The streak by the Flyers (33-19-10) has gotten them into the battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the Washington Capitals with an equal number of games played.
Flyers center Claude Giroux had a spectacular breakaway goal and an assist in Philadelphia’s 5-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Giroux has 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in his past nine games.
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“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Giroux told NHL.com when asked about reaching the top of the division. “We’re playing some good hockey right now. Not too sure what to say, but everybody bought in to what we’re trying to do here and it’s a lot of fun.”
The Flyers are 9-0-2 in their past 11 games. Goaltender Petr Mrazek got the win against the Senators, his second in as many games since being acquired from the Detroit Red Wings Monday in a trade.
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol told NHL.com that the approach of steady improvement over the course of the season is paying off.
“From the start of the year, we’ve tried to use every day to figure out a way to get better, to improve the way we’re doing things,” Hakstol said. “I think we’re seeing the results of that. It doesn’t change now, either. Every day it’s go out and do the job, work to be a little bit better as a team and then go onto the next challenge.”
The Flyers will face a Canadiens team without veteran center Thomas Plekanec, who was traded along with Kyle Baun for a 2018 second-round draft pick, defenseman Rinat Valiev and forward Kerby Rychel on Sunday.
With the Canadiens (23-29-9) in 14th place in the Eastern Conference and all but officially eliminated from the playoff race, they traded the 35-year-old Plekanec, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Plekanec has been with the Canadiens since he was drafted in the third round in 2001. He played 981 games with the Canadiens, seventh on their career list.
“He’s the ultimate pro,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien told reporters, including Sportsnet. “‘He comes to the rink and he’s there early. He prepares and he practices hard and he’s focused. He’s a quiet guy who’s got a good personality. He gets along with everybody, is well respected.
“He really takes pride in the game without the puck, and he was one of those guys we always pushed a little bit to bring some offense because he definitely cares more about getting scored on than scoring, but he’s capable of doing both.
“So I think when you look back at his stats and when you look back at his durability and everything else, he’s been a real good asset for this hockey club.”
“It’s 15 years of my life. It’s my home,” Plekanec told the team’s website upon leaving Montreal. “My kids go to school here. They speak French. Their first language is French. But I’m going to a team that’s going to be in the playoffs and has a chance to play for a Stanley Cup. It’s awesome.”
The Canadiens are now without Plekanec, veteran defenseman Shea Weber and No. 1 goaltender Carey Price. Weber is out for the rest of the season because of a foot injury and Price is out without a concussion he sustained against the Flyers on Tuesday.
Backup goaltender Antti Niemi made 36 saves, including six in overtime, to help the Canadiens pick up a point in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
“Towards the end, I started feeling the puck and tracking it pretty well,” Niemi told Montrealcanadiens.com. “I was able to stay patient and just wait and see what happens. It was good to get a point from (the Lightning). I feel good about that.”
After losing six games in a row, the Canadiens have points in their past two games (1-0-1).