PHILADELPHIA (AP)—The Flyers needed a bit of luck and a big sigh of relief to make the playoffs last season.
This year’s team has no plan to wait until the final day to clinch a bid— the Flyers intend to keep the No. 1 seed they’ve earned with a stellar first half.
Jeff Carter(notes), Claude Giroux(notes) and Kimmo Timonen(notes) scored power-play goals and the Philadelphia Flyers head into the All-Star break leading the league in wins after a 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.
The Flyers’ 10-2-0 record in January has catapulted them to an NHL-best 33 victories. A year ago, the Flyers clinched a playoff spot in the last game of the season. They’ll return next week with a No. 1 seed in the East in sight.
“Certainly, because of the break you want to end on the right note,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “You can’t do anything tomorrow, we’re not practicing, there aren’t any games to be played. There’s no redemption available.”
The Flyers won for the 301st time at the arena now known as the Wells Fargo Center. They won 696 games at the Spectrum, home of the Broad Street Bullies, and three at the Colisee de Quebec, according to the Flyers.
The Flyers are the first expansion-era team to reach that milestone.
“This achievement is a true testament to the many men who have put on the orange and black and proudly wore the Flyers famous logo for nearly 45 years,” founder and chairman Ed Snider said. “This milestone is representative of Flyers hockey. We want our home to be a very tough place for our opponents to play.”
It’s a nice feat for the franchise.
But what this year’s deep team really cares about is snagging that No. 1 record in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers showed why they’re tops so far this season, with a potent scoring punch, solid play in net and Chris Pronger(notes) tied a career high with four assists and led stout play on the blue line.
The Flyers are 33-12-5 for 71 points through 50 games, the third-best record through 50 games in franchise history.
Timonen wasted no time finishing off what was left on the clock of the two-man advantage. He corralled the puck against the boards, passed it to Pronger, then fired the return feed from the point past a stunned Price for a 2-0 lead.
“If you give a team like that a 5-on-3 for 4 minutes, they’re going to get to you eventually,” Price said. “That put us in a big hole, and it made it real tough to come back.”
Carcillo scored only 23 seconds into the second period and another sellout crowd was going wild.
Desharnais made it 3-1 when he spoiled Bobrovsky’s bid for his first career shutout.
Bobrovsky, the 22-year-old rookie sensation, also made the save of the game.
A shot fired off the post and trickled behind him and toward the back of the net. Bobrovsky was on his back, swiped at the puck inches before it crossed the goal line and stopped a goal that would have made it 3-2.
The play stood after review—Laviolette nodded at the overhead replay as if there was no doubt.
Laviolette is headed to the All-Star game as co-coach of one of the teams. Giroux, along with Briere, are also going to Sunday’s game in Raleigh, N.C.
Giroux ended the first half of the season on a high with his 19th goal. He led the Flyers to a 3 for 5 night on the power play—Montreal was 0 for 8.
Briere scored an empty-netter in the final seconds for his 26th goal.
Bobrovsky won his sixth straight start, and has given the Flyers every reason to believe he can carry them deep into the postseason.
“The confidence is the most important thing for me so I can calm down and play to the best of my abilities and keep winning,” he said.
Sounds like the Flyers’ motto.
Notes: Philadelphia’s Feb. 13 game against the Los Angeles Kings has been changed to a 3 p.m start. … Flyers F James van Riemsdyk(notes) sat out with a lower-body injury. … Giroux has points in the past seven games. … Pronger last had four assists Dec. 31, 2005, for Edmonton at Calgary.