It’s difficult to tell which Flyers forward is showing more intensity and having more fun on the ice: Claude Giroux or Travis Konecny?
Both are playing with unbridled joy, pumping their fists, and showing their emotions after scoring.
Konecny and Giroux keyed an important 4-3 win over the rebuilding New York Rangers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, moving the Flyers closer to a playoff berth in the oh-so-crowded Metropolitan Division and wild-card races.
Konecny scored a pair of goals, and Giroux had three assists for the second straight game as the Flyers increased their points streak to four games (3-0-1) and stayed one point behind third-place Columbus in the Metropolitan Division. They moved seven points ahead of Florida in the wild-card race.
The Flyers had an up-and-down game — “We were just sporadic tonight,” coach Dave Hakstol said — and hung on for the win as the fleet Rangers, who are out of the playoff hunt, had the better scoring chances in the third period.
“It doesn’t really matter how we get it at this time of year; it’s just a matter of getting the two points,” Konecny said.
In his last 29 games, Konecny has 16 goals. He has thrived ever since joining Giroux and Sean Couturier on the top line.
“He’s pretty dynamic,” Giroux said of Konecny, who now has 22 goals this season. “He moves the puck well and he can move his feet well, too, and he beats guys one-on-one. He’s definitely fun to play with.”
As for Giroux, he now has 64 assists, tops in the NHL. He is also among the league leaders in points (90, three shy of equaling his career high) and faceoff percentage (around 59 percent) and has become a part of the MVP chatter.
Oskar Lindblom (game-high five shots) and the Rangers’ Jesper Fast exchanged goals early in the third period, with both scoring on rebounds. Lindblom’s goal proved to be the winner.
Konecny played only 2 minutes, 28 seconds and four shifts in the third period because Hakstol was not happy with his defense. Matt Read replaced him.
“He wasn’t taking care of the puck very well,” Hakstol said of Koencny. “Defensively, some of the things in the D zone [were a problem]. An individual has to be better at this time of the year.”
Konecny, who received praise from Hakstol for injecting life into the attack, downplayed the third-period benching.
“It’s just about getting the two points. I think we’re going to make sure that defensively, we’re going to take care of pucks,” he said. “It’s just part of buying in and doing things for the team.”
The Flyers faced a young New York defense that had four players who have spent most of the season in the AHL.
Lindblom’s second goal in three games gave the Flyers a 4-2 cushion just eight seconds into the third.
Fast (two goals) answered a little over a minute later to trim the deficit to 4-3.
With 13:20 left in regulation, Alex Lyon (33 saves) robbed Mika Zibanejad from point-blank range to keep the Flyers ahead. He also made two key stops during a Rangers power play later in the period.
Earlier, the Flyers took a 2-1 lead early in the second period on Jake Voracek’s 19th goal and third in his last four games. Voracek split two defenders and, as he was falling down, flipped the puck over goalie Alexandar Georgiev for the first four-on-four goal scored against the Rangers this season.
About five minutes later, Konecny made it 3-1 as he tipped in Radko Gudas’ point drive, then went into full celebration mode as the Wells Fargo crowd erupted.
But the Rangers got to within 3-2 when Fast scored from behind the goal line, throwing a pass out front that deflected off the right skate of defenseman Ivan Provorov and into the net with 2:57 to go in the stanza.
The Flyers had taken a 1-0 lead as the sizzling Konecny took a feed from Andrew MacDonald and scored from the left circle with 12:04 left in the first.
The lead lasted less than six minutes. Zibanejad skated around Gudas and, after faking a shot, beat Lyon from the right circle for his ninth goal in the last 10 games.
“They played with a lot of speed and came at us pretty hard, but we did a good job of grinding it out,” Giroux said. “And obviously the Lyon King did a good job and was battling out there.”