Granted, it was against weak competition, but the Flyers have put together back-to-back strong defensive efforts for one of the few times this season.

They scored 4-1 and 5-1 wins over New Jersey and Carolina, respectively, and allowed an average of just 22 shots per game.

In those two wins, Luke Schenn - who has looked revived after being a healthy scratch for two games - had a total of 10 blocked shots, Braydon Coburn was a combined plus-5, and Nick Schultz was a combined plus-6.

"I think as a team, we are just trying to play a lot better without the puck and defensively," said Schultz, who has had consecutive plus-3 games. "It's a commitment from everyone, and I think guys are doing a lot better job playing without the puck and trying to get it back quicker and playing together."

Goalie Steve Mason said you could "slowly see the consistency come together" during a recent West Coast trip, which ended with a 2-1 win in Los Angeles.

Including that victory over the Stanley Cup champion Kings, the Flyers have allowed just six goals over their last four games, an average of 1.5 per game. They are 3-0-2 in their last five games.

"I know I keep saying it over and over again, but the consistency has to be there," said Mason, whose team has inched to within five points of a playoff spot. "We're starting to put some points together; we had a couple shootout losses, but we're getting points out of those games. It's just a matter of continuing that streak now. Guys feel good about themselves, and it's nice to see; they just have to make sure not to lose that feeling."

"You can see we have a lot more chemistry than in the beginning of the year," captain Claude Giroux said.

Now comes the difficult part: continuing their defensive stand Tuesday against visiting Tampa Bay, a team that entered Sunday ranked second in the NHL with an average of 3.36 goals per game. Tampa Bay, which is led by MVP candidate Steven Stamkos, plays Pittsburgh (which is without the mumps-plagued Sidney Crosby) on Monday and may be a tired team when it faces the Flyers Tuesday.

The Flyers' hot streak, coach Craig Berube said, is because they have had better "defensive structure" recently. "We had to become a better defensive hockey team, and when I say that, it doesn't mean just sitting back and defending," he said. "Defending starts in the offensive zone, and in my opinion, your forecheck, your reloads, your forwards, all that, your D's gaps. It's getting better and better."

"Overall we have just kind of simplified things and started to play simple hockey," said winger Jake Voracek, who is second in the NHL with 37 points, one behind Dallas' Tyler Seguin. "We work really hard, and we're focusing on defense, and now we just have to keep rolling."


Stamkos is tied with Claude Giroux for fifth in the NHL with 34 points. . . . The Flyers dropped a 4-3 decision in Tampa on Oct. 30. . . . The Flyers loaned Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg to Team Sweden for the World Junior championships. Hagg, 19, will join Team Sweden Dec. 21 to prepare for the tournament, which will be held Dec. 26 through Jan. 5.