Streaking Flyers hope to extend Kings’ East Coast woes
PHILADELPHIA — Two nights after denying former coach Ken Hitchcock his 800th career win, the Philadelphia Flyers will attempt to send another former coach home with a loss on Monday night.
John Stevens, who replaced Hitchcock as Flyers coach in 2006 and spent parts of four seasons in Philadelphia, will bring the struggling Los Angeles Kings to the Wells Fargo Center, hoping to salvage the finale a four-game road trip.
The Kings began the trek with losses to the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and New York Islanders.
“I just think we’re not a confident group right now,” Anze Kopitar said after scoring the game-tying goal with 13 seconds remaining in the Kings’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders in Brooklyn on Saturday night. “We’re more playing not to lose than we are to win. We got to turn that around.”
After missing the playoffs last season, the Kings replaced coach Darryl Sutter. Stevens, 51, led Los Angeles to a 20-8-3 start highlighted by an eight-game win streak from Nov. 25 through Dec. 9. All of those good feelings evaporated on an East Coast trip in which the Kings have been outscored 13-6.
The Kings have allowed a power-play goal in each of their three losses while going 1-for-7 on the man advantage.
Against the Islanders, Los Angeles (20-10-4) was forced to kill five penalties and squandered an early two-goal lead.
“Certainly, penalties played a big part,” Stevens said. “It gave (the Islanders) some momentum, even when they don’t score, they get opportunities.”
The Flyers’ confidence is as high as it has been all season. Philadelphia (14-11-7) has won six consecutive games following a 10-game losing streak in which general manager Ron Hextall resisted the urge to make a trade or fire third-year coach Dave Hakstol despite chants from the home crowds.
“It means a lot,” said Flyers right winger Wayne Simmonds, who began his NHL career in Los Angeles. “Hexy has faith in us, and he’s a very patient man. The coaching staff as well. We just had to figure it out and get our legs underneath us. Now we just need to keep playing the way we have in the last bit.”
Coming off a 2-1 overtime win against the Stars, the Flyers have allowed two or fewer goals in each of their past six games while receiving goals from 10 different players, including three each from Shayne Gostisbehere, Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl and Simmonds. They have also kept their opponents to two or fewer power-play opportunities in each of their past seven games.
“We’ve had a lot of one-goal games this year (they are now 4-4-7 in those situations) and we’re starting to figure out what to do to get the better of teams,” Simmonds said.
The Flyers have also gotten solid goaltending from Brian Elliott, who has been in net for all six wins in the streak. Elliott’s career high for consecutive wins is 11, set last season.
“Our mindset is a lot better right now,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “We’ve been taking care of pucks. We make the simple play, the right play, and it is kind of working for us right now. We have to keep building on that.”