The Flyers continued their (rare) mastery of the Columbus Blue Jackets and, as a result, climbed into third place in the Metropolitan Division on Tuesday night.
Travis Konecny had a goal and two assists, and Claude Giroux set a franchise record for career power-play assists as the Flyers won their third straight over injury-riddled Columbus for the first time in their history, whipping the Blue Jackets, 5-1, at the Wells Fargo Center.
Carter Hart had 28 saves for the Flyers, who entered the night in the second wild-card spot but moved past Columbus and the New York Islanders. The Isles, however, have two games in hand.
“It was a must-win game for both teams,” winger Michael Raffl said after the Flyers dealt the Jackets their sixth straight defeat.
The Flyers, 3-0 against the Blue Jackets this season, play in Columbus on Thursday.
Besides Konecny, Kevin Hayes, Sean Couturier, Phil Myers, and Jake Voracek scored for the Flyers, who had five goals on just 15 shots. It marked the first time franchise history that the Flyers scored five goals on 15 or fewer shots.
“It wasn’t one of our best games,” Hayes said. “Obviously, the score doesn’t say that, but we should be better the next game. We definitely didn’t have our 'A' game and got some puck luck, [but] it’s a huge two points.”
Couturier agreed with Hayes’ assessment, “but at the same time, you have to find a way to win these games, and we did."
“If you look at the shots, we didn’t got a lot of pucks on net, but we took advantage of the opportunities,” Konecny said. “There’s definitely some areas we can clean up going into the next game.”
With 16 minutes, 20 seconds left in the third, Konecny tipped in Robert Hagg’s drive to give the Flyers a 4-1 lead. It gave Konecny 20 goals and a career-high 50 points. He later added his 51st point by setting up Voracek’s power-play goal.
Giroux helped set up Voracek’s goal with a pass from his knees. It gave him 235 career power-play assists, one more than Bobby Clarke and the most in franchise history.
“He’s our leader and he’s doing all the things that he needs to do to set an example for everyone following him,” Konecny said. “I mean, if G’s in on the forecheck hitting guys and backchecking, then everyone else follows.”
Giroux said passing Clarke “means a lot. I had a lot of help the whole time I was here on the power play. I’ve played with great players, a lot of different players, and we were able to get on the same page.”
After Konecny’s goal, Elvis [Merzlikins] left the building. Or at least the Columbus net.
The Columbus goalie was replaced by Matiss Kivlenieks.
Myers’ pass deflected off Columbus defender Andrew Peeke and into the net with 6:28 left in the second period, putting the Flyers ahead, 3-0. It was Myers’ fourth goal and his first since Nov. 10, a span of 36 games.
“Honestly, I was trying to go backdoor and got a good bounce,” Myers said.
Columbus used solid puck movement to get within 3-1 on Oliver Bjorkstrand’s power-play goal with 2:39 to go in the second.
The Flyers were both fortunate and good in a first period that ended with them holding a 2-0 lead.
Hayes’ shot from behind the goal line deflected off the skate of Peeke – and then caromed off rookie goaltender Merzlikins’ helmet and into the net, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead with 16:32 left in the first.
Elvis probably felt like leaving the building.
Sixty-two seconds later, Couturier, after taking a terrific feed from Giroux, went on a breakaway and scored as he made a move and appeared to lose the puck but had it slide through Merzlikins’ legs.
Couturier said he “lost” the puck on purpose because he saw the goalie had given him a lot of room between his legs.
“I was trying to bring the puck to my backhand,” he said. “He opened up and I just tried to let it go by him and it went in.”
The Flyers played with great pace in the opening period and allowed Columbus just three shots, none that were difficult for Hart to handle.
Myers finished with six shots (three on goal), three hits, a goal, and a plus-2 rating.