Flyers

Lindholm completes hat trick in overtime of Ducks' win

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Lindholm completes hat trick in overtime of Ducks' win

NEW YORK — Hampus Lindholm scored his third goal of the game in overtime to give the Anaheim Ducks a 5-4 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Lindholm's sixth of the season came at 4:03 of the extra period, snapping a three-game losing streak for Anaheim.

The Ducks tied the game with goalie Ryan Miller pulled for an extra skater when Rickard Rakell scored at 18:45 of the third period. Brandon Montour and Ryan Getzlaf assisted. Getzlaf had four assists overall and has points in five games since returning from a facial fracture.

Andrew Ladd put the Islanders ahead 4-3 at 7:52 of the third as New York rallied from a 3-1 deficit.

Ladd's rebound shot for his ninth goal beat Miller at 7:52 after Islanders captain John Tavares tied the game with his second goal of the night at 5:44 of the third. The goal was the 21st of the season for Tavares (see full recap).

Birthday boy McAvoy sends Bruins past Jets in shootout
BOSTON — Charlie McAvoy celebrated his 20th birthday by scoring the decisive goal in the shootout, Tuukka Rask made 37 saves and the Boston Bruins beat the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Thursday night.

After Winnipeg's Nikolaj Ehlers' first attempt of the sudden-death portion of the shootout clanged off the post, McAvoy took the puck and meandered up the ice before firing his shot past Connor Hellebuyck.

Torey Krug scored his sixth goal of the season for Boston (18-10-5), which won its third straight game and sixth of its last seven.

Rask recorded a point for his eighth straight game (7-0-1) as the Bruins beat the Jets for the fourth straight meeting (see full recap).

Boyle leads Devils to shootout win over rival Rangers 
NEWARK, N.J. — Brian Boyle scored the tying goal in the third period and the game-winner in a shootout against his former team, and the New Jersey Devils overcame a season-high 45 saves by Henrik Lundqvist to beat the rival New York Rangers 4-3 on Thursday night.

John Moore and Blake Coleman also scored in regulation, and Kyle Palmieri converted in a four-round shootout for the Devils on the way to their third straight victory.

Cory Schneider made 25 saves and stopped three of four attempts in the tiebreaker, denying Jimmy Vesey when the Rangers had a chance to win. Schneider also turned aside defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to end it after Boyle put New Jersey ahead.

Vesey, Nick Holden and Kevin Hayes scored for the Rangers, who had won three in a row. Mika Zibanejad had a goal in the shootout (see full recap).

Letang gets winning goal in shootout as Pens top Blue Jackets
PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang scored the deciding goal in the shootout, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 on Thursday night.

Letang scored in the fourth round of the shootout, beating Sergei Bobrovsky to the glove side after a series of dekes. Evgeni Malkin also scored for Pittsburgh in the shootout.

Cam Atkinson scored in the shootout for Columbus, but Matt Murray stopped Artemi Panarin, Jack Johnson and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Murray made 29 saves, while Bobrovsky stopped 39 shots.

Patric Hornqvist and Malkin both scored their 12th goals of the season on the power play for the Penguins, who have two wins in their last three games following a three-game losing streak. Pittsburgh scored twice on the power play after a 0-for-15 slump (see full recap).

Michal Neuvirth gives the Flyers hope against Penguins

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Michal Neuvirth gives the Flyers hope against Penguins

VOORHEES, N.J. — And now comes the real test.

Watch the Flyers one night and they may look unbeatable. The next night they’ll come out flatter than Kyrie Irving’s view of Earth.  

The Flyers, maddeningly inconsistent at times — OK, most of the time — will need to build off of Friday’s Game 5 win to keep the series alive with a win in Sunday’s Game 6.

It’s now or never for these Flyers.

After steamrolling the Penguins in Game 2 in Pittsburgh, the Flyers returned to home ice with all the momentum in the world. And we all know what happened next. A 5-1 drubbing in Game 3, a loss seemingly dolled out before the horn sounded after the first period.

This time around, though, the orange and black will have a huge upgrade they were dearly missing in Games 3 and 4.

Goalie Michal Neuvirth. Yes, that’s right, the oft-injured Neuvirth is the Flyers’ best and only hope of forcing a Game 7. That’s not a hot take, either. Just check out the numbers.

