Maybe the Flyers got a lift from Simon Gagne's trumpeted return.
Or perhaps the spark was generated by a handful of impressive early saves by Ilya Bryzgalov.
Whatever the reason, the Flyers played one of their best first periods of the season Wednesday night en route to a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center.
Gagne, in a script apparently written by the hundreds of fans who wore No. 12 jerseys to the game, gave the Flyers a 3-0 lead by scoring a power-play goal early in the second period. For Gagne, acquired Tuesday from Los Angeles, it was his first goal since Nov. 17, 2011.
"I'm just trying to use my emotion and energy out there," said Gagne, who hadn't played in nearly two weeks. "For sure, physically it's a little hard. Legs get tired really quick. I didn't have too much sleep" Tuesday after taking a late flight from Los Angeles.
Bryzgalov, who heaved his stick "for the fun of it" during the morning skate, was more composed at night as he made 23 saves. Joel Ward's goal ended his shutout with 2 minutes, 9 seconds left.
The Flyers moved into eighth in the East, although they have played more games than all teams.
They scored two goals in the first 4:04 to take control. It marked the first time in the last five games they had scored first.
Thanks to the dirty work provided by Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux scored 23 seconds into the game. Hartnell, while on his knees, dug out the puck in front, and his pass caromed off the skate of defenseman Karl Alzner to Giroux, who fired into a wide-open net.
Less than four minutes later, Wayne Simmonds scored while falling down in the slot, backhanding a power-play rebound past goalie Braden Holtby. Again, Hartnell had the primary assist.
Meanwhile, Bryzgalov had a terrific first period, robbing Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin from in close. After playing superbly early in the season, Bryzgalov had struggled in his previous four games (4.30 goals-against average, .857 save percentage), but he was on his game Wednesday.
Bryzgalov was a force in the first two periods, stopping all 12 shots. The Flyers defense put up a roadblock in the second period, allowing just three shots. (Nick Grossmann finished with seven blocked shots, and Luke Schenn had six hits.)
With the Flyers on a power play, Brayden Schenn won a battle in front of the net and made a deft backhand pass to Gagne, who scored with 16:06 left in the second period to put the home team ahead, 3-0. Including last year's playoffs, Gagne had gone 32 straight games without a goal.
Max Talbot scored from the high slot to make it 4-0 with 5:05 left in the second, chasing Holtby and bringing in Philipp Grubauer. It was the first goal of the year for Talbot, who scored 19 last season.
"I was going to dish the puck on either side, but I saw their defense kind of splitting, so I decided to let it go," Talbot said. "I've been practicing with some new sticks this week."
Holtby had a 3-0 win over Carolina the previous night. Before Wednesday, Washington was 4-0-2 in the second game of back-to-back nights.
The Flyers, who lost defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a shin injury in the second period, will try to reach .500 when they face Ottawa on Saturday afternoon, ending a five-game homestand. They are 0-6 in their other attempts to get to .500 and have been outscored, 29-12, in those games.
Gagne, who turns 33 on Friday, wasn't in the lineup in those losses.
"I just have to play my basic game every night and help the team get back in the playoff mode," Gagne said.