Belly’s belly-flop lifts Flyers over Wild to kick off must-win homestand

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Pierre-Edouard Bellemareflew through the air to score the winning goal Thursday night, a flying Flyer lifting the squad 3-2over the Wild in a crucial home game against a west coast foe.

The center’s third period strike saw him dive forward and swat the puck into the net, and would hold as the Flyers dodged a bullet, averting disaster as a Wild shot nearly found nylon with just 2.6 seconds to go in the game. The play was reviewed and called ‘no goal’ to the delight of the hometown fans.

Starting a pivotal six-game homestand, the Flyers, without Michael Del Zotto or Claude Giroux, are looking to do the nearly impossible and put together some semblance of a march toward the last playoff berth in the East.

With the trade deadline looming, the narrative of the Flyers season will depend on whether they are able to string together enough wins to become a factor as just 22 games remain.

In Thursday’s contest against Minnesota, the Flyers closed the gap a bit, inching within three points of the Penguins for the second Wild Card spot.

Here are three things we saw in the win:

Early risers

The Flyers used a late first-period penaltykill to build some momentum, breathing life into a performance that was dull and uninspiredearly as a scrum in front of the Wild net resulted in a rebound strike off the stick of Sam Gagner (his fourth). The goal put Philly ahead after 20 minutes had surpassed.

The squad, which has a good record when leading after the first, attempted to parlay the positive energy into period No. 2 and but a Nick Schultz holding penalty just as the stanza began thwarted that plan, with Minnesota’s Thomas Vanek(his 18th)tying things at one-all at the 17:58mark.

Rising stock

Mark Streittook matters into his own hands a few minutes into the second period, flipping a wrister from the middle of the Flyers’ zone passed Wild goaltender DevanDubnyk(assisted by Matt Read and Jake Voracek).

The defenseman and alternate captain has been the subject of trade rumors as the deadline approached next week, and the goal, his fifth of the year, no doubt helps the Flyers should they try and shop him and become sellers. The goal was his first in more than five weeks.

Down the stretch

The Wild got a rebound goal of their own in the second, tying things at two-apiece after Mikael Branlundbackhanded a ricocheting shot passed Michal Neuvirth, putting all the marbles on the outcome of the final period.

In the third with the puck tied up against the back wall, Chris Vandaveldepoked it loose and missed a wraparound but a second-effort fromBellemare(his fourth)in the form of a lunging dive flipped the puck into Minnesota’s net and gave Philly a 3-2 advantage.

Neuvirthmade25saves against the Wild, five of them in the decisive third period including several on a clutch penalty kill early in the frame. The Flyers outshot the Wild 31-26overall.

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