PHILADELPHIA – Ville Leino’s spinning move was the kind of play most players would love to master even on an Xbox.
He’s perfected the fancy, twirling goal in real games.
Leino scored twice, including the winner late in the third period, to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.
Leino spun around in front of the net to avoid sliding Nashville forward Martin Erat, then beat goalie Anders Lindback with a backhand on the high glove side for the winner.
“Every time you get it, the goalie’s going to be down, so you’ve just got to get it up,” Leino said. “Sometimes it doesn’t work.
“It just bounced perfectly for me today.”
The Flyers won on the night they honoured Hall of Famer and their former captain, Bobby Clarke.
Jeff Carter also scored while Sergei Bobrovsky had 26 saves for the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers, who opened a four-game homestand.
Leino scored a power-play goal for his 12th of the season early in the third for a 2-1 lead. He converted a rebound from a tough angle to start his first two-goal game of the season.
“When he has the puck, he’s going to make things happen,” Carter said. “He’s going to make the fancy plays and he’s going to make the easy plays.”
With all-star Claude Giroux off for high sticking, Joel Ward took advantage, converting a rebound that tied the game 2-2.
The Predators held their annual fathers’ trip at the game and the road-tripping dads enjoying the game from the luxury box erupted in cheers at the goal.
The Predators wouldn’t beat Bobrovsky—known in the locker room simply as “Bob”—again.
Bobrovsky was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots during the first period against the Lightening. He rebounded with an outstanding effort, stopping all 13 shots in the second.
The Flyers haven’t lost consecutive games since Dec. 20 and Dec. 28.
Marcel Goc also scored for the Predators, who lost their fourth straight game.
“It’s a wasted effort, as far as I’m concerned,” defenceman Shea Weber. “We fought hard against a good team, and we just couldn’t get it done.
“It was very frustrating.”
The Flyers were shut out against Tampa Bay in their first game back from the all-star break, a listless start to the second half after they entered the break atop the NHL standings.
The Flyers entered with a league-best 173 goals and ended any thought of consecutive shutout losses when Carter’s wrist shot from the circle for his 24th goal late in the first gave them the early lead.
Goc scored his ninth goal of the season 61 seconds later to tie the game.
The Predators briefly thought they went up 2-1 on Goc’s second goal only to have it waved off because of incidental contact.
Nashville defenceman Patric Hornqvist lost his balance and backed into Bobrovsky. Nashville coach Barry Trotz fumed as he watched the overhead replay, arguing the contact wasn’t severe enough to disallow the second-period goal.
Trotz was impressed with the Flyers.
“They’re just tremendous,” he said. “To me, clearly, they are the deepest team in the Eastern Conference, as far as I’m concerned. No question.”
The Flyers celebrated Clarke before the game and presented him with his retired number banner from the Spectrum. He’s still the Flyers career leader in assists and points and led them to consecutive Stanley Cup championships in the 1974 and 1975. He works as the Flyers senior vice-president and consultant to general manager Paul Holmgren.
Clarke said it’s too early to compare this year’s Flyers to those old Broad Street Bullies teams.
“It’s got pretty much every ingredient you could want,” he said. “If they could win the Cup, it would be a great team. Everybody from my era is hoping that they could win the Cup, obviously.”
NOTES—The Flyers and Predators have made more trades with each other (17) than they have played games against each other (14). … Clarke doesn’t miss the day-the-day of grind of working as the Flyers general manager. He resigned in October 2006. “Not for any other reason than that I don’t want to sit behind a desk all day and do those kinds of things. I did it until I had enough,” he said. … Japanese eating champion Takeru Kobayashi was at the game. He’ll attend Friday’s Wing Bowl and attended the game with the commissioner of the chicken wing eating competition, former Flyers goalie Bernie Parent.