PHILADELPHIA – Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is raving about his new fourth-line centre.
Blair Betts scored two third-period goals and Philadelphia won its third straight, topping the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 on Saturday night.
“He’s really valuable because he does a lot of things really well,” Laviolette said of Betts, an eight-year NHL veteran who was signed as a free agent on Oct. 1.
“He’s a faceoff guy,” Laviolette added. “He can play all positions. He can skate, he can hit, he can kill penalties.”
Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell also scored for the Flyers, 7-1-1 in their last nine.
Martin St. Louis scored for the Lightning, who have lost two in a row.
“Obviously in the first period the Flyers outplayed us,” Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. “We started making a game of it later.”
Philadelphia’s Michael Leighton, starting his eighth straight game in place of the injured Ray Emery, made 17 saves.
“We played great defence again,” Leighton said. “I can’t say enough about how the team is playing in front of me.”
Emery has missed 16 games after undergoing abdominal surgery on Dec. 9. Leighton was claimed on waivers from Carolina six days later.
Emery made a rehab start for the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, on Saturday night and had 12 saves in a 2-1 loss to Portland.
Former Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki stopped 27 shots for the Lightning.
Tampa Bay failed on four power plays and is 0-for-13 with the man advantage in its last four games.
Giroux put the Flyers ahead with a one-timer from the circle as he fell forward at 13:01 of the first period on a power play. Simon Gagne assisted on the play for his 500th point in his 626th NHL game. Philadelphia teammate Danny Briere posted his 500th point in his 626th career game Wednesday against Toronto.
Hartnell, who broke a 17 game scoreless drought, made it 2-0 at 3:36 of the third period, scoring on a breakaway pass from Briere.
“It’s probably one of the longest stretches I’ve had without scoring other than my first 20 games here with the Flyers,” Hartnell said.
After St. Louis scored on a give-and-go with Steven Stamkos at 13:05 of the third, Betts put in a rebound at 16:55. He added an empty-net goal with 27 seconds remaining.
“That third goal was a game-changer,” Stamkos said. “It broke any momentum we had. That was a tough one to swallow.”
NOTES: Tampa Bay’s suspended game against the New Jersey Devils on Friday will be resumed Sunday night in Newark, N.J. The Lightning led 3-0 in the second period when lights went out in half the arena. … The Lightning are 4-1-1 in the second half of back-to-back games. … Flyers C Mike Richards, who also assisted on Giroux’s goal, has 16 points in 16 games against the Lightning.