OTTAWA, Ontario - Despite numerous out-of-sync performances in October and November, the Flyers find themselves in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Credit their growing comfort with new coach Dave Hakstol's defensive-oriented system, their penalty-killing effectiveness, and the rejuvenated play of their second line.

Oh, and the Shayne Gostisbehere Factor.

The Flyers have won three straight for the first time this season and, entering Wednesday, had inched to within two points of a playoff spot.

"A lot's up for grabs, and I guess you could say that we're just getting the season started," defenseman Luke Schenn said. "Obviously, we would have loved having a better start, but in saying that, we're still right in the thick of things."

When you consider that they are last in the league in scoring and that they went five weeks between two-game winning streaks, it's pretty amazing that the Flyers have become relevant again.

"Offensively, it's starting to come," said winger Wayne Simmonds, who has played an important part in the resurgence, collecting five points over the last two games. "We're not trying to force things. We're taking what teams are giving us. We're all confident on the bench and supporting each other. We're having fun out there."

The second line of Simmonds, Matt Read, and center Sean Couturier has been the Flyers' best unit the last two games, contributing to the team's turnaround.

In addition, the Flyers - who play at New Jersey on Friday - have killed 21 straight penalties.

"Obviously special teams are huge, and we've been really focusing on that," said Chris VandeVelde, one of the Flyers' top penalty killers.

The Flyers are 10-10-5, and their points percentage is at .500 for the first time since Oct. 30.

"We were not happy with the way things went the first couple of months, but with [three] big wins in a row, we have some confidence in the room," defenseman Michael Del Zotto said. "We know what we have to do, and it's just a matter of consistency and sticking to the system and what works."

During their three-game winning streak, the Flyers have limited teams' high-quality chances and have outshot their opponents in each victory.

Del Zotto said he likes the team's recent "attention to detail and our tenacity. You can see guys sticking together. We've stuck together as a team and guys are on the same page."

Because of an injury to Nick Schultz, the Flyers had a puck-mover and a (mostly) stay-at-home defenseman on each pairing in Tuesday's 4-2 win in Ottawa: Del Zotto was with Radko Gudas; Gostisbehere was with Brandon Manning; and Evgeny Medvedev was with Schenn.

"We're scoring a little more, whether it be by power play or five-on-five, but most of all, I think we're continuing to work at defending well and defending hard," Hakstol said. "We've been trying to keep building on the small positives every day, and we've done that."

Because of the league's parity, Hakstol said the "difference between winning and losing is a few little things every night."

It does not seem coincidental that the Flyers have played with more energy since adding the speedy Gostisbehere to the lineup. They have points in seven of nine games since Gostisbehere (four goals) was promoted from the Phantoms.

@BroadStBull