The Philadelphia Flyers earned a small measure of revenge in their latest game, beating the team that denied them their first Stanley Cup in 35 years in a series where they were decided underdogs.
If they get back to the NHL’s biggest stage this spring, they might be heavy favorites.
The Flyers can close January with 10 wins in 12 games and add to their league-best 32 victories Tuesday night against the visiting Montreal Canadiens in both teams’ final contest before the All-Star break.
Philadelphia (32-12-5) knocked off Montreal in five games in last season’s Eastern Conference finals, a most unlikely pairing of the conference’s Nos. 7 and 8 seeds.
The Flyers were considered a major underdog against Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals and went on to lose in six games, but on Sunday they gave the Blackhawks a look at perhaps the NHL’s most consistent team. Philadelphia bounced back from a 3-1 loss to New Jersey less than 24 hours earlier by winning 4-1 at the United Center behind two goals from Jeff Carter(notes) and four assists from Claude Giroux(notes).
“It was obviously a big motivation factor for us,” said Carter, who has six goals in his last seven games. “Before the game nothing needed to be said. We all knew what was going on today, so it was nice to come in and get a big win.”
The Flyers improved to 9-2-0 this month and have turned a two-point deficit atop the Atlantic Division into a five-point lead over Pittsburgh. They’re four ahead of Tampa Bay for the conference lead.
“I’m really happy we won the game today because we maintained our position in first place this year,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s about looking forward, not looking back.”
Philadelphia has won the last two meetings thanks to three goals from James van Riemsdyk(notes), who scored both game-winners in the third period. The second-year forward missed the win over the Blackhawks with what’s believed to be a groin injury but practiced Monday and might return Tuesday.
Van Riemsdyk has scored in each of his last two games, and Giroux has two goals and eight assists over his last six to take over the team lead with 46 points. Giroux had goals in both wins over Montreal earlier this season after totaling three goals and three assists in the playoff victory against the Canadiens.
Montreal is 7-1-3 since Dec. 31 and has a point in five straight, though it needed an impressive comeback to keep that streak going Saturday against Anaheim. Mathieu Darche(notes) scored with 3:40 left to pull the Canadiens within a goal, then Max Pacioretty(notes) tied it with 13 seconds left before the Ducks won 4-3 in a shootout.
“That was a good feeling but it got overtaken by the loss,” Pacioretty said. “Those are two points that are so important and you hope to get both. It’s always great to get a point but every point is so important, we would have liked to have two there.”
Mike Cammalleri remains out with a separated shoulder.