PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Flyers gave away hot dogs, pretzels, even tickets to those adventurous enough to brave a winter storm.
The die-hards left with a few extra bucks in their pockets — some cash they might need to pay for tickets for an unexpected playoff run.
After Philadelphia was a seller at the trade deadline, the Flyers continued their late postseason push as they head toward their biggest game of the season.
Michael Del Zotto and Wayne Simmonds scored third-period goals to rally the Flyers to a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
Del Zotto and Simmonds helped the Flyers erase a 1-0 hole and give them an important two points in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. Michael Raffl scored an empty-net goal to seal the victory.
The Flyers moved within four points of Boston for a wild-card berth. Up next for the Flyers, a Saturday date at Boston.
If they win that one, then the team that dealt defensemen Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn in two deals for draft picks will have some momentum down the stretch.
“I think that’s huge. It’s a four-point swing,” Simmonds said. “If we can grab those two points from them, that’s two more points that they can’t get, so it’s in our favor. We have to be really prepared for that game and start right from the drop of the puck.”
Steve Mason stopped 28 shots for the Flyers.
“They are fun games to be a part of, but this is a time of year where playing hockey is extra fun just because there is so much on the line,” Mason said. “Especially for us right now when every game is a must win.
“I think if we’re finally able to get back into these playoffs, we could be a dangerous team just because we’ve been playing must-win hockey for a long time.”
Jaden Schwartz scored his 21st goal for the Blues. Brian Elliott was stout in making 28 saves for a Blues team trying to gain ground in the Central Division and Western Conference.
“We got a one-goal lead on the road. We expect to take care of business,” Blues captain David Backes said.
A winter storm that blanketed the Northeast kept thousands of fans home. Even with a lousy record, the Flyers entered fourth in the NHL in attendance with an average of 19,681 fans per game.
About 9,000 came to the Wells Fargo Center after a late promotional push in which the Flyers offered free tickets to anyone taking public transportation. The Flyers slashed merchandise 50 percent at all stands and offered free hot dogs and pretzels.
“For the storm and all that, them showing up and being there, the team appreciated it very much,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said.
The Flyers fans put a bigger rush on the concession stands than the team put on Elliott for the first two periods.
They recorded only eight shots during a lackluster first, and a neutral zone turnover led to Schwartz’s goal for a 1-0 Blues lead.
It took some time but Philadelphia’s offense perked up in the third.
Del Zotto fired a slap shot from the point through a screen into the top of the net for his ninth goal midway through the period. Simmonds followed with a tip-in minutes later for his team-high 26th goal and a 2-1 Philadelphia lead.
The Blues recorded only eight shots in the third.
“They’re a hungry hockey team and fighting for a playoff spot, and they had a big push,” Schwartz said. “We didn’t react quite the way we wanted to. We’ve got to learn from it.”
The game played in an atmosphere more fit for the preseason was more interesting on social media. The Blues used the #FlyersSelfie tag to tweet a selfie of forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who assisted on the goal, after the first period. The Blues later tried to get the tweet on the Flyers’ big screen.
UFC fighter CM Punk, a noted Chicago Blackhawks fan, tweeted “Let’s Go @NHLFlyers let’s go.” He added, “I used to live there ya know. Plus, The @StLouisBlues. Yuck.”
NOTES: The weather also forced the Flyers to scrap their morning skate. … The Flyers announced 12,531 as the attendance. … Blues C Olli Jokinen was scratched. He was traded for the second time this season at Monday’s trade deadline, from Toronto. D Robert Bortuzzo played after he was acquired from Pittsburgh. … The Blues are 3-10-2 with one tie in their last 16 games in Philadelphia since the 1991-92 season. … Luke Schenn and Matt Read each had two assists for the Flyers.
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