DETROIT -- All was good in Flyerdom on Monday.
Early in the day, police cleared Gritty, who had been charged with punching a 13-year-old fan, of any wrongdoing. Then the Flyers went into Little Caesars Arena and beat the poor, hapless Detroit Red Wings, 3-0.
With the win, the Flyers jumped into the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, which is much more crowded than jail cells holding furry mascots.
Scott Laughton and Kevin Hayes (shorthanded) scored the key goals, and Brian Elliott recorded the shutout for the Flyers, who sent the worst-in-the-NHL Red Wings to their ninth straight defeat.
Matt Niskanen added an empty-net (shorthanded) goal to finish the scoring.
Elliott was sharp but was forced to make just 16 saves as he collected his second shutout of the season -- and second in his last three games. With Elliott out of position, winger Tyler Pitlick (plus-2) prevented a goal with a skate save to maintain a 2-0 lead with about 12 minutes left. The save helped Elliott notch his 40th career shutout.
“It’s those efforts that have been there,” Elliott said of Pitlick’s save. “Everybody’s buying into the little things [like] blocking shots. That’s a big win for us, too.”
Hayes took advantage of a Red Wings miscue and scored on a breakaway with 17:13 left in the third, giving the Flyers a 2-0 lead. It was his fourth shorthanded goal of the season and second in as many games.
Laughton continued his hot streak, scoring a goal in his third straight game to put the Flyers ahead, 1-0, with 10:29 remaining in the second period.
Taking a pass from Michael Raffl, Laughton scored from deep inside the left circle for his ninth goal in 33 games this season. The goal was needed because the Flyers had just squandered a power play – getting no shots against the Red Wings’ league-worst penalty kill – and Detroit appeared ready to gain some momentum.
“Raff made a really good pass and I just tried to get it on net as quick as possible,” Laughton said after sending a low shot through the legs of Detroit goalie Jonathan Bernier. “It was kind of a greasy goal, but you take them any time they come your way.”
The Flyers dominated the first period, which ended scoreless only because they fired wide on their best chances or because Bernier (28 saves) made a handful of key saves. James van Riemsdyk hit iron with 6 seconds left in the period, one in which the Flyers outshot the Red Wings, 11-5, and held a huge territorial advantage.
“We’ve kind of focused on the first 5 minutes of every away game and then taking it from there,” Hayes said after the Flyers ran their road point streak to four games (2-0-2).
The Flyers, playing their third game in four nights, took 26 shots in the first, compared to Detroit’s eight.
The Red Wings’ best first-period chance came with just under 7 minutes left in the stanza, but Elliott robbed Tyler Bertuzzi, who was alone in front.
The Flyers finished with a 65-31 domination in shot attempts.
Detroit entered the night with a league-low 28 points and a staggering minus-93 goal differential. The Red Wings had scored the fewest goals in the league and allowed the most. They had been outscored, 34-12, in their previous eight games, all losses.
You can’t look past them, rookie left winger Joel Farabee said before the game.
“When they came into our building, it was a pretty close game for a while,” said Farabee, referring to the Flyers’ 6-1 win on Nov. 29, a game in which they held just a 2-1 lead until late in the second period. “Obviously, they’re not the best in the standings … but we have to really go after it if we want the two points.”
Farabee was trying to become the fifth teenager in franchise history to have a point streak of at least six games. He had no points but played another standout game. The 19-year-old winger had 11 shots, including five on goal.
The Flyers have shown signs of breaking out of their road funk. They beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues in St. Louis, 4-3, and then dropped a 4-3 overtime decision in Pittsburgh. They dominated the third period in the latter game, outshooting the Penguins, 17-4.
And they thoroughly outplayed the Red Wings on Monday, avoiding a letdown against a team that is the worst in the NHL, by far.
“We talked about it,” Elliott said. “We want to play our game and not play down to any other teams’ levels. These points mean a lot to us and not so much to them right now. We definitely wanted to come out and grab them -- and that’s what we did.”