PHILADELPHIA – Jake Voracek sat at his stall, shedding his hockey equipment.
The Flyers had just won a game for the first time in two weeks, a 3-1 upset of the Boston Bruins.
He had also found out that the New York Islanders had lost their game, meaning that if the Flyers got a little help from the Montreal Canadiens later Saturday night, his team could be playing for a shot to be just two points out of a playoff spot on Easter Sunday.
And considering how things have gone lately, that’s a chance the Flyers are hoping for.
So, when Voracek was asked if the team still believes in itself to the point that they feel they can still make the playoffs, he scratched his chin, thought about it a second and then let it out.
“I don’t think many people believe in us right now,” he said. “But we showed that we can play against anyone and I think we played a very good game today. We played well defensively. [Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov] played a great game and we scored when we needed too. It’s been a huge two points for us and we have another big one tomorrow.
“You know, it’s 14 games left. We know we have to get on a roll. If the Rangers lose tonight we are four points out so it’s only two games. It’s going to be pretty tight until the end. We just have to play the way we did today.”
And he wasn’t alone with the us-against-the-world mentality. To a man every player in the locker room was more upbeat. They were more tuned into the task at hand and the way the hockey game needed to be played – and they provided about as complete an effort as one could expect against a tough Boston team.
Considering the Flyers were playing without three injured defenseman and forward Danny Briere, the odds were long that they’d be able to contain the Bruins.
But the Flyers surprised everyone but themselves with a 60-minute effort that showed they both had a pulse and a desire to fight to the finish – whether that be in April, May or June.
“You ask yourself why don’t you do it more often,” said Mike Knuble, who scored a goal for the second straight game. “I think, coming in, everybody was on board today. We had to defend at times but it was like nothing really happened. It was bending, not breaking.”
And for once the Flyers didn’t break. They protected a two goal lead – something they couldn’t do as recently as Thursday against the Islanders.
And even though they allowed Boston to get within one, they held on and got an empty net goal – just the second one of the season – to keep their seemingly long playoff hopes alive.
“I thought it was a really good game,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “Guys did a good job, played a smart game that started in the offensive zone and even through the neutral zone just made it difficult in the defensive zone. Lot of shots came from the outside, Bryzgalov made some big saves when we needed him, but I think the guys out front played very well.”
And it all started with the power play, which is white hot right now.
Knuble scored from in front off a nice feed from Brayden Schenn to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead 15:19 into the first period.
It marked the fifth consecutive man advantage that the Flyers have scored a goal. Those five opportunities have spanned four games, which means not a lot of penalties are being called against the opposition.
“The power play is execution; we practice it, a lot,” Laviolette said. “I think the first unit really has a strong identity and they’re the ones who are scoring most of the goals. They didn’t get it done in the first minute that they were on the ice, so it was really good to see the second unit go out there.
“They haven’t had as much practice time, just based on injuries, and guys coming out of the lineup. That units been mixed and matched a little bit. They did a good job of getting settled and getting into position to execute a set play. It was good for them to contribute like that.”
Matt Read made it 2-0 early in the second period when his slap shot whistled past Boston goalie Tuukka Rask from the top of the slot.
It was his eighth goal of the season and ended a 10-game scoreless drought for him.
Nathan Horton scored on a rebound five minutes into the third period, and while it made many people in the building hold their breath, it was the only time the Bruins could get the puck past Bryzgalov, who was excellent in goal with 33 saves.
I”’m sure three-quarters of the building was thinking [‘here we go gain’],” Knuble said. “But there were times where we had to defend. You are always going to have to defend against them. They have great offensive players there. Are you going to give up the glorious chances or are you just going to give up the shots that Bryz can see and that he has eyes on it? I think if we give up those where he has a clear view and he can see, then he’s going to stop them. It’s up to him to stop the puck.”
Which he did – and the Flyers are still in the playoff mix.
Prior to the game the Flyers traded a conditional draft pick to the Detroit Red Wings for defenseman Kent Huskins.
Huskins, 33, played in 11 games for the Red Wings this season, as well as two games with the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League. Huskins has appeared in 310 NHL games for Detroit, St. Louis, San Jose and Anaheim over parts of seven NHL seasons, scoring 13 goals and adding 54 assists for 67 points.
The Flyers may get him for free if they choose not to re-sign him over the summer.
Huskins is an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Flyers will give Detroit a 2014 seventh round pick only if they sign Huskins to a new contract before October 1.
“Obviously he’s an experienced guy who gives us a little depth,” Paul Holmgren said.
The quote of the day has to belong to Zac Rinaldo who had 12 hits Saturday in 12:41 of ice time, matching a season-high for the Flyers that he set in Winnipeg Feb. 12.
Asked after the game about 12 hits in 12 minutes Rinaldo said, “That’s nothing.”
“Yeah, give me 18 [minutes] and I’ll give you 20 [hits],” he said.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
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