After holding a sizable lead much of the season, the Philadelphia Flyers now share the top spot in the Eastern Conference - the consequence of another late-season slump. In order to take back sole possession of the conference lead, they’ll need to take advantage of another struggling team.
Philadelphia looks to win three straight for the first time in more than a month Saturday night when it hosts the Atlanta Thrashers.
For the second straight season, the Flyers (42-19-6) fell into a March funk by losing five of six games. Despite having won two straight after a 3-2 victory Thursday against Toronto, they’re now tied with Washington atop the East standings with 90 points.
In 2009-10, Philadelphia lost nine of 11 from March 14-April 2 and barely qualified for the playoffs.
Claude Giroux(notes) scored his first goal since Feb. 22. He had a goal and an assist in the only meeting with Atlanta this season, a 5-2 victory Jan. 14. Jeff Carter(notes) also had a goal and an assist in that meeting, giving him 11 goals and nine assists in 21 career games against the Thrashers.
The Flyers haven’t won three straight since Feb. 3-10.
“The last month, we haven’t been playing the way we should,” Giroux said. “I think (Thursday) we played a 60-minute game and guys were playing together and the puck was moving and we had fun doing it.”
The Flyers beat the Maple Leafs despite missing defenseman Chris Pronger(notes), who was nursing a bruised right hand. The injury originally occurred when blocking a shot Feb. 24, but Pronger played the next five games before sitting out Thursday. It’s unclear if he’ll be ready to go against the Thrashers.
Atlanta (28-28-13) is holding onto slim playoff hopes after a 3-2 overtime loss Friday against New Jersey. The Thrashers are five points back of the eighth-place New York Rangers with 14 games remaining.
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak, dropping Atlanta to 5-10-5 since Jan. 20 and decreasing its chances for a postseason berth.
“I took a late penalty,” Kane said. “That’s on me, and they scored. Obviously, I didn’t agree with it. It cost us the game.”
“It just came down to special teams,” coach Craig Ramsay said, “and we didn’t get the job done.”
Philadelphia, which ended a four-game losing streak to Atlanta with its victory in January, has won 15 of 19 between the teams.