CALGARY, Alberta — Jakub Voracek called it the biggest win of his career dating back to the 2010 IIHF World Championships when the Czech Republic won the gold medal.
“It was such a relief,” Voracek said. “You have no idea. It’s crazy.”
No medals were handed out, but a tremendous weight was lifted off the Flyers' shoulders after snapping a 10-game winless streak, their first victory in nearly a month, by beating the Calgary Flames, 5-2, Monday night at Scotiabank Saddledome (see observations).
“That’s a big streak to end,” goalie Brian Elliott, whose last win came on Nov. 9, said. “In doing it the way we did tonight with punctuation was really good for our group. We've got to take that and harness that and take that to the next game. We've got to enjoy this. We’ve waited a little too long for it.”
The biggest change coming into this game was Dave Hakstol’s decision to move Voracek off the team’s top line and match him with Valtteri Filppula and Michael Raffl. That proved to be a lethal combination as the trio combined for two goals, five assists and a plus-8 rating (see highlights).
“It’s a group that makes sense together, and I think you can credit all three of those guys,” Hakstol said. “I thought they were all very good tonight. Fil played a lot of minutes tonight and he played a real strong game with those two guys on his wing. They seemed to click right away, and they played a real strong game through the 60 minutes.”
Raffl and Voracek connected on a nifty give-and-go goal in the second period to hand the Flyers a 3-1 lead.
“I always like to play with Jake. What’s not to like about it? We’ve been on the same team for five, six years now,” Raffl said. “I’ve played with him for a couple of years so I know what he wants me to do. We talked about it and it was a good start.”
Voracek contributed three assists but was more impressed there was nothing attached to Johnny Gaudreau’s name, as the South Jersey native finished with just two shots, no points and a minus-1 rating.
“For half the game we matched up against the Gaudreau line, and I think we played them pretty well," Voracek said. "When you score on that line and don’t get scored on, it’s always a success. I think we played a real smart hockey game today and it showed.”
Elliott had been relatively solid through the 10-game winless skid, but coming to Calgary was extra special after his last game at the Saddledome was a terrible memory of losing in a first-round four-game sweep to the Anaheim Ducks. Elliott was pulled in the first period of the series-clinching game.
In his return, Elliott made 43 saves and earned the game’s No. 1 star.
“It was pretty good,” Elliott said. “I got a lot of friends over there but when the puck drops, there’s no friends, and I really wanted that one tonight.”
While the Flames outshot the Flyers by a whopping 45-21 margin, the two teams were actually even with nine chances in the high-danger zone of the ice. A product of that was creating turnovers behind the Flames' net.
Hakstol not only switched up his lines, but he also altered his system as he employed a 1-2-2 zone for this game that created opportunitistic turnovers for the Flyers.
“It was just a different look for us,” Hakstol said. “We made a couple of slight adjustments tonight. Those things just kind of help you refocus a little bit, but it comes back to what the players have done.”
“We needed to change something up obviously,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “Some little adjustments here and there and I think it worked for us. I think a little more passive works for us and it makes them make plays and we avoid our mistakes.”
The Flyers will now travel to Edmonton, where they take on Connor McDavid and the Oilers, looking to start just their second winning streak of the season after opening up their first homestand with back-to-back wins over the Capitals and Panthers.
“It’s one game,” Voracek said. “We fully expect to win on Wednesday. We have to play the same way. We have to be ready. It’s another tough matchup again.”