Simmonds' Three-Point Night Powers Flyers over Wild
PHILADELPHIA -- Perhaps one of the largest keys to a season is how a rested team plays against a tired opponent coming off of a game the night before.
The Flyers passed that test, defeating a clearly sluggish Minnesota Wild team 4-1, leading to their ninth straight win at Wells Fargo Center. Last time the Flyers won nine games at home happened almost nine years ago.
"You got a lot of pride when you wear the orange here in this building," Scott Hartnell said. "We come out flying; we come out hard.
Wayne Simmonds scored two goals and added an assist on the Flyers' first goal by Luke Schenn, and captain Claude Giroux tallied his tenth goal this season to cap the scoring.
Wild leading scorer Zach Parise missed this contest with what was believed to be a foot injury, meaning Matt Cooke filled that hole along with Mikko Koivu and youngster Charlie Coyle on their first line. Wild head coach Mike Yeo toyed with that line after Cooke left the game for a while with a cut to his face.
Aside from Mikael Granlund's 5-on-3 power play goal, Flyers' starter Steve Mason made one large save on Koivu. Other than that, Mason turned away 26 shots to pick up his 14th victory.
They did not make their job easy on this night, however. Five Flyers minor penalties gave Minnesota glorious chances to come back and make it a game.
"We still need to do a better job of staying out of the box," head coach Craig Berube said. "We're taking too many penalties."
That beat goes on for the NHL's second-highest penalty minute total (171) behind Ottawa. The Flyers now average 17.2 penalty minutes per game.
Not only did the Flyers take advantage of a tired team, but they took advantage of a clearly rattled netminder, Nicklas Backstrom.
Luke Schenn opened the scoring with a top-shelf salvo from the right circle after a strong net drive play by Scott Hartnell. Schenn's third goal of the season drew an assist from Hartnell, which happened to be his 500th NHL point.
Not long after that on a Marco Scandella interference call, a tic-tac-toe passing play between Giroux and Jakub Voracek found a wide-open Simmonds on the back door. He tapped home his ninth goal of the season.
Both Giroux and Voracek extended career-high point streaks with those assists.
At that point, the Flyers scored three goals on their first nine shots of the contest. Backstrom rebounded well, stopping all but Claude Giroux's deflection off of a Braydon Coburn shot, ending up with 27 saves.
Simmonds' empty net goal sealed his dominant showing on Monday night. He received first star honors for his effort.
"Obviously, we've been hot at home," Simmonds said postgame. "We just have to carry it on the road and play like we've been playing at home and we'll be fine."
After a mandated holiday break from December 24-26, the Flyers will embark on yet another extended road trip stemming from December 28 to January 7. Six games, including a traditional three-game swing in western Canada, is on tap.
As of now, the Flyers will need to improve on their 6-9-4 record while away from Wells Fargo, because that will be the name of the game for quite a while.