Neuvirth’s playoff numbers are staggering. His .930 career playoff save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average rank third and fourth, respectively, among active goalies. 

“I just enjoy playing in the playoffs,” Neuvirth said of his ability to ramp up his play in the postseason. “Crowds been unreal in Pittsburgh and at home so it’s just so fun playing in the playoffs. I had success in the past, even in the AHL so I believe in myself that I can bring my A-game on the big stage.”

The fact is, Neuvirth — when healthy — is the only goalie on the Flyers’ roster capable of delivering that brick-wall, game-stealing performance for the team.

Playing his first full game since Feb. 16, Neuvirth stopped 30 of 32 shots in Game 5, including the ones that mattered most. 

The 30-year-old stoned the Pens’ blazing powerplay, as the penalty kill went a perfect 5 for 5. The Pens came into the game 5 for 19 with the man advantage, but the stability of Neuvirth, as well as the return of Sean Couturier, stifled the attack.

“We knew Neuvy was gonna come in and play big for us,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. “He’s a playoff goaltender.”

And he did just that in Game 5. With the extra attacker, Neuvirth robbed Sidney Crosby of a soul-crushing, game-tying goal in the waning seconds of the game to send the series back to Philly.

“He made some huge saves the end of the third period there to able to go across (robbing Crosby)," Giroux said after the 4-2 win. "When he plays cocky, he’s pretty good.”

Of course, that was all just one game. 

But with the Flyers facing elimination, one more game is all the team can ask for. 

Dave Hakstol's unconventional decisions do the trick for Flyers

Dave Hakstol's unconventional decisions do the trick for Flyers

PITTSBURGH — When Dave Hakstol decided to push a few buttons prior to Game 5, the initial reaction was the noise that rings out when a toddler sits down at a piano for the first time.

Valtteri Filppula centering Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek? Dale Weise back in the lineup for the first time in 23 days? Starting a goalie that many feared would pull up with a groin injury midway through the second period? And of course, the only defense pairing that’s remained intact is Brandon Manning with Radko Gudas. 

None of it sounded all that good, but desperate times apparently call for unconventional coaching decisions. Hakstol found a way to string a few notes on a sheet of music, and while he may not be considered the NHL’s Beethoven behind the bench, Friday's game at least left you tapping your foot to the beat.

And somehow it all came together.

Consider: How may teams can cycle through three different goaltenders and three different No. 1 centers five games into a playoff series against the two-time champions and still live to see another day?

Even Claude Giroux, the franchise’s No. 1 center for most of the past decade, was singing Filppula’s praises. 

“He’s a smart player and he’s in great position all the time,” Giroux said. “We did some nice plays. I think it’s probably the first time I’ve played with him. He’s easy to play with. It was fun.”

But ultimately the Flyers needed a showstopper in net. General manager Ron Hextall pointed that out Thursday before the team charter departed for Pittsburgh. 

Brian Elliott had been pulled in two of his four starts in this series, and while it was a mere footnote of a dreadful 5-0 shutout loss in Game 4, the decision to give Michal Neuvirth the nod over Petr Mrazek as Elliott’s backup could very well be the single biggest reason the Wells Fargo Center is hosting a Game 6 Sunday.

“We just felt Neuvy looked sharp in practice,” Hakstol said. “He went in the other night and got some game action. Just talking it through with Kim Dillabaugh, our goaltending coach, he was the right choice.”

Sidney Crosby would agree. The Penguins superstar had scored at will in this series, and the only time he had been denied on the doorstep was the result of some sort of stick malfunction in Game 2 that saw his shot miss the net completely.

But with 50 seconds remaining Neuvirth’s glove was better than Crosby’s stick. He not only saved the game but the Flyers' season as well.

“He made some huge saves the end of the third period there to able to go across (robbing Crosby)," Giroux said. "When he plays cocky, he’s pretty good.”

Neuvirth now has a 3-1 record with a .960 save percentage in five career postseason games with the Flyers.

Giroux also referred to the Flyers' Game 5 win as the team’s best overall game in this series.

Of course, this time of the season it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, it just has to be good enough that it doesn’t leave your ears bleeding.