After going 5-1 on a six-game road trip, the Philadelphia Flyers' quirky schedule forced them to play the very night after finishing the road trip. This seemed to have absolutely no negative effect on the Flyers, who came back home for the first time in 2014 and played a strong game against the visiting Montreal Canadiens, skating to a 3-1 victory on Wednesday night. Steve Mason was back in net after Ray Emery's strong performance on Tuesday night in New Jersey, and Mason put up a strong performance of his own – although the defense in front of Mason was especially tight, allowing just 20 shots. Andrej Meszaros racked up three assists, and Zac Rinaldo scored for the first time this season en route to yet another Flyers home victory.
The Flyers got the scoring started in the first half of the first period, as Sean Couturier picked up his eighth goal of the year on a big rebound given up by Canadiens' goalie Peter Budaj. Andrej Meszaros cranked the puck to the net from the point, Budaj blockered it aside, but it bounced right to Couturier, who was waiting on the opposite side of the net to put the puck home. Then, in the later stages of the opening period, with the Flyers pressuring deep in the Montreal zone, Zac Rinaldo took a bounce off the boards right into the slot and backhanded it past Budaj for a 2-0 Flyers year, and for his first goal of the year.
The lead would only increase in the second period, as Michael Raffl picked up his third goal of the year. Andrej Meszaros, who was full of offense Wednesday night, drove to the net in traffic and backhanded one off of Budaj that Raffl soon found on his stick for the goal. This put the Flyers up 3-0 and made it seem like they were in control of this thing for good. They did give up a short-handed goal at the end of the second period to the Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec, making it 3-1 at the second intermission.
Not that long ago, when the Flyers went into the third period with a 3-1, a win was anything but a sure thing. Nothing is ever 100 percent, but the way the Flyers played Wednesday night put the odds strongly in their favor. Their defense was incredibly strong in front of Steve Mason not only in the third period, but all game. Mason only faced 20 shots and stopped 19 of them, doing his job as usual. They held the Canadiens without a shot for nearly half of the third period, and would shut the door the rest of the way for their 10th straight home win and third straight win overall.
As has been the case more often than not this year, back-to-back games have not been much of a problem for the Flyers. They are playing with incredible amounts of synergy right now, and with guys like Zac Rinaldo scoring goals and Andrej Meszaros having three point nights, it's becoming quite evident that this team is firing on all cylinders. Everyone is picking up the slack – when the "big" scorers have a night off, someone else steps up and lights the lamp. On top of it all, Montreal is one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference – so it's not like the Flyers were playing a cellar-dwelling team.
As the Flyers' winning ways continue, their record improves to 23-17-4, still fifth in the Eastern Conference, but now four points ahead of the Washington Capitals for second place in the Metropolitan Division. As a reminder, the top three teams in each division automatically clinch playoff spots. So although it is only January, the Flyers are in a favorable position right now. They host the high-powered Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday afternoon from the Wells Fargo Center as they look to continue their winning ways.
Philadelphia: 14:39 – Zac Rinaldo (1), Assisted by Luke Schenn (3) and Andrej Meszaros (6)
Montreal: 17:37 – SHG – Tomas Plekanec (14), Assisted by Brian Gionta (16)
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