Saturday, February 08, 2014

Flyers nip Flames, hit Olympics with four straight wins

Philadelphia, PA -- It doesn't matter if Ed Snider thinks having NHL players in the Olympics kills his team's momentum. What does matter is how his club responded to the schedule before the break.

Scott Hartnell was eventually credited with the deciding tally in the third period, and Ray Emery came up with 32 stops, as the Flyers walked away with a narrow 2-1 victory against Calgary on Saturday afternoon in the final game before the league pauses for the Sochi Winter Olympics.

"It's different. It's a different preparation but the plus side is you’ve had a lot of practice and a lot of rest, so you can look at the positives and the negatives," Emery said of starting after a long layoff. "It's nice to get the first few shots out of the way especially with the type of period we had I thought it was shots from the outside and I got to see them. It always helps to get comfortable in there."

Brayden Schenn also lit the lamp for the Orange and Black, who enter the Olympic break having won four in a row and five of their last six to remain competitive in a tight Metropolitan Division race.

The win was the 30th of the season for Philadelphia, third highest all-time before the league paused to send its players to the quadrennial games.

Matt Stajan picked up a late tally and Swiss national goaltender Reto Berra made 21 saves for the Flames, who lost for just the second time in their last eight.

Claude Giroux snapped a long shot which was tipped in front by Hartnell past Berra from the right wing at 4:04 of the third period, and Philly gave Emery an insurance tally and a 2-0 edge.

Giroux "snub" aside, five of his teammates will be heading to Sochi: Andrej Meszaros (Slovakia), who was denied the secondary assist on the deciding marker; Michael Raffl (Austria), Kimmo Timonen (Finland), Mark Streit (Switzerland) and Jakub Voracek (Czech Republic). It's the first time in five Olympiads the club will not send an American or a Canadian.

That lead appeared to be in jeopardy when Calgary's Lee Stempniak was left alone right in front of Emery with 4:15 remaining, but the veteran netminder dove out of his crease with a poke check to prevent a shot on goal.

Stajan, however, didn't hesitate, and ripped a shot home from the left side off a T.J. Galiardi rebound with 2:26 on the clock to pull the Flames within one. Sean Monahan wasn't so lucky on the following shift, as Emery slid across to stop his tip from the low slot.

Berra reached the bench for an extra attacker inside the final minute, but the visitors couldn't get close to Emery for an equalizer.

"Seven would've been better. I think we've been playing good hockey," Stajan said of his club, which went through a stretch of scoring 15 times in 10 games. "We've been in every game. Even the game in Montreal, if it bounced the other way, we could've gotten two points there, and tonight. Sometimes the hockey gods don't reward you, and that’s not to say they didn't play well."

The hosts had the better scoring chances in a scoreless opening period, but Berra came up with 11 saves and Emery was true on eight opportunities.

Truculence was avoided at the opening faceoff, as Craig Berube failed to be swayed by the Flames' first line consisted of Kevin Westgarth and Brian McGrattan -- two players who took active part in a fracas at Vancouver on January 18 which led to multiple misconducts and the fining of head coach Bob Hartley.

Schenn snapped a six-game goal drought and gave the Flyers a lead on a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle with 8:04 played in the second. It was a necessary goal, as Calgary accumulated an 11-4 shot edge in the period and carried the majority of the play.

Notes: Philadelphia improved to 2-2-1 all-time in games scheduled before the NHL pauses for an Olympic break ... Emery upped his mark to 3-0-0 in his last three starts against Calgary for the Flyers, stopping a total of 73-of-75 shots ... Emery earned his first win in a start since Jan. 7 at New Jersey, and his first win as a home starter since Nov. 21 against Buffalo ... Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann suffered an upper-body injury and will be further evaluated on Sunday ... The hosts' streak of at least one power-play goal in eight straight games was snapped with an 0-for-2 performance.
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