The Philadelphia Flyers
were delighted to get two points and maintain their lead in the Eastern Conference with a 4-1 win against the visiting Edmonton Oilers
How they got those two points, though, left many of the players with a sour feeling.
"I think there's winning and winning in spite of how you play," was the blunt assessment from Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger.
Jeff Carter had a pair of goals in his return to the lineup from a bout with the flu, Claude Giroux had a pair of assists and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 of 26 shots as Philadelphia snapped a four-game losing streak.
Danny Briere and Blair Betts also had goals as the Flyers got their first win against the Oilers since March 19, 2001, and their first victory against Edmonton in Philadelphia since Nov. 9, 2000.
With 88 points, the Flyers remain two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and four ahead of the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals in the race for the top spot in the conference.
J-F Jacques scored the Oilers' lone goal as Edmonton saw its three-game win streak ended.
The chief concern for the Flyers was their failure to build on the sensational 20 minutes they played in the first period. Philadelphia took a 2-0 lead on goals by Briere and Carter while outshooting the Oilers 17-1. Over the final two periods, however, the Flyers were outshot 24-10.
"We did a great job in the first in limiting them and getting pucks in deep and moving our feet, doing the little things you have to do to win hockey games," Pronger said. "After that the wheels fell off. We start turning the puck over, stopped moving our feet, our gaps as defensemen got bad, our forward gaps got bad.
"You like to think you can build off that first period and get two points, but obviously when you look at the last two periods and how you leave the rink, we still have a lot of work to do. We need to sharpen up."
Coach Peter Laviolette added that he didn't like much of what he saw over the game's final 40 minutes.
"We lost our speed, turned the puck over, tried to be too cute," he said. "We played a different game in the first period, really took control. They changed their game a bit, started to pressure a bit more so the turnovers happened, but there were a lot of unforced turnovers we don't have to make.
"We want to win all the games we play but we also want to do it the right way. We're still working at it and we'll continue working at it."
They looked to have things figured out in the first, as a great pass by Matt Carle allowed Briere to split a pair of Oilers for a clean breakaway. He cruised in on Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk and beat him over his glove to open the scoring.
"It had been a while," said Briere of his first goal in nine games. "I couldn't remember the feeling, it felt so long ago. There's no doubt it was a big relief to get that one early in the game."
Carter scored his 29th with the Flyers skating on a five-minute power play due to a boarding call on Edmonton's Ladislav Smid for a hit from behind on the Flyers' Darroll Powe. As the man advantage entered its final minute, Briere held the puck along the goal line on the left side and centered in front for Carter, who tipped the puck between Dubnyk's pads at 17:40.
The Flyers made it 3-0 at 7:05 of the second, on Carter's 30th goal of the season, the third straight season he's hit that milestone. Kimmo Timonen took a cross-ice feed from James van Riemsdyk, skated down low and when Dubnyk overcommitted to him, he fed a perfect centering pass to Carter, who tapped it into an open net.
"I thought he was strong," Laviolette said of Carter. "He was one of our better players. … You put him back in there it's noticeable. Nice to get him going."
The Oilers got their game going in the second period. They were totally outclassed in the first period, and didn't get their first -- and only -- shot of the period until 1:14 was left, when Kurtis Foster's shot on an Edmonton power play reached the net.
"It is one thing to respect your opponent and it is another thing to respect them and just stand still and watch them play," Oilers coach Tom Renney said. "Ultimately we got our legs under us when the horse was out of the barn. The fact of the matter is we came out in the second and third period and out-shot the team in both, but they were up three goals so it was game, set and match."
The Oilers were a much more aggressive team over the final 40 minutes, but all they were able to get was Jacques' tip of Smid's shot from the wall on the left side at the 8-minute mark of the second. Jacques got good position on Flyers defenseman Sean O'Donnell and re-directed the puck just inside the right post.
After that Bobrovsky slammed the door and allowed the Flyers to hold preserve their lead.
"I think in the first period he didn't really have a whole lot," said Pronger. "He had that one shot which actually was a tough save to make, it was a tip in front and he made a great save on that one. In the second they had a number of great chances point blank. In the third period he made some great stops, especially late when it was 3-1. He made a couple great pad saves there and he held the fort for us."
Betts' empty-net goal in game's final minute capped the scoring.
While they were happy to leave for Thursday's game in Toronto with two points, the Flyers were adamant in saying they need to get better if they want to get back to the level of play that allowed them to reach the top of the conference standings in the first place.
"Everybody knows what we can do in here," Carter said. "We know we haven't played well. We know we have a ways to go and we're getting to work."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK