PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jake Voracek wore a T-shirt in the locker room for a beer named in honor of teammate Kevin Hayes. The occasion seemed appropriate, a win streak is brewing in Philly, and a playoff push is on tap for a franchise whose recent playoff history has been dry.
Claude Giroux scored twice and Carter Hart stopped 26 shots to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to their fifth straight win, 5-2 over the New York Rangers on Friday night.
The Flyers have been sensational of late as they surge up the Eastern Conference standings. The latest win moved them past Pittsburgh into second place in the Metropolitan Division.
They are an impressive 23-5-4 at home and Hart has been about flawless at the Wells Fargo Center. He improved to 18-2-2 at home this season; 14-1 over his last 15 starts, and was dominant against the Rangers after he allowed a quirky goal early in the game. Voracek tied a career-high with four assists for the Flyers.
The Flyers were revitalized by first-year coach Alain Vigneault, who coached the Rangers for five seasons and led them to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, and suddenly seem like a team ready to make some noise in the playoffs. The Flyers missed the postseason last season and haven’t been to the second round since 2012. Hart gives them a chance every night and the Flyers get production from every line.
“We’re not there yet,” Voracek said. “But I think if we’re going to continue to play the way we do, we can make a run. It comes down to everything. Everything’s got to be clicking. It’s clicking right now. We’ve got to make sure it’s clicking in a month and a half.”
Sean Couturier, James van Riemsdyk and Hayes also scored to help the Flyers beat the Rangers for the eighth time in the last nine games of the series.
The Rangers’ playoff push suffered a blow when forward Chris Kreider suffered a fractured foot in the first period. He appeared to get hurt when he blocked a shot by Phillipe Myers and could miss significant time. The 28-year-old Kreider just signed a seven-year contract extension reportedly worth $45 million on Monday. Kreider has 24 goals and 21 assists for 45 points in 63 games this season. Kreider was a 2009 first-round draft pick and has played his entire career with New York.
“It’s tough. I don’t know how to put it into words, really,” Rangers center Mika Zibanejad said. “Obviously, a key player, and a key guy in the locker room, on the ice, and obviously for our line, for the rest of the team.”
The Rangers came into the game with a franchise-record nine straight road wins, and nine wins in their last 10 overall. They trail Columbus — which lost 5-0 to Minnesota — by two points for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Without Kreider, the road to the postseason just got bumpier for the Rangers.
“I’m not worried how we’re going to handle adversity,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “I already know we’re going to handle adversity.”
Jesper Fast gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 2:49 into the game on a weird goal. Hart batted away the slapper, the puck fell in front of him, and Fast whooshed by to tap it in for his 12th goal of the season.
That was it for the Rangers until the final seconds when Brett Howden poked one in to make it 5-2.
Hart stopped everything and continued to show why the Flyers expect him to play as their franchise goalie for years to come.
“We get those big saves at the right time,” Couturier said. “They had some good looks early on in the second and he shut the door. He’s a big part of this team and this win.”
Voracek passed from behind the net and fed Couturier for the tying goal late in the first. Van Riemsdyk pounded in a rebound and Giroux scored on a one-timer in the second period to make it 3-1.
Giroux scored his 18th goal of the season, a power-play effort in the third, and Hayes scored against his former team to make it 5-1 and seal the win.
Oskar Lindblom, out indefinitely with a rare bone cancer, posted an Instagram video of the Flyers game on TV with the caption “Let’s Go.”
The Flyers sure are going, straight up the standings.
NOTES: Hayes had a beer named after him by Philadelphia’s Yards Brewing Company. The double New England style IPA is called Big Hayes-y 13. The Flyers are 18-0-1 when he scores a goal. … … Former Flyers great Eric Lindros — who also played for the Rangers — turned 48 on Friday and tweeted, “The only downside to the day was when I had to tell my oldest son that Carter Hart wasn’t coming to my birthday party.” … Giroux had his 26th career multi-goal game
The Flyers and Rangers have a rematch Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
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