It was as if goaltender Carter Hart had never left.
Hart returned Monday after missing nine games with a lower abdominal strain, and his dominance at the Wells Fargo Center continued as the Flyers defeated the Florida Panthers, 4-1.
Hart made 30 saves and is now 14-2-2 at home, where he is allowing fewer than 1.60 goals per game and has a save percentage hovering around .950.
Ivan Provorov, James van Riemsdyk (two points, plus-3), Travis Sanheim, and Claude Giroux (empty net) scored for the Flyers. Sanheim has an uncanny six goals in eight career games against Sergei Bobrovsky, the two-time Vezina winner as the league’s best goalie.
With the win, the Flyers moved into the second wild-card spot in the crowded Eastern Conference.
After Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau failed to convert on a six-on-four power play, Giroux iced the victory with an empty-net goal to make it 4-1 with 69 seconds remaining.
The Flyers also got a strong performance from right winger Travis Konecny, who had a career-high five blocked shots, two hits, and two takeaways.
“Any time you see that from the bench,” van Riemsdyk said, “it gets the guys jacked up.”
Hart’s performance also inspired his teammates.
“Hartsy,” Provorov said, “bailed us out a few times. He seemed like he didn’t miss a beat.”
Left winger Michael Raffl was asked if he was surprised Hart was so sharp after not playing in nearly four weeks.
“He had enough time to practice,” Raffl cracked.
Hart, playing his first game since Jan. 13, agreed.
“I think I went through all situations in practice beforehand to make sure when it was time to play there was nothing to worry about,” he said. “I went through all different scenarios in practice to make sure” he was ready.
Sanheim scored on a rebound with 51.1 seconds remaining in the second, pushing the Flyers’ lead to 3-1.
The 23-year-old defenseman called it a coincidence that he has scored six of his 19 career goals against Bobrovsky.
“I don’t know what it is," Sanheim said after the Flyers’ 19th victory in 28 home games, equaling their win total at the Wells Fargo Center for the entire 2018-19 season. "Maybe I get up for the game a little more and get a little more offensive because I’ve beaten him a few times now. Everything just seems to be going in against him.”
Van Riemsdyk’s 16th goal – and fourth in the last eight games – gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead with 14:36 left in the second.
Jake Voracek came off the bench and skated into a pass thrown by Justin Braun (five hits), triggering a two-on-one. Voracek slid a feed to van Riemsdyk, who tapped the puck into an open net. Bobrovsky never had a chance.
“Obviously, Jake has been doing this for a long time. He’s a great playmaker and you know he’s going to find you if you get to the good spots on the ice,” van Riemsdyk said.
Hart made a handful of difficult stops in the second period, including a point-blank save on Evgeni Dadonov.
Provorov scored on a wicked wrist shot from the high slot with 6:02 left in the first, knotting the score at 1-all. It was Provorov’s 10th goal and his first in the last 18 games.
Matt Niskanen, realizing Florida defenseman Anton Stralman had broken his stick blocking Morgan Frost’s shot, set up Provorov.
“You can pick on a guy without his stick,” Niskanen said. “So I was looking to get the puck over to that [left] side, where I knew where their guy was. Provy made a nice pull and drag move” before firing the shot.
That offset MacKenzie Weegar’s goal on Florida’s first shot of the game. Weegar scored after a blocked shot caromed to him in the left circle, marking the fourth straight home period the Flyers had allowed a goal on the first shot.
Florida had been 22-2-2 when scoring first, and Bobrovsky had been 15-3-1 in his career against the Flyers.