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Flyers continue turnaround, defeat Canucks for third straight win

Sparked by Jake Voracek's three assists, the Flyers won all three of their Western Canada games in regulation for the first time since 1996.

Jake Voracek and teammates celebrate a first-period goal in Thursday night’s win at Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
Jake Voracek and teammates celebrate a first-period goal in Thursday night’s win at Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)Read moreJonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — General manager Ron Hextall seemed to be overdosing on hyperbole last week, saying he thought the Flyers were a playoff team even though they were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak.

But after they completed a three-game sweep on their Western Canada trip Thursday night with a 4-1 win in Vancouver, the losing skid seems like a distant memory.

Oh, and Hextall's playoff talk may not be as far-fetched as many believed.

The Flyers left their losing ways at home.

Getting three assists from Jake Voracek and goals from Shayne Gostisbehere, Michael Raffl,  Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds (empty net), they registered their first three-game sweep in Western Canada since 2013. It also marked the first time they had won all three Western Canada games in regulation since Dec. 27-31, 1996.

[Box score, three stars]

"We changed a couple things and everybody's bought into it," said Giroux, whose team clogged the neutral zone with a 1-2-2 alignment during the road trip. "That makes it a lot more fun."

"Making some tweaks to our system really helped us dial in and refocus," defenseman Andrew MacDonald said.

Raffl scored his fifth goal in the last eight games for the Flyers, who started the trip with a 5-2 win in Calgary and a 4-2 victory in Edmonton.

Voracek had the 14th three-assist game of his career. The veteran right winger now leads the NHL with 30 assists.

The Flyers, getting another solid perfomance from goalie Brian Elliott, avenged a 5-2 Wells Fargo Center defeat to Vancouver 17 nights earlier. The Canucks' three-game winning streak was snapped.

Elliott, 32, playing on back-to-back nights because of a lower-body injury to Michal Neuvirth, made 36 saves and notched the 200th win of his career. He made the game's first nine saves as the Canucks swarmed the net in the opening seven minutes.

"We were a little slow out of the gate and they came out hard," MacDonald said."He made some crucial saves early that let us calm down. That's the veteran goaltending presence that he brings."

On his 200th career win, Elliott said: "It's pretty special for me. You get your first win and you just try to stay in the league and play your game and try to win a Stanley Cup. But reaching milestones like that mean a lot, and hopefully I can go for another 100."

With their recent surge, the Flyers (11-11-7) have moved within six points of a wild-card spot.

Raffl, who earlier this year ended a 42-game point-less streak that dated back to last season, has scored a goal in all three games since he was put on the second line, alongside Val Filppula and Voracek.

"I've been working real hard the whole year,"said Raffl after redirecting Voracek's pass/shot into the net, giving the Flyers a 2-0 lead 45 seconds into the second period. "I had a tough stretch the first 20 games or so, but I had scoring chances — and as long as you get chances, you shouldn't change much. All you need is one goal to get your confidence up a little bit and that's what's happening right now."

Midway through the second period, Giroux made it 3-0 by scoring on one of his patented left-circle one-timers while the Flyers had a power play.

Brock Boeser cut it to 3-1, scoring on a rebound with 19.4 seconds left in the second. Dave Hakstol, who successfully recruited  Boeser to the University of North Dakota, issued a coach's challenge for goaltender interference, but the call was upheld and Boeser had his 14th goal, tops among NHL rookies.

During their 10-game slide (0-5-5), the Flyers were outscored after the second period, 14-2. But they outscored their three opponents, 4-1, after the second period on their just-completed three-game trip.

The Flyers built a 1-0 lead in a strange first period. Strange because the Canucks had the period's first nine shots, while the Flyers had the next nine.

Elliott kept the Canucks scoreless with a handful of key saves in the opening seven minutes.

The Flyers nearly scored on their first shot as Raffl deflected Voracek's pass and the puck appeared headed into the net, but at the last instant goalie Jacob Markstrom reached out with his stick and kept it from crossing the goal line with 12:44 left in the first.

With his team on a power play, Gostisbehere gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead when his point shot deflected off ex-teammate Sam Gagner and got past Markstrom with 5:52 to go in the first. Fourteen of Gostisbehere's 22 points have come on the power play.

Voracek had the first of his three assists.

"They collapsed pretty low and I got open for Jakey," said Gostisbehere, who, along with Giroux and Voracek, had two points on the power play. "I shot it quickly and got a lucky bounce."

A little over a minute after Gostisbehere's goal, fourth-line center Scott Laughton appeared to injure his head after a collision with the referee. Laughton went to the locker room but returned to the ice in the second period.

The Flyers will return home, where they have won just four of 14 games (4-6-4) and have lost six straight, and try to increase their season-high winning streak. They host Toronto on Tuesday, and they will get Radko Gudas, their most physical defenseman, back in the lineup after serving a 10-game suspension.

Wild-card Standings