PHILADELPHIA — Vegas is ready to cash out as big winners on a heady road trip.
“Everyone’s looking forward to getting home,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “But once the puck drops, the guys are in a good place.”
Try first place in the West.
Ivan Barbashev scored two goals, Pavel Dorofeyev, Teddy Blueger and Jonathan Marchessault also scored to lead the Vegas Golden Knights to a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
Nick Seeler and Morgan Frost scored two late goals against Jonathan Quick that cut the lead to 4-3. Travis Sanheim got on the board in the second period and Felix Sandstrom made 28 saves for the Flyers.
Barbashev scored his 14th goal of the season on an empty-netter that sealed the win.
The Golden Knights have won four straight and finished 4-1 on a trip that boosted their road record to a stout 21-7-5 this season as they play for first place in the Western Conference.
“A trip like this, especially when you get to the end, you’ve got to find a way to win,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said.
They at least found a way to hold on.
The Flyers opened a seven-game homestand and are well out of the playoff race.
“I didn’t mind a lot of the game,” Flyers coach John Tortorella said. “The effort is there. We’ve just got to keep on going,”
They played their first game at Wells Fargo Center since they fired general manager Chuck Fletcher on Friday and promoted long-time fan favorite Danny Briere to the interim role. The move that fans had clamored for did little to spark ticket sales — there were scores of empty seats inside the arena. Briere was in Florida for the NHL general managers meetings.
The losses are getting easier to accept for Flyers fans now that Briere has acknowledged the franchise needs a multiyear process to become contenders again. Each defeat this season only pumps their odds for a better pick in the draft lottery.
“We’re done. We’re not making the playoffs,” Tortorella said. “But our guys continue to play hard.”
The Flyers rallied in the third when another loss seemed inevitable. Instead, they showed some rare grit when Seeler and Frost scored almost two minutes apart in a tough — but too late — rally that got a rise out of the stragglers.
“They’re a team that’s trying to forge an identity,” Cassidy said. “They’re going through some, obviously, internal stuff. I don’t know how it affects the players.”
Quick stopped 27 shots, improving to 4-0 since he was acquired from Columbus and tied John Vanbiesbrouck for second on the career wins list among American goalies with 374.
COOTS, THERE HE IS
Flyers C Sean Couturier took part in the team’s morning skate as he tries to return this season from two back surgeries since he last played a game in December 2021. He had signed a $62 million, eight-year extension in August 2021 that keeps him under contract through the 2029-2030 season at a salary cap hit of $7.75 million.
The 30-year-old Couturier said it was his goal to play some games this season.
“If I wait until next year, it’s going to be almost two years since I’ve played an NHL game, which is not ideal,” he said. “I’m not getting any younger, either. Just feeling good about yourself, you’re back being a hockey player and not just rehabbing.”
The eighth pick in the 2011 draft, Couturier has 460 points in 721 regular-season games and 22 more in the Stanley Cup playoffs, while often playing through injury. Couturier has gone from trying to win a Stanley Cup in Philly to now muddling through the rebuilding process.
“It’s kind of something we have to do,” the popular player nicknamed Coots said. “I’ll do my best to be around and lead the right way.”
Golden Knights: Host Calgary on Thursday.
Flyers: Play the second game of a seven-game homestand Friday against Buffalo.
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