Special teams boost Flyers

Posted: March 18, 2014

PITTSBURGH - In the two games over the weekend, the Flyers' power play was 3-for-7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Penguins' power play was 0-for-9 against the Flyers while allowing two shorthanded goals. Which explains a bunch.

Wayne Simmonds scored twice on the power play in yesterday's 4-3 win at Consol Energy Center. Matt Read, for the second straight game, had a shorthanded goal. And if this one wasn't as lopsided as Saturday's 4-0 Flyers win in Philadelphia, it was another game when the special teams complemented a balanced effort from a team that believes its balance is its strength.

"I don't think it was any different [than Saturday], to be honest with you," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "I thought we played really good. The power play was good again. The penalty kill was good again. Lots of shots, lots of chances - we played a pretty solid game."

The power play toyed with the Penguins. Simmonds had all kinds of room down low and made the Penguins pay twice, the second goal chasing goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury after only 13 minutes, 41 seconds. It was a mercy-yanking by Pens coach Dan Bylsma.

Anyway, Simmonds gave much of the credit to teammate Scott Hartnell, whose rocket from the high slot in Saturday's game left the Penguins protecting more against that and leaving Simmonds with room near the crease.

"I had a ton of time, actually," Simmonds said. "I think the threat of 'Hartsy' there in the high slot, it scares a lot of teams. He's got a heck of a shot from there and you never know when 'G' [Claude Giroux] is going to pass him the puck. When he passes you the puck, he doesn't even look at you, so you've got to be ready. I think that definitely opens up me and, in turn, opens up Jake [Voracek] on the back door. Everything works hand in hand."

As impressive as that was, the penalty killing stood out most of all. The Penguins were missing Chris Kunitz and James Neal from their power-play units, along with defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin, and that factors into the calculus. But they still had Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and 87 and 71 remain the biggest numbers. To shut them down the way the Flyers did, and to counterattack and score shorthanded, turned this weekend the Flyers' way.

"It gives us momentum, for sure - the guys have done a great job on it," Berube said. "The goaltender, everybody who goes out there, they're doing a really good job. The coaches do a good job preparing those guys, [Ian] Laperriere and [Joe] Mullen . . . They've got real good sticks right now, blocking shots . . .

"You just do a good job and they get a break and they're attacking the other way - that's all it was. We just ended up getting a couple two-on-ones. It's nice when we're doing that and we're not getting two-on-ones on our power plays."

Read's goal, at 12:11 of the second period, restored some order after the Flyers saw a 3-0 lead dwindle to 3-2 after a couple of long shots from Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen got through traffic to beat Flyers goalie Steve Mason. The Flyers would kill two more penalties after that.

"I think Lappy did a good job video scouting - we were well-prepared," center Sean Couturier said. "We did the right little things out there, like putting our sticks in passing lanes and taking away shots. Overall, it was a good weekend for special teams . . .

"Our mind was to kill first. We got some bounces to get opportunities and we took advantage of them."

Slap shots

In their last four games, the Flyers have killed off 15 consecutive power plays . . . Steve Mason has now started eight straight games, including back-to-back this weekend, but he says there is not a hint of fatigue. "Nope, feel great," he said. "That's what the Olympic break was for. We had games few and far between, with 3 or 2 days in between, so there was plenty of time for rest. Now we're getting into crunch time, where we're playing every other day for the rest of the year, so it's just a matter of managing my time off." For his part, Craig Berube said, "We'll get a read on him. Ray [Emery] is ready to go [after suffering a groin injury] and he feels good, so that's a plus" . . . Claude Giroux played in his 400th career game yesterday and tallied two assists on Simmonds' power-play goals. He now has 69 points in 67 games.


On Twitter: @theidlerich

Blog: philly.com/DNL

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