Somewhat overshadowed by Travis Konecny’s injury -- and his Flyers teammates, believing a high hit from Mark Borowiecki was the reason, trying to pay back the Senators during Saturday’s old-school matinee -- was a standout performance by coming-of-age forward Scott Laughton.
Laughton, 25, was the game’s top player as the Flyers outlasted Ottawa, 4-3, for their sixth win in their last seven games.
“When it got heated, he’s one of the guys who I thought responded the best,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “He responded in a physical nature when the opportunity was there, but when he needed to make plays with the puck or defend, he did that. He did both those things.”
With 4 minutes, 49 seconds left in regulation, Laughton snapped a 3-3 tie by depositing a rebound, just 11 seconds after Ottawa had scored the equalizer. He also had an assist, four hits, and suckered Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk into a double-minor penalty with 25 seconds left, helping lock up the victory.
The third-line left winger recently returned to the lineup from a broken right index finger, an injury that sidelined him for 13 games. He has four goals and two assists over his last six games.
“As a coach, it’s really easy to trust a player when he’s doing the right things and playing the right way on the ice,” said Vigneault, who has trusted Laughton so much that he has had him playing on a higher line than James van Riemsdyk.
The Flyers drafted Laughton in the first round, 20th overall, in 2012, which was higher than lots of experts figured he’d be selected. Paul Holmgren, who was then the Flyers’ general manager, and his staff had watched Laughton produce in the Ontario Hockey League and were enamored with his all-around ability. At the time, Holmgren said the 18-year-old Laughton reminded him a little bit of a young Mike Richards or Adam Henrique, and called him a “good, solid, hard-nosed, two-way player."
That description holds true today, though Laughton has yet to approach the offensive level of Richards or Henrique.
It has taken a Laughton a while to make an impact, but his game has quietly started evolving -- from 10 goals two years ago to 12 goals last season to four goals and nine points in 17 games this season. He has also been one of the Flyers’ best penalty killers and a solid defensive player.
While Laughton has quietly emerged as a valuable player, Ivan Provorov, another former first-round draft pick (seventh overall in 2015), has returned to his form from two years ago, when he had 17 goals, tied for the most in the NHL by a defenseman.
Provorov, 22, had his seventh goal Saturday and is on pace for a career-high 19.
The durable Provorov, who has not missed a game since joining the Flyers three-plus years ago, already has as many goals as he had all of last season.
He credits the team’s overall play for his improved offense this season.
“We are controlling the play, we have the puck most of the nights more than the other team,” said Provorov, who is able to take more offensive chances this season because he has veteran Matt Niskanen as his defensive partner. “We make plays and defend in a five-man unit. A lot of times we get the puck back in the neutral zone, the offensive zone, or break out early and that allows us to play less defense and more offense -- and for everyone to have more opportunities to create on offense and score.”
The Flyers (17-8-5) start a difficult three-game road trip in Colorado (19-8-2) on Wednesday, then make stops in Minnesota (14-12-4) on Saturday and Winnipeg (18-10-2) on Sunday. In their last 10 games, those three Western Conference teams are a combined (22-5-3).
The Flyers said they would give a medical update Monday on Konecny, who leads the team in goals (11, tied with Oskar Lindblom ) and points (28 ) and has been arguably its MVP; he is making a case for his first All-Star selection. Konecny took an open-ice hit from Borowiecki and might have suffered a concussion. ... Defenseman Phil Myers leads NHL rookies with a plus-14 rating. … The Flyers, who have points in 16 of their last 19 games, will practice in Voorhees on Monday at 11:30 a.m. … The Flyers are 10-2-4 at home, 7-6-1 on the road.