Konecny leads Flyers past Devils 3-1 with goal, assist
PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Flyers have found a groove as playoff chasers.
Travis Konecny had a goal and an assist, Michal Neuvirth made 28 saves and streaking Philadelphia scored all of its goals in the first period in a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
Ivan Provorov and Valtteri Filppula also tallied goals for the Flyers, who won their sixth of seven to move closer to playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia entered the game ninth in the East, three points behind eighth-place Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers.
”It’s definitely more fun to be in a position that you’re in the playoffs,” Filppula said. ”At the same time, if you make the playoffs now, you’re going to be more prepared. You’ve played a lot of those kinds of games already when you’re not in a must-win but wins are really important. It keeps us focused and in the long run, if we make the playoffs, it’s going to help us out.”
An early-season 10-game losing streak put Philadelphia in a bind. The Flyers slowly climbed out of that hole and now are playing their best hockey of the season.
”The biggest thing for us is to be ready for these games,” said defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who assisted on Konecny’s goal. ”We can’t lay an egg.”
Jesper Bratt scored for New Jersey, which called on goalie Ken Appleby for his NHL debut after Keith Kinkaid was injured in the first period.
Kinkaid made his third straight start in place of Cory Schneider (illness) but left after appearing to injure his right leg while giving up his third goal. Appleby, called up from Binghamton of the AHL on Friday, stopped all 24 shots he faced.
”I think he gave us some life,” Devils coach John Hynes said. ”Keith goes down there and you’re under siege a little bit, and then he goes out with an injury and Ken goes in and he’s untested and he made a couple saves right away and looked like that got him into the game, some confidence for him.”
Appleby, a looming presence at 6-foot-4, said he felt nervous for most of the first period, but the jitters dissipated as he made one save after another.
”The positive is just having it under my belt, really, knowing I went in there, gave it my all and made some saves,” he said. ”The thought that you can play at this level is nice.”
Neuvirth was making his second straight start but just his third since Nov. 28. The Flyers backup stopped 29 shots in Thursday’s 3-2 overtime win over Toronto. He earned the nod on the front end of a back-to-back and was strong again.
”He didn’t have to make the number of quality saves (as Thursday), but he was real good for our hockey team and a big part of this win,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said.
The Flyers dominated the first period. Konecny opened the scoring 3:29 into the game by finishing a great pass from Gostisbehere with a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Kinkaid.
Filppula made it 2-0 five minutes later with a shot high over Kinkaid’s blocker side after solid work by Radko Gudas along the boards to keep the puck in the zone. Michael Raffl made the pass from behind the net, setting up Filppula for his 10th goal of the season.
Provorov batted in a rebound off Kinkaid’s pad with 7:45 left in the period to give Philadelphia a 3-0 lead.
Kinkaid was injured on the play, appearing to hurt his right leg as he lunged with his right pad. Schneider practiced Friday but wasn’t well enough to dress. Hynes didn’t have an update afterward on Kinkaid’s status.
Appleby stoned Scott Laughton on a 2-on-1 break for one of his nine saves in Philadelphia’s scoreless second period. Appleby denied Laughton again from point-blank range with just under four minutes remaining in the third.
The Devils got on the board when Bratt converted on the power play with 11:48 left in the period. Bratt’s wrister from the top of the right circle went off Neuvirth’s left pad and in.
NOTES: The game featured the top two picks in last year’s draft: New Jersey’s Nico Hischier, the No. 1 selection, and Philadelphia’s Nolan Patrick. Neither registered points. … Philadelphia improved to 2-0 against New Jersey this season. The series resumes Feb. 1 in Philadelphia before finishing Feb. 13 in New Jersey. … New Jersey’s Taylor Hall extended his point streak to seven games (five goals, seven assists).
Devils: Host Detroit on Monday night.
Flyers: At Washington on Sunday.
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