Scott Laughton has been one of the most unheralded Flyers, a hardworking forward who plays with an edge, does a lot of little things well, but rarely is in the spotlight.
Saturday afternoon was an exception.
"He came out flying,” right winger Tyler Pitlick said.
Laughton, a 25-year-old center, scored a pair of early goals, as he sparked the surging Flyers past Winnipeg, 4-2, at the Wells Fargo Center.
“He’s a smart player, and I think when he plays with a little edge, a little bite, a little meanness to his game -- talking to the opposition a little bit -- that’s when he’s at his best,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “He’s emotionally invested into the game. And tonight he was, right from the start.”
The Flyers, on a 13-5-2 run since Jan. 7, moved to within three points of the first-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division.
“You’ve just got to get to the dance; it doesn’t matter which seed you’re in,” said veteran defenseman Justin Braun, who missed the previous game with the flu and had the third three-assist performance of his career -- and second in the last two weeks. “We want to keep driving ... but you don’t worry about that right now. You just have to look at the next game and take care of that.”
Sean Couturier scored in the second period to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead. Winnipeg got it to 3-2 on Patrick Laine’s power-play goal, a one-time tracer from the left circle with 17 minutes left in regulation.
After that, the Flyers dominated and made it 4-2 on Pitlick’s goal with 10:26 to go. The Flyers outshot the Jets, 14-4, in the final period.
"After they made it 3-2 on their power-play goal, we played the best we did all night,” Vigneault said. “When the game was on the line, we played the right way. ... We didn’t get tight. We played [hard] and were on our toes, and that’s what you need. We made some real good plays with the puck.”
With about 13 minutes remaining, Couturier and his linemates, on their best shift of the game, buzzed around the Winnipeg net and did everything but score. Couturier had the best chance but hit the left post.
“Those three veteran players are playing the way you have to play to win, and win against good opponents in tight games,” Vigneault said about Couturier, Claude Giroux, and Jake Voracek.
A few minutes later, the two-goal cushion was restored. Pitlick (four hits, four shots, plus-3) deflected Robert Hagg’s shot off defenseman Josh Morrissey for his seventh goal of the season.
It gave the Flyers’ bottom-two lines three of the team’s four goals.
“I thought we did a better job of closing gaps and not giving them as much space in the third,” said Laughton after finishing with two goals, seven shots (three on goal), three blocks, and six wins in 10 faceoff draws.
Laughton scored off the rush on his initial goal, taking a perfect feed from Ivan Provorov and whipping a left-circle shot into the right corner 2:06 into the game.
About seven minutes later, with the Flyers on a three-on-one rush after a penalty expired to Couturier, Laughton made it 2-0 for the fifth multi-goal game of his career. It gave him 12 goals, equaling his career high, with 20 games remaining.
On his second goal, Laughton was trying to feed Pitlick on the doorstep.
“We just tried to create some space and throw it back-door,” Laughton said of the goal that trickled past goalie Connor Hellebuyck, “and lucky enough, it went in."
The victory gave the Flyers a 21-5-4 record at home, where they will play their next two games: Tuesday against San Jose and Friday against the New York Rangers.
Oskar Lindblom, who is getting treatments for a rare type of bone cancer, visited with the players after the game. “Great smile. He looked beautiful,” Vigneault said. ... Hart (27 saves) registered the win and is 16-2-2 at home, but he won’t match the remarkable home record posted by Wayne Stephenson in 1975-76: 30-2-2. ... The Flyers Wives Carnival will be held Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center. Tickets are available at FlyersCarnival.com. … Mark Friedman was sent back to the Phantoms. … Samuel Morin, sidelined for the season because of knee surgery, watched the game from the press level and said he was feeling well. ... Flyers trainer Jim McCrossin worked his 2,000th professional game.