Mired in a four-game losing skid that put them in danger of missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in 19 years, the Philadelphia Flyers battled hard and got a strong performance from their battered defense to defeat the Boston Bruins 3-1 Saturday at Wells Fargo Center.
The loss dropped Boston's record to 2-4-1 in its past seven games.
The Flyers opened the scoring late in the first period while on the power play. With Zdeno Chara in the penalty box for holding, Knuble took a Braydon Schenn pass from behind the net before beating Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
It was the 40-year-old Knuble's second goal in two games since returning to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for eight games shortly after the Flyers acquired Simon Gagne in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 26. With Knuble's scoring surge, the veteran forward who signed as a free agent with Philadelphia in January has provided some much-needed secondary scoring.
"You've got to give Mike a lot of credit for sitting and coming in and being an impact player in both games (since returning to the lineup)," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "Today I thought he was really strong with his skating and on the puck."
It's been a triumphant return thus far for Knuble, who was occasionally a healthy scratch last season with the Washington Capitals. The disappointing campaign, during which he scored six goals and 18 points in 72 games, effectively ended his three-year run in the nation's capital.
"You never lose your confidence as a player. As a player, you always want to prove yourself," Knuble said. "I'm not going to lie, it's satisfying the way things have gone for me the past couple of games."
The Bruins carried the play through the first 40 minutes, outshooting the Flyers 12-7 in both the first and second periods. And, without injured defensemen Braydon Coburn and Andrej Meszaros, each out indefinitely with shoulder injuries, Bryzgalov and the Flyers managed to hold on.
Earlier in the day, the Flyers announced the acquisition of veteran defenseman Kent Huskins from the Detroit Red Wings. But with Huskins not yet with the Flyers, rookie Oliver Lauridsen made his NHL debut.
Read doubled the Flyers' lead 3:18 into the second period when he finished a perfect cross-ice pass from Jakub Voracek to beat Rask and notch his first goal since Feb. 18.
"I kind of closed my eyes and swung. It was a great pass and I was very lucky that I got it in the back of the net," Read said. "Tonight is a momentum-builder for our team. We just have to keep winning and try to make a playoff run."
Boston got within 2-1 five minutes into the third period when Nathan Horton found a rebound off Dennis Seidenberg's point shot and beat Bryzgalov for his 10th goal of the season. But the Bruins could not muster any more offense from there.
Through the final minutes of regulation, the depleted Flyers defense managed to keep Bruins skaters to the perimeter, blocking a number of their shots.
"I thought it was a really good game in our zone. Guys did a good job playing a smart game that started in the offensive zone and through the neutral zone," Laviolette said. "A lot of the shots came from the outside. [Bryzgalov] made some big saves when we needed them but I think the guys in front of him played really well."
Coach Claude Julien pulled Rask for an extra attacker with 97 seconds remaining, but the Flyers battled hard to keep the Bruins from creating any strong opportunities to tie the game.
"You get some spurts where you're seeing some good things, but then the next line going up can't follow up," Julien said. "So we are not able to sustain much right now. The biggest challenge is every game we have one line that's scoring and the other three don't do a thing. Then it's a different line another game and then the other three don't do it. We can't win hockey games with just relying on one line per night producing for us."
Fedotenko sealed the game with 58 seconds remaining when he stole the puck form Aaron Johnson at the Boston blue line and flipped it into the empty net for an unassisted goal, his first in over two months.
"We fell behind and that's been happening to us too much lately," Rask said. "We just can't bear down and get that lead. ... Just go out there and play our game. They were good goals but when we're on top of our game, we don't necessarily give up those chances. Or if we do, I save them."
With the win, the Flyers have 31 points, tying them in the conference with the Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington, whom they play host to Sunday. Going into Saturday night's action, Philadelphia is four points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
|PPG - Mike Knuble (4) ASST: Brayden Schenn (14), Sean Couturier (6)|
1 - 0 PHI
|Matt Read (8) ASST: Jakub Voracek (21), Bruno Gervais (4)|
2 - 0 PHI
|Nathan Horton (10) ASST: Milan Lucic (14), Dennis Seidenberg (8)|
2 - 1 PHI
|EN - Ruslan Fedotenko (2) ASST: NONE|
3 - 1 PHI
|Oliver Lauridsen Holding against Nathan Horton|
|Zdeno Chara Holding against Claude Giroux|
|Claude Giroux Roughing against Patrice Bergeron|
|Luke Schenn Roughing against Zdeno Chara|
|Zdeno Chara Roughing against Luke Schenn|
|Patrice Bergeron Roughing against Claude Giroux|
|Simon Gagne Too many men/ice - bench|