Saturday, February 21, 2015

Playing against type, Flyers outlast Preds in shootout

Philadelphia, PA -- Sometimes it's best to never ask why. Coming off two near inexcusable performances earlier in the week, there's no way Saturday afternoon's matchup against an NHL elite club could have gone any differently.

In the end, Jakub Voracek scored the winning goal to open the shootout and lead the Flyers in a 3-2 win over the somnolent Nashville Predators, in Peter Laviolette's return to Philadelphia.

Voracek opened the shootout by lifting a backhand over Pekka Rinne, and Rob Zepp -- making his first career appearance in the NHL's breakaway competition -- followed that with a stop on Matt Cullen. After Wayne Simmonds snapped a shot between the pads of Rinne, Zepp dramatically gloved a Craig Smith shot for the win.

"I knew it was a big game today coming in and just wanted to try and give the guys a chance to get a win and the guys played awesome, the first two periods were some of the best hockey I have seen," Zepp said. "The guys did a great job and I just wanted to try and hold the fort so that we could get those two points."

Simmonds and Ryan White scored in regulation, while Zepp turned aside 20 shots for the Flyers, who had dropped four of five coming into the game.

"I think we played a good game today, one of our best of the season," said Flyers captain Claude Giroux. "They're a really good team and we were able to handle them today."

Smith and Colin Wilson scored for the NHL-leading Predators, who have lost their last two. Rinne made 31 stops in his club's first shootout loss since Jan. 29.

“Well I mean I thought the second half of the game we showed up and played pretty well. There were a lot of chances and could’ve scored in the third period and overtime, but like I said just a little slow getting out of the gate … but Pekka was good, yeah," Laviolette noted.

The hosts, who held their opponents to three shots in the opening 20 minutes, drew first blood at 8:59 of the first period when Michael Del Zotto threw a shot on net that Simmonds deflected in for his 23rd of the season.

Nashville, though, tied the game with 1:02 to play in the opening frame as Wilson's wrister from the left wing on the fly beat Zepp cleanly.

Philly scored the only goal of the second period. A turnover deep in the Nashville zone was picked up by Brayden Schenn, who was able to get the puck to R.J. Umberger. The disc wasn't controlled by Umberger, but it slid out to the slot and White snapped it home for his second goal in as many games at 11:21.

A defense which allowed a season-low seven shots through the game's first two periods was caught unaware to begin the third. Heading up ice on a rush, a backhand pass from the left-wing boards by Mike Fisher come all the way to the right circle where Smith one-timed the rolling puck between the right arm and body of Zepp.

Notes: Zepp, who had gone 3-1 in shootouts with Lehigh Valley of the AHL, improved to 4-1-0 in seven NHL appearances ... Nashville wraps up its three-game road trip in Buffalo on Sunday ... Philadelphia completes its four-game residency against Washington tomorrow afternoon ... Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play ... The Flyers have registered at least one point in 11 of their last 12 games (7-1-4) ... Simmonds improved his shootoout ledger to four goals on five chances this season ... Giroux has gone 11 straight games without a goal, his longest stretch since opening last season without scoring 15 in a row.

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