Night:
this would be a good time for the PP1 to get their asses in gear