Simmonds lets his stick do the talking in Flyers' win

Wayne Simmonds slips his second goal past Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth.
Wayne Simmonds slips his second goal past Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth. (STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: February 17, 2012

WHEN Lauren Hart was belting out the lyrics to the "The Star-Spangled Banner" just minutes before the opening faceoff, the last of 25 stitches was being sewn into the lips of Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

In the next room, the Flyers' equipment managers were scrambling to add a full facial shield to his helmet.

It was a night that didn't start as envisioned by Simmonds - or the Flyers.

In pregame warmups, Simmonds was the unlucky recipient of a puck that ricocheted off the crossbar. The result? Two loose teeth and repairs on both his upper and lower lips.

The Flyers were caught off-guard by a Buffalo Sabres team that has fallen 10 points back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The result? A two-goal hole in the first 10 minutes.

Simmonds missed just three shifts before returning with the bubble shield. And then, with lips swollen practically to the size of grapefruits, Simmonds turned the Flyers' two-goal hole into a one-goal lead with back-to-back second-period goals.

Even missing Jaromir Jagr, Andrej Meszaros, James van Riemsdyk and Danny Briere (for two periods), Simmonds shook the Flyers to a 7-2 win - thanks to an explosion of seven unanswered goals.

"I sit beside him in the dressing room, the guy couldn't even talk," teammate Brayden Schenn said. "You couldn't hear what was coming out of his mouth because he was so swelled up. That shows you what kind of character he has."

Understandably, Simmonds was unable to speak to the media postgame.

His play on the ice spoke for itself: It was the stuff of which Flyers legends are made. And suddenly, Simmonds has made both Flyers fans and management say "Mike Richards, who?"

Simmonds, 23, has now hit the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career. He has 20 goals and 16 assists, as one of just six players to skate in all 57 games this year. Richards, his trade counterpart in Los Angeles, went into last night's late game with six fewer goals and two fewer assists than Simmonds, who has all of Richards' grit and toughness.

Last night marked just the fourth two-goal game of Simmonds' young career.

"He played really strong," coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought when he got back in the first period, I didn't like a lot of what we were doing, but I didn't mind him. And that's coming right from the [surgical] table and having your mouth numb like that and teeth knocked around.

"He was ready from the start."

The same can't be said for Simmonds' teammates. Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek scored in a 4:15 span in the first period to quiet the hungry-for-a-win Wells Fargo Center crowd.

"There was really no excuse for that first period," Laviolette said. "Players just needed to get going. We were sleepy. We played a really strong game from that point on."

Claude Giroux had five assists to pull back within two points of Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin in the league's scoring race. The five assists were not only a career high, but the first time a Flyer had done it since Alexandre Picard on Feb. 1, 2007. Eric Lindros holds the Flyers' single-game record of six assists.

"I guess everything I was chipping was going in the net," Giroux said. "It was a lot of [secondary] assists."

Giroux didn't assist on either of Max Talbot's two goals, the only two he didn't factor in, but he did grab the secondary helper on rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson's first career goal.

The sorely needed win was just the Flyers' third in February, as they avoided dropping out of fourth place in the East before tomorrow's matchup with fifth-place Pittsburgh.

"It's a character win," Talbot said. "It was about hard work and resiliency."

Just look at Simmonds' mouth. He'll be talking like Charlie Brown's parents for the next week.

Slap shots

Jake Voracek became the 10th Flyer to reach double digits in goals this season. Wayne Simmonds joined Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux as the Flyers' 20-goal scorers . . . Hartnell quietly posted a four-point game (one goal, three assists) . . . It was the second time in three meetings that the Flyers chased the Sabres' starting goalie (Jhonas Enroth) from the game. They also victimized Ryan Miller on Nov. 2 in Buffalo.


For more news and analysis,

read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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