Defenseman Brandon Manning is one of the least likely Flyers to score a game-winning goal on a wraparound.
But there he was Friday, making a move Bobby Clarke made famous long before Manning was born, as the Flyers stunned best-in-the-NHL Tampa Bay, 5-3, and gave the enigmatic team a much-needed victory.
Manning, 27, had missed the previous 10 games because of a hand injury. He replaced erratic rookie Travis Sanheim and, while being paired with Radko Gudas, brought some stability to the lineup with his hard-nosed play.
Manning had a team-high four hits, blocked two shots, and fired five shots (three on goal) in the victory.
“He had a real solid game, and made a real positive impact in all the areas he was expected to, and he obviously scored a big goal,” coach Dave Hakstol said after Sunday’s long practice in Voorhees, where the Flyers prepared for Tuesday’s home matchup against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Manning said it was the first wraparound he scored since his junior days.
“I have to give some of the credit to Dilly,” he said, referring to goaltender coach Kim Dillabaugh. “As a defenseman, obviously you don’t work on that, but his goalie drills have paid off.”
Manning said he was able to ease into his first game since Dec. 4. He played just 14 minutes, 50 seconds Friday.
“My minutes were down a little bit, and that probably helped,” he said. “I think as a team, we played one of our best games all year. It was an easier game to play. I didn’t play the hard minutes against the big top lines. When you’re battling and playing below the goal line, it makes it a harder night.”
He called it “one of those nights where everything kind of went right. The puck was moving well and we didn’t get hemmed in. I didn’t have to play a lot of hard minutes, I guess you could say.”
Gudas was comfortable playing alongside Manning; they have been a pair in the past.
“He looked like he didn’t miss any games,” said Gudas, who said he did a “little less teaching” than when Sanheim was his partner.
“I think Sanny did a pretty job. I enjoyed my time with him,” Gudas said. “Mandog is a little more experienced. They both have a lot to give the team.”
The Flyers start a four-game homestand Tuesday. They hope they can build off their impressive win in Tampa.
“No question. I think it’s something you have to kind of rally around — especially the way we played,” Manning said. “It was a good building block for us.”
“That’s the way we want and need to play games. We need it to carry over,” said goalie Brian Elliott, who is expected to make his 14th straight start Tuesday. “We’ve been guilty at times of not playing up to our potential against teams that are lower than us in the standings or right around us.”
The Flyers had lost six straight at the Wells Fargo Center — and heard lots of boos — before going 4-1 in their last homestand.
“It’s starting to be the time of year where every game is important,” said center Sean Couturier, who had three points in the win over the Lightning. “Every point matters.”
“We’ve got to make sure we make it hard for teams that come into the Wells Fargo,” winger Jake Voracek said.
Entering Sunday, Claude Giroux and Voracek were tied for fifth in the NHL with 46 points each. They are on 99-point paces. … Besides the Penguins, the homestand includes games against the Islanders, St. Louis (and Brayden Schenn), and Buffalo. After the homestand, the Flyers have a mandatory five-day break. … The Flyers blew a 3-1 lead and dropped a 5-4 overtime decision in Pittsburgh on Nov. 27, the teams’ only meeting thus far.