Michael Kelly

Flyers use relief goalie, blocked shots to hold off Avalanche

Flyers use relief goalie, blocked shots to hold off Avalanche

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Their legs were weary, they were down a goaltender and under siege for the final five minutes of a back-to-back, but the Flyers found a way to steal a win and gain some ground in the Eastern Conference standings.

In a week, the 2-1 victory in Colorado on Wednesday night might be considered the game in which the Flyers put themselves in the playoffs (see observations).

“Just a gutsy effort,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think we've gotten a lot of those efforts throughout the year.”

The victory was dampened by the loss of goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who was making his first start since Feb. 18. Neuvirth made 10 saves before leaving with an undisclosed injury eight minutes, seven seconds into the second period.

Petr Mrazek made 17 saves to preserve the win for Neuvirth, who had missed more than a month with a lower-body injury.

“Not really sure what happened to Neuvy,” said defenseman Ivan Provorov, who had a goal and an assist. “He was playing really well. For Petr to come in and play unbelievable, great job by him.”

The win moved the Flyers (39-25-14) into third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the idle Blue Jackets. The Flyers are also knotted with the Penguins at 92 points. Both Pittsburgh and Columbus have played one less game. 

Additionally, the Flyers are now seven points ahead of Florida, which lost at Toronto on Wednesday night.

“It's good to see when you get a win and the other team loses, but lots of games left,” captain Claude Giroux said. “They have, what, seven, six games left, so we have to keep going here.”

The Flyers have earned at least a point in seven straight games and finished their three-game road trip with four points. It wasn’t easy, especially in the final five minutes when the Avalanche spent almost the entire time in the Flyers’ zone trying for the equalizer.

Mrazek was sharp throughout the onslaught, turning away shots while his skaters blocked several to keep Colorado from tying it. The Flyers finished with 15 blocked shots in the third period and 33 for the game, a franchise record since the NHL began tracking the stat in 1997.

“Those five minutes felt like 15. So long,” Mrazek said. “Lots of blocked shots in front of me, a couple of lucky bounces today. Didn't see, I think, one or two pucks get to my pad. Big thanks to these guys in front the last five minutes.”

The Flyers took a quick lead on goals by Giroux — his 27th — at 10:24 of the first, and Provorov made it 2-0 at 18:12. Colorado cut it to 2-1 on a goal at 5:36 of the second, and 20 seconds later Neuvirth made his best save when he robbed Mikko Rantanen to keep the Avalanche from tying it.

Mrazek spelled him soon after and came up big and carried the Flyers to the win.

“It's always tough when the game is on the line, up 2-1 early in the second,” he said. “I said before when you go in always important are the first couple stops. If you can make a save, you can get into the game. After that, I felt pretty good.”

Flyers hold off Avalanche after Michal Neuvirth exits early

Flyers hold off Avalanche after Michal Neuvirth exits early

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Michal Neuvirth’s return from a lower-body injury was a successful but short-lived one for the Flyers.

Neuvirth made 10 saves on 11 shots before leaving in the second period with an undisclosed injury. Neuvirth, who was making his first start since Feb. 18, stayed in long enough to get the win but was replaced by Petr Mrazek midway through the Flyers’ 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.

Mrazek made 17 saves as the Flyers ended a two-game losing streak. Meanwhile, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol did not have an update on Neuvirth postgame.

Claude Giroux scored a goal to extend his point streak to six games and Ivan Provorov had a goal and an assist for the Flyers (39-25-14), who moved a point ahead of the Blue Jackets for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers are also knotted with the Penguins at 92 points. Both Pittsburgh and Columbus have played one less game.

The Flyers took advantage of Colorado’s goaltending issues to secure the win. Semyon Varlamov, the No. 1 goalie, was out sick and his backup, Jonathan Bernier, was unavailable because of an infection from a cut on his left hand.

Andrew Hammond, who was acquired from Ottawa in the Matt Duchene deal in November, was called up from the American Hockey League and looked shaky at the start in his Colorado debut before settling in to make 31 saves.

Giroux victimized Hammond with a one-timer off a diagonal pass from Shayne Gostisbehere 10:24 into the game, and defenseman Provorov’s blast from the point at 18:12 made it 2-0.

Matt Nieto’s goal at 5:36 of the second made it close but the Flyers held on.

• Center Valtteri Filppula missed his first game this season. Filppula was banged up in Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss at Dallas and was ruled out after the warmup. Right winger Dale Weise took Filppula’s spot in the lineup and played on the fourth line with Jori Lehtera and Matt Read.

• Giroux tied his career high with 93 points (27 goals, 66 assists) and is seven points shy of becoming the first Flyers player to reach 100 points since Eric Lindros did it in 1995-96. He has eight goals and 19 assists in his last 20 games.

• Neuvirth was sharp before he left. He made a save on J.T. Compher’s point-blank chance just 1:47 into the game, and then robbed Blake Comeau with a pad save later in the first. His best save came 20 seconds after Colorado made it 2-1. A deflected puck gave Mikko Rantanen an open side of the net but Neuvirth slid over to make another pad save.

Mrazek came on soon after and emergency goaltender Nick Barnett was in the wings if needed.

Alex Lyon, who was assigned to the Phantoms of the AHL, will likely return to the Flyers if Neuvirth’s injury keeps him out.

• The Flyers survived a late flurry by Colorado, which included nearly two straight minutes of offensive zone time for the Avalanche. Hammond came off for an extra skater with about 1:25 left but couldn’t tie it.