DENVER (AP) — Second night of a back-to-back on the road — at elevation no less. Losing their goaltender midway through the game. Blocking 33 shots.
No wonder Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol was so complimentary.
“Just a gutsy effort,” he said.
Ivan Provorov had a goal and an assist, Petr Mrazek stopped all 17 shots he faced in relief of starter Michal Neuvirth and the Flyers held off the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 on Wednesday night.
Claude Giroux also scored as the Flyers climbed into third place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re tied in points (92) with second-place Pittsburgh, with the Penguins currently holding the tiebreaker.
“Every point matters right now,” Mrazek said.
Philadelphia looked crisp early — scoring both goals in the first period — despite losing in overtime at Dallas a night earlier. Neuvirth turned back 10 shots in his first game since suffering a lower-body injury on Feb. 18, but he exited the game midway through the second period for an undisclosed reason. Hakstol had no update after the game.
Mrazek took over and was exceptional, especially in the last five minutes when the Avalanche turned up the pressure. He withstood a flurry of shots in the last few seconds, including one from Gabriel Landeskog where the red light briefly came on after the puck flew by the net.
“Those five minutes felt like 15. So long,” Mrazek said. “Lots of blocked shots in front of me, a couple of lucky bounces today. Didn’t see, I think, one or two pucks get to my pad. Big thanks to these guys in front the last five minutes.”
Matt Nieto scored for an Avalanche team that’s on the outside of the playoff picture with five games remaining. They’ve lost three of four, including two of those at home where they’ve been stellar all season. The Avs are 16-4-1 at the Pepsi Center over their last 21 games.
What’s more, Colorado’s offense has suddenly gone silent with five goals now in the last four games.
“When our line goes cold we lose games,” star forward Nathan MacKinnon said. “If we have some chances it’s up to us to bury them.”
Andrew Hammond had 31 saves during an emergency start for Semyon Varlamov, who was sidelined by an illness. Varlamov had appeared in 21 straight games for the Avalanche.
Hammond was called up from San Antonio of the American Hockey League earlier in the day as an insurance policy. It was his first appearance for Colorado after splitting time between the minors and a backup role. He also dealt with what the team called a head injury. Hammond was acquired as part of a three-team trade that sent Matt Duchene to Ottawa in November.
“I think it took me a period to get my legs under me,” said Hammond, who played in his first NHL game in more than a year. “The unfortunate part is I guess the game-winning goal ended up being scored in that period. But as the game went on I settled in and started to feel better.”
Nieto cut it to 2-1 by poking the puck past Neuvirth at 5:36 of the second period.
Colorado pulled Hammond with around 90 seconds left but couldn’t score the equalizer despite turning up the pressure.
Giroux put the Flyers up 1-0 in the first with his 27th goal, and Provorov added another nearly eight minutes later with a blast from the blue line.
With Provorov’s score, the Flyers have 48 goals from their defensemen — the team’s most in a season since the group accounted for 52 in 1992-93.
“This is how the game is played right now,” Provorov said. “You can’t create offense with just three forwards. You have to move and have mobile ‘D.’ I think that’s what we have on our team.”
NOTES: Flyers D Shayne Gostisbehere set up Giroux’s goal. Gostisbehere has five assists over his last three games. … D Andrew MacDonald had seven blocked shots. … Avs RW Sven Andrighetto missed a third straight game with a lower-body injury. … Backup G Jonathan Bernier remains sidelined as he deals with a cut on his hand that became infected. He faced some shots during a morning skate Wednesday, but didn’t have his stick.
Flyers: Host Boston on Sunday.
Avalanche: Face Chicago on Friday before a three-game trip.
By PAT GRAHAM
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