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Top line helps Flyers handle Blues for 5th in row

by Adam Kimelman /

PHILADELPHIA -- The St. Louis Blues had less than two minutes of power-play time in the first period Saturday afternoon against the Philadelphia Flyers. But with the St. Louis attack coming in waves at the Philadelphia defense, it seemed the Blues had extra men at all times.

"It felt like they had seven guys on the ice in the first period," Flyers forward Jakub Voracek said. "They were everywhere."

The Flyers were able to regroup and find some timely scoring in a 4-1 victory at Wells Fargo Center.

Scott Hartnell, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Voracek each had a goal and an assist for the Flyers, who won their fifth straight and are 8-2-1 since the NHL season resumed following the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Claude Giroux had two assists to extend his scoring streak to six games, Steve Mason made 32 saves, and the Flyers (38-25-7) remained one point ahead of the New York Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers kept pace by beating the New Jersey Devils 2-0 on Saturday night.

The only bad sign for the Flyers was the loss of forward Steve Downie to an upper-body injury on the first shift. He collided with Blues forward Patrik Berglund in the neutral zone 45 seconds into the game and remained on the ice for several minutes. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Downie would be re-evaluated Sunday.

Jaden Schwartz scored for the Blues (47-16-7), who lost consecutive games for the fourth time this season; they were beaten 4-0 by the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. Goalie Ryan Miller stopped 15 of 18 shots.

Despite the loss, the Blues became the first Western Conference team to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Boston Bruins beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 on Saturday night.

The Blues dominated play in the first period and led 1-0 on Schwartz's shorthanded goal, the 11th the Flyers have allowed, tying the Edmonton Oilers for the most in the NHL. But the Flyers were able to turn things around starting in the second period.

"We knew what we weren't doing right," Simmonds said. "We didn't get our forecheck going. That's when we're most effective. They were breaking the puck out pretty easily in the first period. That's the first thing Kimmo [Timonen] said, 'We have to get our forecheck going.'"

The Flyers started the second period on a power play after Vladimir Sobotka was called for hooking with seven seconds remaining in the first. Working the puck in the St. Louis zone, Giroux sent a cross-ice pass to Voracek in the right circle. Voracek found Hartnell, who lifted a shot over a sliding Miller for his 19th goal 57 seconds into the period.

"I think once they scored in the second they got some momentum," Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said.

Philadelphia took the lead at 13:24 on Brayden Schenn's 18th goal. Simmonds tipped a pass by Chris Porter in the neutral zone and Schenn grabbed it and skated across the St. Louis blue line. He sent the puck back to Simmonds, who danced through the slot and got a shot on net from in close. Miller made the save but left a rebound loose in the crease for Schenn, who drove to the net and scored.

"It was a broken play in the neutral zone," Simmonds said. "I just chipped it to him and he took it. He blew past [Barret] Jackman and I ended up skating around the other side. I just yelled for the puck and [Schenn] made a great play to me. I tried to put it off Miller's pads so [Schenn] could come and put it in because I didn't have much of an angle and it worked perfectly."

The Blues dialed up the pressure in the third period, outshooting the Flyers 11-3, but Voracek's 19th of the season at 15:41 of the third provided the Flyers with some much-needed insurance.

Hartnell forced a turnover by Derek Roy deep in the St. Louis end and slid a pass to Giroux. The Philadelphia captain then sent a pass across the zone to Voracek, who fired a shot from the left circle that beat Miller past his blocker.

When the Blues weren't turning over the puck they were peppering Mason. They had five shots on three third-period power plays and 11 shots in the final 20 minutes. But Alexander Steen hit the post on the power play before Mason scrambled to stop Roy twice in the crease at even strength with 9:02 left.

The Blues went 0-for-6 with the man-advantage.

"We were really good in the first and then didn't outwork the goalie in the third," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "You’re down 2-1 and have the chances you get in the third period, you have to outwork the goalie. I thought his level of compete was harder than ours in and around the net area and we couldn't get the second and third chances that we probably need to."

The Blues don't have time to dwell on what happened Saturday. They travel for a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, NHLN-CA). Hitchcock said the sudden onset of offensive issues has to end if St. Louis is to avoid losing three straight for the first time this season.

"Our level of determination in the offensive zone isn't what it's going to need to be to beat great goaltending," Hitchcock said. "We're going to have to find a way to get to a much higher level of compete in the offensive zone. ... There is some good stuff there but not at the level we need to it we're going to get into a playoff series and expect to outwork somebody who is playing well in the goal. And every team is going to play well in goal."

With more tough games coming up, including a visit from the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, the Flyers are looking to avoid a letdown after beating one of the League's elite teams.

"This would be a big measuring-stick bunch of games for us to see how we do against some of the best talent in the League," Hartnell said. "I thought we played some of our best hockey. It's exciting that everyone is blocking shots, everyone is competing, everyone is out for the win instead of a nice play or whatever. It's hard to play against and we realize that we have to keep it going."

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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