Funny game, hockey.
The Flyers had a much better attack in a 5-3 loss in Tampa on Saturday than they did in a 5-1 win Tuesday over visiting Columbus.
“We probably had more chances and didn’t win the game,” center Sean Couturier said of the defeat to the powerful Lightning.
Tuesday, they scored five goals on just 15 shots. It marked the first time in franchise history they had scored five times on 15 or fewer shots.
“The hockey gods kind of gave us a few,” Couturier said, mindful that two of the Flyers’ goals bounced off Columbus defenseman Andrew Peeke and into the net. “That’s the way it goes. We just have to play our way. Play the right way and the way we can, and we’ll make the playoffs.”
The Flyers, now a point ahead of the offense-challenged Blue Jackets, will have a rematch Thursday in Columbus. They are 3-0 against the Blue Jackets and will try to sweep the season series (minimum: two games played) against them for the first time ever.
Columbus won all four games against the Flyers last season, with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who is now with Florida, beating four goalies: Cal Pickard, Anthony Stolarz, Carter Hart, and Brian Elliott.
The Jackets had a 29-15 shots advantage Tuesday, including a 26-9 domination over the last two periods, but the Flyers kept them on the perimeter.
“Now that this one is over, we just have to refocus,” right winger Travis Konecny said after collecting a goal and two assists. “It’s almost like we didn’t play them. We reset and treat it like it’s just another game going into Columbus, but it is definitely nice to get the first win.”
Konecny, 22, is having a career season. He already has a personal-best 51 points with 22 games remaining. The London, Ontario, native has 175 career points, the seventh-highest total in Flyers history for a player 22 or younger. (Bobby Clarke is next on the list, with 190 points at that age.)
Some players struggle after signing a big contract as they try too hard to justify the deal. Konecny, however, has flourished since signing a six-year, $33 million pact in September.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” said Konecny, who is on a 70-point pace. “I think the bounces are just working for me this year. I mean, the players I’ve been playing with have been putting me in really good situations to get these points, so a lot of that goes to my teammates. And I’m also playing a little more on the power play and in different situations, and that kind of gives you those opportunities as well.”
On Thursday, the Flyers will try to keep injury-plagued Columbus reeling. The Blue Jackets have lost six straight and fallen out of a playoff spot.
Elliott made 28 saves, including 15 in the third period, in a 3-2 win over the Jackets on Nov. 27, the Flyers’ first regulation victory in Columbus since 2005.
Because Elliott has played better than Hart on the road and because he needs work to stay sharp, it wouldn’t be surprising if he gets the call in Columbus. Hart started the last three games, and Elliott hasn’t played since Feb. 11.
Hart probably will start Saturday afternoon against Winnipeg at the Wells Fargo Center.
At home, Hart is 15-2-2 with a 1.62 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage. His GAA and save percentage are the best in the league at home among goalies who have played at least 15 games, according to the NHL.