SUNRISE, Fla. — The Flyers’ bottom-line forwards had top-notch games Thursday night, but they had to share the spotlight with goaltender Carter Hart, who registered his first road victory in more than three months.
Hart made 26 saves as the Flyers defeated Florida, 6-2, at the BB&T Center and remained in the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.
James van Riemsdyk had a goal and two assists and was one of four bottom-six forwards to score for the Flyers. Justin Braun (three assists), Michael Raffl (two assists), and Matt Niskanen (two assists) also made important contributions.
Rebounding from Tuesday’s gut-wrenching loss to the New York Islanders, the Flyers built a 3-0 first-period lead and recorded their ninth win in their last 13 games (9-3-1). Van Riemsdyk felt he should have blocked a late shot that turned into the winning goal in the loss to the Isles, so Thursday’s win felt even sweeter.
“We showed a good response,” he said. “Obviously, me personally, being out there for the last goal in the last game, I wanted to get a piece of that one and, unfortunately, it cost us the game. That’s one where you have a couple sleepless nights before the next one. As with the rest of the team, we wanted to make sure we had a good response game, and I think we did that tonight.”
Hart snapped an eight-game road losing streak. It was his first road win since Nov. 10, a 3-2 shootout victory in Boston. It also marked the second time in the last four nights he had outplayed — and beaten — former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky, the two-time Vezina winner as the league’s best goalie.
Hart was unaware he hadn’t won on the road in three-plus months.
“I prepare the same. There’s no difference playing at home or on the road," he said. “It’s the same puck, the same ice surface, the same boards. You just have to prepare the same.”
The only negative from the win: Defenseman Travis Sanheim suffered an apparent leg injury in the second period, tried to play a shift in the third, but was quickly removed from the game and did not return.
Bobrovsky has been mostly spectacular against the Flyers in his career, but Florida’s $70 Million Man struggled mightily Thursday. He is now 15-5-1 against them in his career.
Scott Laughton, one of those bottom-six forwards, gave the Flyers a 4-0 lead by taking a slick feed from van Riemsdyk and beating relief goalie Sam Montembeault with 62 seconds left in the second period.
“We did a good job breaking pucks out of our zone” in the first two periods, Laughton said after scoring his 10th goal, “... and we capitalized on our offensive opportunities when we had them.”
But the Panthers swarmed the net in the third period, getting goals from Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov in the first 4 minutes, 56 seconds of the stanza to get within 4-2.
They almost cut the deficit to one goal, but Hart robbed EvgeniiDadonov from point-blank range with 13:55 to go.
Hart made a handful of other key saves in the third, and the Flyers secured the win when Sean Couturier took a pass from Claude Giroux and scored from the left circle, padding the Flyers’ lead to 5-2 with 5:08 remaining.
Defensive specialist Robert Hagg (plus-3), of all people, added a late power-play goal to close the scoring.
Bobrovsky allowed three goals — two on juicy rebounds — on nine shots and was pulled after the first period with the Panthers facing a 3-0 deficit.
Bottom-six forwards van Riemsdyk (rebound), Tyler Pitlick, and Nic Aube-Kubel (rebound) scored for the Flyers in the opening period.
“Down the road in these type of games and in the playoffs, usually those guys make the difference a lot of times,” Couturier said of the third- and fourth-liners. “They were huge tonight. They created a lot of momentum with their forecheck and got us a few big goals there.”
Pitlick’s goal, his sixth of the season, was a right-circle tracer that beat Bobrovksy to the short side.
Down the other end, Hart was sharp in the first period. He stopped all 11 shots, including Frank Vatrano’s shorthanded breakaway.
Bobrovksy, whose defense has abandoned him for most of the season, took some unsightly numbers into the game (3.27 goals-against average, .898 save percentage) and they got even worse.
Hart entered the night with puzzling statistics: a 14-2-2 record at home with a 1.65 goals-against average and .941 save percentage, and a 2-9-1 road record with a 4.01 GAA and .850 save percentage.