Top line sparks Flyers past Chicago; Shayne Gostisbehere makes some history

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Flyers right wing Jakub Voracek celebrates his first-period goal with teammates center Claude Giroux, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and defenseman Travis Sanheim against Blackhawks on Thursday.

The player they call “Ghost” helped haunt the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

So did the Wells Fargo Center. (Really.) And the Flyers’ blistering top line.

Shayne Gostisbehere made some history and Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek each had three points as the Flyers defeated Chicago, 3-1, and handed the Blackhawks their 14th straight regular-season loss at the Wells Fargo Center.

Chicago’s last regular-season win here was in 1996, the year the arena opened.

Gostisbehere set up Voracek’s first-period goal to make it 2-0, and it enabled him to reach 100 career points at the start of his career quicker than any defenseman in Flyers history. He did it in his 155th career game.

“It means,” Gostisbehere said, “my teammates are getting me the puck a lot.”

The old record: 100 points in 163 games by Behn Wilson. (Mark Howe scored his 100th point with the Flyers in his 122nd game, but he didn’t do it at the start of his career.)

Giroux scored the Flyers’ first goal on a one-time tracer from the left circle after taking a feed from Voracek with 15:02 left in the first. Giroux fired his shot to the short side, just inside the left post. After the goal was scored, Chicago goalie Corey Crawford immediately went to the bench with a  skate issue.

Crawford entered the night leading the NHL with a 1.77 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage.

“He’s a pretty good goalie, so I was just trying to shoot as hard as I could,” said Giroux, who has nine goals in 16 games after scoring just 14 goals in the entire 2016-17 season. “It could be my first goal against him. He’s been owning me, so it was good to get one against him.”

A little over seven minutes later, Giroux made a deft pass to Gostisbehere to put his 100th career point in motion. From the left circle, Gostisbehere found Voracek, who beat Crawford with a right-circle one-timer to the far side.

“It’s awesome, but of course I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Gostisbehere said of reaching the century mark. He said it was “unbelievable” to do it with an organization that has “a lot of history.”

The Flyers ended a three-game home losing streak and avenged a 3-0 loss in Chicago eight nights earlier. In that game, the Flyers had numerous quality chances, but Crawford made 35 saves and outdueled Brian Elliott.

“I think it was actually one of our best games this year,” Giroux said, “but we couldn’t find a way to score.”

Elliott had an outstanding game Thursday, stopping 38 of 39 shots. He was particularly effective in a Chicago-dominated third period.

The Flyers had four days off since their last game, and they looked rusty in the first four minutes before getting their passing game clicking and dominating the rest of the opening period.

They took a 3-0 lead when Sean Couturier finished off a slick passing play with linemates Giroux and Voracek. Giroux made a backhand pass to Couturier, who got behind defensemen Duncan Keith and Jan Rutta and finished off the play from the doorstep. Crawford was completely out of position because of the quick passes and he had no chance.

It was Couturier’s 10th goal; his career high was 15 in 2014-15.

The Flyers’ top line — Couturier centering Giroux and Voracek  — combined for three goals and seven points. They have 23 goals and 60 points this season, placing them second in the NHL, behind the Tampa Bay trio of Vladislav Namestnikov, Steven Stamkos, and Nikita Kucherov. Entering their game Thursday in Los Angeles, the Lightning’s top line had combined for 29 goals and 71 points.

The Couturier unit controlled play when matched against a line that included Jonathan Toews (minus-2) and Patrick Kane (minus-2). Former Flyer Patrick Sharp was on that Chicago line for a while before dropping to another unit.

The Blackhawks got to within 3-1 when defenseman Connor Murphy, whose father, Gord, is a Flyers assistant, scored on a rebound with 3:47 left in the second. Shortly thereafter, Chicago had a great chance to get closer, but the Flyers killed off a five-on-three power play that lasted 1:44. The Blackhawks failed to get a shot on their two-man advantage.

“We kept them to the outside,” defenseman Brandon Manning said.

The Flyers have a history of keeping Chicago to the outside in games played at the Wells Fargo Center — that is, except for a certain 2010 matchup in the Stanley Cup Finals.