Flyers

NHL playoff picture: Flyers still knocking on the door

NHL playoff picture: Flyers still knocking on the door

The Flyers aren’t riding on the rims just yet. They pumped a little air in their tires Thursday night after completing a season sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Despite earning two points, the Flyers actually gained a point on the second wild-card team as the Canadiens leapfrogged the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have lost three straight games.

Wild-card standings

Carolina: 40-26-7, 87 pts, 9 GR
Montreal: 39-28-7, 85 pts, 8 GR
———
Columbus: 40-30-4, 84 pts, 8 GR
Philadelphia: 35-29-8, 80 pts, 8 GR

Thursday’s games

PHI: W 3-1 at Chicago
CAR: L 6-3 vs. Tampa Bay
MTL: W 4-0 vs. NY Islanders
CBJ: L 4-1 at Edmonton

• James van Riemsdyk continued his red-hot play with the go-ahead goal midway through the third period to lift the Flyers over the Blackhawks. Van Riemsdyk is tied with Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl with the most goals (20) in the NHL since Jan. 7. It was also his fourth game-winner over that span.

• The storm surge in Carolina was the Lightning’s high-powered offense as Tampa Bay scored four unanswered third-period goals. Forward Nikita Kucherov became the first player since Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby in 2006-07 to top 120 points in a single season.

• Goaltender Carey Price stopped all 28 Islanders shots for his 44th career shutout while former Flyer Jordan Weal added a goal and an assist as the Canadiens blanked the Islanders. Montreal now sits in the playoff driver’s seat.

• The Oilers broke open a 1-1 game in the third period with three unanswered goals as the NHL’s hottest player, Draisaitl, continued his torrid pace with his 300th career point, adding three assists.

What are the odds?

According to Sports Club Stats, the Flyers saw a slight climb in their playoff percentage up to 1.6 percent. The closer they inch to Montreal, the greater that number will jump as the Canadiens moved up 20 percentage points after overtaking Columbus in the standings.

The website Money Puck has the Flyers' odds at 1.7 percent.

What lies ahead?

The Flyers have the first of two weekend back-to-backs as they host the New York Islanders Saturday afternoon, looking to beat the Isles for the third time this month, with another meeting against the Washington Capitals Sunday afternoon in D.C.

The Canadiens have a back-to-back as well, hosting the Sabres Saturday with a game at Carolina on Sunday.

On the verge of being swept, the Blue Jackets can’t wait to wrap up their Western Canadian road swing with two full days off between games.

Strength of schedule

According to PlayoffStatus.com, with eight games remaining, the Flyers' schedule isn’t nearly as grinding. The Flyers now have the 13th-toughest schedule but will play five games over the final nine days in March.

Blue Jackets: 9th
Canadiens: 10th
Hurricanes: 21st

Interestingly, the Flyers can pull within a tie of the Blue Jackets with a weekend sweep of the Islanders and Capitals before the Jackets' next game in Vancouver Sunday night.

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Subpar start leads to Flyers loss vs. Lightning but doesn't hurt spot in NHL playoff race

Subpar start leads to Flyers loss vs. Lightning but doesn't hurt spot in NHL playoff race

BOX SCORE

The Flyers didn't bring their A-game to a game they needed it.

There would be no giant killing Saturday as the Flyers lost to the Lightning, 5-3, at Amalie Arena.

Goals from Ivan Provorov, James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux weren't enough for the Flyers (32-20-7), who are 6-3-2 against the Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Penguins and Blues, the league's top five clubs.

Tampa Bay is the only one the Flyers haven't beaten. They'll get a final crack at the Lightning on March 12 in the same building.

The Lightning (39-15-5) have won 10 straight games.

• This really wasn't a bad loss for the Flyers.

They were at the end of a road trip and playing the NHL's hottest team. Tampa Bay is 22-2-1 over its last 25 games and hasn't lost at home since Dec. 19.

The Flyers entered Saturday with a 66.9 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com, and still hold an Eastern Conference wild-card spot (see standings).

Alain Vigneault's team just needs to recharge and be ready for a big home-and-home set against the Blue Jackets next week.

• Things got chippy in the second period. Travis Konecny was right in the middle of it all.

Steven Stamkos appeared to trip Giroux before a faceoff. Giroux didn't even look to be that mad about it.

During the final 6:09 of the middle frame, 22 penalty minutes were accrued.

• Brayden Point (10-game point streak) is good at hockey.

• Carter Hart, who was coming off his first road victory since Nov. 10, allowed four goals on 23 shots.

The 21-year-old wasn't the problem.

The first goal was a fluky one by Alex Killorn. On the second, Provorov was sloppy with the puck in the defensive zone and Tampa Bay capitalized to take a 2-0 lead into first intermission.

In the middle stanza, the Lightning beat Hart on a 3-on-2 to grab a commanding 3-0 advantage. Tampa Bay improved to 33-4-3 when it scores three or more goals.

Not only are the Lightning really good, but the Flyers also didn't play their typical forechecking, possession-based game until it was too late.

• Outside of the van Riemsdyk's third-period goal, Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy was strong with 30 saves, 15 of which came in the final stanza. 

Vasilevskiy improved to 18-0-1 with a 1.83 goals-against average and .940 save percentage over his last 19 starts.

• Provorov was far from his best against Tampa Bay but he did score the Flyers' first goal to trim the Lightning's lead to 3-1 in the second period. He also had an assist.

The 23-year-old has grown into a power play quarterback this season. He leads all NHL defensemen with seven man advantage goals after scoring only two over his first three NHL seasons.

• Travis Sanheim played 19:43 minutes Saturday after missing almost the entire third period of Thursday's 6-2 win over the Panthers because of a lower-body issue.

• The Flyers are off Sunday, practice at 11:30 a.m. Monday in Voorhees, New Jersey and host the Blue Jackets Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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Flyers, Lightning have 4 p.m. start on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers, Lightning have 4 p.m. start on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Saturday's game should be a good one.

The Flyers and Lightning are two of the hottest teams in the NHL. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers have the league's most goals (52) and only one team has more points (21) — the Lightning (27).

Tampa Bay is also on a nine-game winning streak and 21-2-1 over its last 24 games.

The big showdown comes a little earlier than usual. Puck drop will be shortly after 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia, with Flyers Pregame Live set for 3:30 p.m. ET.

The matchup finishes off a three-game road trip for the Flyers, who then play four of their next five games at the Wells Fargo Center.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers