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Simmonds scores twice as Flyers win fifth straight

NASHVILLE - Playing in back-to-back games isn't supposed to bring out the best in a team, but you wouldn't know it by watching the Flyers.

NASHVILLE - Playing in back-to-back games isn't supposed to bring out the best in a team, but you wouldn't know it by watching the Flyers.

Getting a pair of power-play goals Sunday night from Wayne Simmonds, they defeated Nashville at Bridgestone Arena, 4-2, giving them a 9-4-1 record in both ends of back-to-back games.

They are an impressive 5-1-1 in the grueling second end of those games.

Overall, it was their fifth straight victory, their longest winning streak since March 15-22, 2014.

"It's our seventh back-to-back, and I think if you treat it as a back-to-back, you overthink it," coach Dave Hakstol said. "It's a hockey game. You have to go out and play. It doesn't matter if it's back-to-back, or third in four nights, or seventh in 10. There's two points on the line."

Steve Mason made 30 saves as the Flyers handed Nashville just its second regulation home loss of the season - and first since Oct. 18, a 2-1 defeat to Dallas. They also denied coach Peter Laviolette of his 100th win with the Predators.

"In back-to-backs, it's a matter of just getting the body going again and not complicating things," Mason said after the Flyers moved into a wild-card spot. "The second game of back-to-backs you just want to keep it simple, and I think the guys worked hard tonight. This is one of the tougher buildings to come into and get a win."

"Our mental game has been pretty good lately," Simmonds said. "We've been trying not to make any mistakes, especially in the second games, and manage pucks - and we've done that."

After Nashville killed a four-minute Flyers power-play - awarded after Filip Forsberg cut Nick Cousins with a high stick - the Predators controlled play in the last half of the final period, but Mason stood tall.

Chris VandeVelde sealed the win by scoring an empty-net goal with 26.3 seconds left.

Michael Raffl skated past defenseman Mattias Ekholm with a power move, cut from right to left, and went backhand-to-forehand to beat backup goalie Juuse Saros, putting the Flyers ahead, 3-2, with 3:23 left in the second period.

"That," Hakstol said, "was a huge goal. "We're playing three games in four [nights] and you could see the energy level was getting a little low. He was tired, but I think he realized he had a tired defenseman he was going against as well."

Earlier in the second period, Simmonds' second power-play goal of the night had given the Flyers a brief 2-1 lead. On a broken play, Simmonds got the puck in front and waited for Saros to make a move, then put a shot between his legs for his seventh power-play goal - tied for the NHL lead at the time - and his team-leading 13th tally of the season.

Simmonds' father Cyril, was at the game as part of the team's father-son weekend. "I think this is his seventh or eighth dads' trip, and every time I try to get a couple goals for him," Simmonds said. "I just want to see a smile on his face at the end of the day."

With 1:48 left in the opening period, Simmonds tipped in Jake Voracek's right-circle one-timer to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. After Calle Jarnkrok tied it on a tip-in early in the second period, Simmonds struck again on the power play.

The Flyers had been in a 2-for-23 power-play funk before Simmonds' first goal.

Nashville, which was without injured winger James Neal (team-high 10 goals), had not allowed a power-play goal in its first 10 homes games (27 for 27) before surrendering one in Saturday's 5-4 overtime loss to New Jersey.

The Flyers lost winger Matt Read to an upper-body injury midway through the first period and he did not return. Read, who scored five goals in his first five games but one in his last 22, was checked into the net by Forsberg.

If Read is sidelined, the Flyers figure to put Boyd Gordon or Scott Laughton in the lineup. Read has been playing on the third line, alongside Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Dale Weise.