They are off and running now.
Hayes scored 3:51 into overtime, and the Flyers beat the slumping Blue Jackets 4-3 on Thursday night for their second straight win against another Metropolitan Division contender.
“It’s going to be a fun run if we play the right way,” Hayes said. “I thought we played the right way the last two games. Four points against a division opponent that was above us and now is beneath us. Two or three weeks ago we were battling just to get in the wild card and now we’re battling for home ice.”
The Flyers, who routed the Blue Jackets 5-1 on Tuesday, are in third place in the Metro with 75 points, five behind Pittsburgh and Washington. Columbus has dropped seven in a row, but it has the first wild-card spot, one point ahead of the New York Islanders and Carolina.
Philadelphia trailed 3-1 before Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Claude Giroux scored 1:26 apart in the second period. A scoreless third set up Hayes’ 19th goal.
Travis Konecny had a goal and an assist for Philadelphia, which improved to 12-5-2 in its last 19 games dating to Jan. 7. Brian Elliott had 28 saves.
“We had these couple dates circled and now we’ve got to look ahead and circle a couple more, take care of business when we need to and we’ll put ourselves in a good spot,” Elliott said. “We want to keep playing. We don’t want to sit back and watch other teams play. We want to determine our own destiny.”
It’s the longest skid for the Blue Jackets since they started the 2015-16 season 0-8-0.
“I thought we hung in there,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “We played hard. We found a way to lose it at the end.”
Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nick Foligno each had a goal and an assist for Columbus. Stefan Matteau scored his first goal in more than four years, and Merzlikins had 29 saves.
Bjorkstrand got his team-leading 21st goal 41 seconds into the game. He charged down the right side shadowed by Travis Sanheim and snapped a shot over Elliott from a sharp angle. It wasn’t immediately ruled a goal, but a replay showed it crossed the goal line.
Foligno made it 2-0 at 9:05 of the first when he settled a bouncing puck down in front of the net and netted a nifty shot between his legs.
The Flyers responded 23 seconds later. Sanheim’s shot deflected in off the skate of Konecny, who was falling in the blue paint.
Matteau, who signed a two-year, two-way contract Wednesday, got his first NHL goal since Dec. 4, 2015, when he redirected a Boone Jenner shot. That made it 3-1 at 3:39 of the second.
Philadelphia came charging back late in the second period. Aube-Kubel connected with a wrist shot from the slot. Then, with Foligno in penalty box, Giroux beat Merzlikins with a rifle shot from the left circle.
“Sometimes some of the (opponents’) best chances are going to be right away, and that’s kind of how it was tonight,” Elliott said. “You just want to stand your ground. We got down 3-1, I thought we did a really good job sticking to the game plan, waiting for our chances and burying them when we got them.”
NOTES: Giroux has four goals and eight assists during his seven-game point streak. … Foligno, who played in his 900th NHL game, took a hard puck off the side of his head early in the third period but returned after a few minutes. … The Flyers won the season series over Columbus 3-1. … Injured Columbus G Joonas Korpisalo has been loaned to the AHL’s Cleveland for a rehab assignment.
Flyers: Host Winnipeg on Saturday.
Blue Jackets: At Nashville on Saturday.
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