PHILADELPHIA – From killing penalties to unlikely scorers, the Philadelphia Flyers are finding all kinds of ways to win at home.
Sean Couturier, Zac Rinaldo and Michael Raffl scored to lead the Flyers to their 10th straight home victory, 3-1 over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.
The surging Flyers returned home after a 5-1 trip that sent them to fourth in the Eastern Conference. Brushing off 1-7 and 4-10-1 starts to become one of the hottest teams in the NHL, they are 9-2 since Dec. 17 and have found new life under coach Craig Berube.
“I think they’re confident guys right now and they believe they can win,” Berube said. “They’re not always going to play their best hockey, but we’re squeezing wins out.”
The Flyers haven’t lost at home since Nov. 7 against New Jersey. They’re on their longest home winning streak since they won 11 straight Oct. 27-Dec. 5, 2003. The Flyers have won all 10 in regulation, their longest streak without OT since a 14-game regulation home winning streak from February 10-April 4, 1985. They won the last 14 home games of the regular season before making a run to the Stanley Cup finals.
Steve Mason was again sensational in goal, stopping 19 shots for his 18th win.
Tomas Plekanec scored for the Canadiens.
For whatever reason, most notably the coaching change from Peter Laviolette to Berube, the Flyers are simply a different team over the last three months. The offence that failed to score more than two goals in a game though each of the first nine games has scored at least three in 11 of 12.
They’ve thrived on the penalty kill, also. Philadelphia was 4 for 4 on the PK against Montreal, its sixth consecutive perfect game (19 of 19) in that category.
“Penalty killing is about everybody on the ice being more committed than the power play, blocking shots, clearing pucks, goalies making big saves,” Berube said.
Rinaldo even chipped in from the fourth line.
Known more scrapping his way into the lineup, and taking a seat in the penalty box, Rinaldo scored on a backhander late in the first for his first goal since Nov. 7, 2013. He has six goals in 142 career games.
“The boys have been really supportive of me,” Rinaldo said. “You just got to put pucks on the net and that’s what I did and it went in for me.”
He stretched the lead after Couturier tipped one in for his eighth goal of the season 6:27 into the game, just the latest two-goal lead for the Flyers.
Raffl beat goalie Peter Budaj, who had 24 saves, for his third goal of the season in the second for a 3-0 lead.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re down a goal or up a goal, we’re sticking to the system, even though we’ve got enough good players to score goals to come back or to play good enough defence to bring it home,” Raffl said.
Flyers defenceman Andrej Meszaros had three assists.
“All the defencemen are trying to jump up into the play, whoever has the chance,” he said. “That’s the game now, and if you want to attack and you have the D join in, it’s a big advantage to score a goal.”
Plekanec scored a short-handed goal for Montreal in the second to cut it to 3-1. The Canadiens, though, could never seriously rally and took only five shots in the third. That made it easy enough for Mason to earn his latest win.
“We’ve got to find a way to get into our comfort level earlier and we just didn’t find that right away,” Montreal forward Brian Gionta said.
Notes: Flyers F Matt Read sat out with a concussion. … Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was disappointed captain Claude Giroux failed to make the Olympic team for Canada. “I would say that I was a little bit surprised,” Holmgren said. “I know how badly he wanted to be made to the team. It’s a tough call, a lot of good players to be chosen from.”