Flyers send Predators on rare losing streak
PHILADELPHIA — Something about playing the league’s top team helped Wayne Simmonds and the Flyers to focus.
Simmonds had a goal in regulation and the shootout to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 3-2 shootout victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.
Ryan White also scored in regulation for Philadelphia, which improved to 3-7 in shootouts this season.
"Unfortunately, we don’t play like that every night," Simmonds said. "We have to find a way to play that way against teams that are below us. We just focus in, hone in on what we need to do and keep it more simple."
Colin Wilson and Craig Smith scored in regulation for league-leading Nashville, which lost consecutive games for the first time this season. The Predators were dominated in the first two periods before rallying for a point.
"We were slow getting off the mark," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought the second half of the game, we showed up and looked pretty good."
Jakub Voracek opened the shootout by beating Pekka Rinne with a backhander. After Rob Zepp stopped Matt Cullen, Simmonds beat Rinne through the legs, then Zepp clinched the win by denying Craig Smith.
"I liked all game," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "You play simple and support each other out there, you’ll have success."
Nashville dropped to 5-5 in shootouts.
Predators coach Peter Laviolette made his first trip back to Philadelphia since being fired after beginning last season 0-3. Laviolette led Philadelphia to the Stanley Cup finals in 2010 and an Atlantic Division title the following season. He received warm applause from the fans when he was introduced and shown on the video board late in the first period.
Asked if it was strange returning to Philadelphia, he said, "Not really, no."
The Predators had their season-high six-game winning streak snapped in Thursday’s 5-2 loss against the Islanders. Nashville hadn’t lost consecutive regular-season games since last March.
Philadelphia took a 2-1 lead with 8:39 remaining in the second period on White’s wrist shot from the slot that went through Rinne’s legs. Brayden Schenn and R.J. Umberger assisted the goals after their persistent pressure kept the puck in Nashville’s zone.
Smith’s goal 23 seconds into the third period tied it at 2. Mike Fisher sent a cross-ice pass to a wide-open Smith, who shot it off Zepp’s jersey and in.
Both teams had chances for the go-ahead goal in the final period. Zepp stopped James Neal with a good save with 11 minutes left and extended his pad to deny Wilson a minute later.
Rinne used his left pad to stop Matt Read from right in front with 17 minutes left, and then twice turned away Claude Giroux from his doorstep with four minutes to play in the period.
Simmonds extended his career-high streak with a point in his seventh straight game with a nifty deflection of Michael Del Zotto’s shot nine minutes in to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
But Nashville took advantage of Del Zotto’s turnover with just over a minute left, and Wilson converted just the Predators’ second shot into a goal to tie it at 1 with 1:02 remaining in the period. Wilson beat Zepp, who was playing in his seventh career game, with a shot from the left circle.
Zepp, a 33-year-old rookie was spelling Ray Emery, who normally backs up Steve Mason. Mason is out with a knee injury.
Philadelphia entered Saturday’s game on the heels of two lackluster home performances, Tuesday’s loss to Columbus and Thursday’s shootout defeat to NHL-worst Buffalo.
"It’s huge for us," Simmonds said of the win. "We need every point we can possibly get. It doesn’t matter how we get them, we just have to make sure we put them in the bank."
Berube broke up his top line in attempt to get the club’s offense going, splitting up Claude Giroux and Voracek. The duo, who are among the NHL’s points leaders, had been paired together since the 2012-13 season. But their struggles continued, as Giroux went without a point while extending his goalless drought to 10 games. Voracek also didn’t have a point.