Steve Mason makes one of his 32 saves in the Flyers 4-1 win over the Blues on Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com)
The Flyers had been out-shot, 13-8, by the Blues in the first period. Another mistake by the power play allowed St. Louis to also score the lone goal of the period while short-handed.
It felt like the Flyers were reverting back to bad habits. A short-handed goal scored by the opposition in a game that was clearly going to be tight for scoring. Penalties all over the place throughout the game, including four by captain Claude Giroux. From the Flyers standpoint, it will go down as another sloppy game.
But the Orange and Black also managed to rally from poor play in the first 20 minutes to generate chances in the last 40. Determination and hard work in puck battles paid dividends as the Flyers claimed their fifth straight victory, 4-1, over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
A penalty in the closing seconds of the first period gave the Flyers nearly two minutes of power play time on fresh ice. 57 seconds into the second, Scott Hartnell tied the game. Brayden Schenn's go-ahead goal proved to be huge, as the Flyers were generally winning the battles throughout the second.
The Flyers were being heavily out-shot in the third - mainly due to penalties of their own - when Jake Voracek managed to score with 4:19 left in regulation. Credit Steve Mason for holding the Flyers lead to that point. Credit the first line with a huge shift that generated the scoring chance and goal.
Beating the top team in the NHL, and capping off an eight-day stretch with five wins and 10 points should be enough to turn heads. But if you're still not convinced about the Flyers run to the playoffs, all you had to do was ask the Blues what they thought.
"They play hard. They play fast and in your face," Blues captain David Backes said. "They seem to have hit that playoff stride already. That's something that we're striving to get to.
"They've been feeling it for a while. They've beat a lot of good teams in the recent past. A little daylight gives them tons of hope and they made no mistake. Once they had the lead, they took it to us."
"We didn't outwork the goalie in the third," Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I thought his level of compete was harder than our in and around the net area. Our level of determination in the offensive zone isn't what it's going to need to be to beat great goaltending."
Hitchcock had a sense of what was coming. On Friday, he told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he would be nervous if he had to play them in a playoff series.
"They look like a team right now that not only has a lot of resolve," Hitchcock said, "but they are fully committed to checking - and that's the coach who has gotten that out of them.
"There's lots of talented teams in the National Hockey League, but that team is fully invested in checking," Hitchcock said. "You see it in their penalty killing. You see it in their forecheck, their five-on-five play. They are going to be a bear in the playoffs."
The Flyers did a lot right in Saturday's win but really once again had to rely on the great goaltending of Mason. Mason made 32 saves in the win, his 30th in goal this season.
"30 is a big number. Anytime you're going to win, it's a team thing. I'm not going to take any of the credit," Mason said. "Right now, we're rolling along nicely and the wins are coming. It's just a stat, but it's a team stat. It's a good job for the team."
Penalties were an issue, though the Flyers penalty kill continued to play well, killing all six St. Louis power plays. The Flyers also finished the game with 20 penalty minutes.
When the Flyers needed him most, Mason was there. When the opportunity arose after being held quiet for a majority of the third, Voracek and Wayne Simmonds delivered the goals that would ice the game.
"We're aware that we have a lot of things to get better," Giroux said. "We can play better games. We do a lot of mistakes that get us in trouble. Mase does a good job to help us out but we have a lot of things to get better."
In the span of five games, the Flyers have turned heads. 10 points in the standings, all via wins against playoff teams, will do that. But the journey is not over. In fact, it's only beginning. The Flyers welcome the Los Angeles Kings to town for the final game of a four-game homestand against Western Conference teams.
“Our team is getting to where we need to get to to be really successful," head coach Craig Berube said. "We have to keep working and keep things in check.
"I don’t really care about what anybody thinks. We know where we are and where we’re trying to get to.”
Kevin Durso is the lead beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.