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Red-hot Flyers taking flight

Horrible 1-7 start now distant memory in Philly

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Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds puts a shot past the Minnesota Wild's Niklas Backstrom on Monday night.

MATT SLOCUM / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds puts a shot past the Minnesota Wild's Niklas Backstrom on Monday night.

Considering they had a franchise-worst 1-7 start, the Philadelphia Flyers should feel good about where they stand at the Christmas break.

Wayne Simmonds had two goals for the second straight game as the Flyers defeated the Minnesota Wild, 4-1, at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night.

Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek each contributed a pair of points. Simmonds closed the scoring with an empty-net goal.

The Flyers are 16-9-4 since their poor start, giving them more wins than losses overall -- excluding defeats that went beyond regulation. They are 17-16-4.

"To be over .500 after our start, I don't think anybody expected us to be here," Voracek said. "It's a big step. We just have to start climbing in the standings because from now on, every game is huge."

The Flyers have won nine straight at the Wells Fargo Center, equaling their longest home streak since 2005-06.

Scott Hartnell recorded his 500th career point -- the primary assist -- on defenceman Luke Schenn's goal, which gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead after 1 minute, 52 seconds.

"It's special and pretty cool," Hartnell said. "Luke made a great shot. It's been a great run, so far. Playing in the NHL is the best job in the world."

Schenn, who contributed five hits and had his best game of the season, jumped into the play and scored on a blast from the right circle.

"This being our last home game for a while, we wanted to get off to a good start, be physical and tough to play against in our own building," Schenn said.

Despite being outshot in the first period, 11-5, and winning just 33 per cent of the faceoffs, the Flyers took a 2-1 lead into the second period. They got first-period goals from Schenn and Simmonds (power play) to offset a five-on-three tally by the Wild's Mikael Granlund.

Simmonds finished off a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play with Giroux and Voracek.

In the second period, Giroux tipped in Braydon Coburn's drive to give the Flyers a 3-1 lead.

Since the Giroux-Voracek-Michael Raffl line was put together six games ago, they have combined for 28 points and a plus-21 rating.

Voracek and Giroux have the longest point streaks of their careers. Voracek has points in eight straight games (six goals, seven assists), and Giroux has a seven-game streak (five goals, eight assists).

Minnesota was without standout goalie Josh Harding, who is getting his multiple sclerosis medications adjusted, and high-scoring left-winger Zach Parise (foot injury).

Flyers goalie Steve Mason, who had allowed four goals in four of his previous six starts, was solid and notched the win.

MESZAROS RETURNS: Andrej Meszaros, who has been an expensive healthy scratch for most of the season, replaced the injured Erik Gustafsson and played well.

Meszaros, a 6-2, 223-pound defenceman who is being paid $5.5 million this season, sat out 20 of the first 36 games. Meszaros needs to be more physical and "more competitive in puck battles," coach Craig Berube said before the game.

Meszaros was plus-2 in Monday's game.

BREAKAWAYS: A Flyers official said he has not received confirmation from the league the team will participate in the 2015 Winter Classic in Washington, but the Flyers are in the running to play in the contest... Burly defenceman Nick Grossmann returned to the lineup after missing one game with the flu... Injured winger Steve Downie donated $1,200 worth of books to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

 

-- The Philadelphia Inquirer

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 24, 2013 ??65530

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