Who says 13 is unlucky? Roman Lyubimov and the Philadelphia Flyers will tell you otherwise.
Lyubimov (who wears #13), scored his 4th goal of the season, and game winner, giving the Flyers the 2-1 victory over the visiting Maple Leafs. The Flyers head into the All-Star break with its first 3-game winning streak since December 14th.
Tonight’s win had to be a tremendous confidence booster for a team that had only won 5 games in over a month. Also, fighting to remain in playoff contention, the Flyers jumped past Toronto to claim the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Flyers’ All-Star Wayne Simmonds opened up the game’s scoring on a break away that was beautifully set up by Travis Konecny for the 1-0 lead. The goal was Simmond’s 21st on the season and third in as many games. After the game, Simmonds was asked if the team is back to the same spot it was during its 10 game winning streak in November and December:
“Yeah, it’s three games but I like the way that we played all three games,” Simmonds said. “For us it’s just keeping that attack mindset back and not making mistakes.”
Despite Steve Mason’s strong, shut-out performance Wednesday night against the New York Rangers, coach Dave Hakstol decided to give the recently struggling Mason an extra night of rest heading into the All-Star break. Before Wednesday’s game, Mason had gone 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances.
The move paid off. Backup goaltender Michal Neuvirth (who rarely plays like a backup) allowed only 1 goal, stopped 27 shots for the Flyers, and held off the extra skater in the final minute to close out the game.
Playing for the first time since being removed from last Saturday’s game against the Devils for “precautionary reasons”, Neuvirth was asked if he felt good in net:
“Yes, I felt good,” Neuvirth said. “I was focused the whole game. I thought I was seeing the puck pretty well and the guys did a great job in front of me. They made it easy for me.”
Tonight’s hero, of course, belongs to Roman Lyubimov, who just turned 25 years old earlier this month.
With 2:37 remaining in the third period, Lyubimov took his own rebound and was just able to sneak the puck through the right arm pit of Maple Leafs’ goalie Curtis McElhinney on the second chance effort to all but seal the 2-1 win for the Flyers.
Playing in his first NHL season, the 6-foot-2, 207-pound Russian-born Lyubimov spent the last six seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League with CSKA Moscow.
When asked if this was the biggest goal he’s scored in his career, Lyubimov simply said: “Maybe now, yes, but I hope I’ll get more like this.”
At the season’s mid-way point, the Flyers hold a 25-19-6 record with 56 points.
Philadelphia now has a 4-day break until its season resumes Tuesday night when it’ll travel to North Carolina to take on the Hurricanes.
Wayne Simmonds’ break won’t be as long however, as he’ll be participating in his very first All-Star game on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles. Simmonds was the only Flyer selected to the team this season. The game can be watched on NBC starting at 12:30pm PT | 3:30pm ET.