They lost to Western Conference also-rans San Jose and Los Angeles during a miserable six-game road trip in which they led for 15 minutes, 59 seconds of the 363:53 played.
So, naturally, the Flyers returned to their happy place — the Wells Fargo Center — and beat the NHL’s best team, the Washington Capitals, on Wednesday.
Such is life for Team Enigma these days: dominating on home ice (14-2-4), out-of-sync on the road (9-13-2).
After the hard-fought 3-2 win over the Capitals, coach Alain Vigneault was in no mood to dissect the Flyers’ home-road disparity. He just wanted to enjoy the fact his team’s four-game skid had ended.
“You know at this time right now, I’m going home tonight, and I’m going to have a martini and enjoy the win, and I’m going to get back to that,” he said after the much-needed win. “Our next game is at home, so focus on the homestand right now.”
The schedule finally gives the Flyers a break. Sort of. Wednesday started a stretch in which six of the next seven games are at the Wells Fargo Center.
It should be noted that several of those home games are against NHL powerhouses, and the lone road contest is against St. Louis, the defending Stanley Cup champion.
Then again, the Flyers and home ice go together like Vigneault and a martini: smooth. Very smooth.
The Flyers have the best home winning percentage (.800) in the NHL.
In their latest home victory, the penalty kill was the difference. Not only did the Flyers go 5-for-5 on the PK against the Caps’ gifted power play, but they scored the winning goal on Kevin Hayes’ shorthanded breakaway.
"I think we were just a little too passive,” said Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom, whose team’s power play entered the night ranked fifth in the league on the road, converting at 25%. “Even if we’re up a one-man advantage, we got to be a little bit more desperate. It’s all about execution. If you execute plays, good things happen. We weren’t on the same page.”
The Flyers joined Carolina, Dallas, and Boston as the only teams to hold the Caps’ power play scoreless in a game in which they had five or more chances this season.
“They’ve got one of the top players in the league,” said winning goalie Carter Hart, referring to Alex Ovechkin, “so for us to limit them to really nothing, it was huge for us.”
The Caps had just five power-play shots during their 10 minutes with a man advantage, and the high-scoring Ovechkin didn’t get a Grade-A chance during that time.
Overall, he played 20:38 and went pointless — give credit mostly to defensemen Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen — and had four shots and a minus-2 rating. He played a staggering 8:48 on the power play.
“I think it was just a matter of killing penalties the right way, being in the right lanes,” center Sean Couturier said. “They’ve had one of the best power plays in the past few years, so I thought we did a good job of taking Ovi away and most of the passing plays.”
Hayes, Scott Laughotn, Michael Raffl, and Tyler Pitlick were the forwards who had the most penalty-killing time Wednesday.
The PK was just 10-for-15 on the recently completed 1-4-1 road trip, but the Flyers are a much better team — in all facets — when they play at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I thought our execution was a little bit better,” Vigneault said of the team’s penalty-kill work against the Caps. “and we got a couple big saves at the right time, and that’s probably the most important part of the PK."
The Flyers’ penalty kill is now fifth in the NHL at home ( 87.1% success rate) and just 23rd on the road (77.1%).