Lightning score 3 times in 2nd period, top Flyers 5-1
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson walked to center ice to a standing ovation from fans still going wild about their favorite football team playing in the Super Bowl.
The Eagles will likely provide the only celebratory sports bash in Philly this year.
Once Pederson dropped the puck, the Lightning flashed a forceful reminder why the best team in the NHL is in Tampa Bay.
Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde and Ryan Callahan each scored in the second period to lead Tampa Bay over the Philadelphia Flyers 5-1 on Thursday night, helping the Lightning head into the All-Star break with the best record in the NHL.
Vladislav Namestnikov scored twice late in the third to turn this one into a rout.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 36 shots.
”He’s unreal every game,” Namestnikov said. ”He was solid back there again, and he’s a big reason why we won again.”
The Flyers pulled the goalie with 7:20 left and got a 6-on-4 goal from Travis Konency. But otherwise the Flyers had nothing for Vasilevskiy and were booed off the ice by a fan base suddenly expecting excellence each time out.
The Lightning are off to their best start in franchise history and top the NHL with 34 wins and 71 points as the league gets set to take a lengthy break. Tampa Bay’s stars have little time to rest: Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Vasilevskiy were named to the All-Star team. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman was scratched from the game because of injury and was replaced by Point.
”We like where we are in the standings,” Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman said. ”We’ve been in a tough stretch and we haven’t really found our game. But we’re getting back to it. If you take out that first period tonight, we did a lot of good things the last 40.”
Tampa Bay was upset at home by the Flyers in December at a time when Philadelphia was not far removed from a 10-game losing streak. The Flyers have turned the season around since, winning four straight and eight of nine heading into Thursday’s game. That all ended with a thud against the class of the NHL.
”Hopefully this is a little bit of a wake-up call for the boys,” Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds said.
The Lightning – who led the league in goals per game at 3.50 entering Thursday – used three goals in the second to send the Flyers into the break on a loss and leave them in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Point snapped a scoreless game 25 second into the second on a backhand move to beat Michal Neuvirth for his 20th goal. Gourde pounded in a rebound for his 17th, and Callahan added a short-handed score to make it 3-0.
”We used our speed better, we came out together,” Gourde said. ”In the second period, we really took our speed and took advantage of that and put the puck deep. We went to work. That was the biggest difference.”
Neuvirth got the start with No. 1 goalie Brian Elliott sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux, their lone All-Star, said the team was set to make a serious playoff push.
”It’s frustrating to go into a break like this, but you’ve got to look at what we’ve been doing for a month or so,” he said.
NOTES: Pederson wore a No. 18 Flyers jersey. ”It’s great to see how this city is behind them,” Giroux said. ”We’re rooting for them.” … The Flyers recalled G Alex Lyon from their AHL team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. … Tampa Bay wrapped a four-game road trip. … The loss snapped a five-game home winning streak for the Flyers. It was their first defeat on home ice since January 2.
Tampa Bay returns Tuesday at Winnipeg.
The Flyers play Wednesday at Washington.
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