Alex Lyon's 1st NHL start has devilish finish

Alex Lyon's 1st NHL start has devilish finish


NEWARK, N.J. — The Flyers' pipes are in need of repair right now.

Making his first career NHL start, Alex Lyon was a little leaky in a 4-3 loss to the Devils Thursday night at the Prudential Center, as New Jersey connected for a pair of third-period goals, including Nico Hischier’s redirection through Lyon’s five-hole with 1:27 remaining in regulation (see observations).

“He just put it to the net and I thought I was in really good position, but I just opened up a little bit, and things happen fast enough in this league where you’re going to pay for that,” Lyon, who stopped 18 of 22 shots, said. “So I learned the hard way. I’m just going to try and learn from the mistakes and be sharper next time.”

Lyon’s first start also marked the first time this season the Flyers failed to pick up a point when leading after two periods with a record of 18-1-3. 

“It’s definitely tough to take a loss like that for sure,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “I think we more feel bad for Alex. We kind of let him down there, but it’s about getting back on the horse. There’s a lot of hockey left.”

One night after Michal Neuvirth admitted he wasn’t feeling quite 100 percent over a stomach bug, Lyon had to overcome some early butterflies of his own and another poor performance from the penalty kill, as the Devils scored two power-play goals on their first five shots of the game. 

“I wasn’t very sharp in the first period,” Lyon said. “I think my head was in the locker room. I just tried to battle and regroup. Unfortunately at the end there, that’s the main thing. You've got to find a way to get a point or two points at least. I’m disappointed.”

“I’m not surprised that he’s his own worst critic,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s the type of person that he is. I thought he gave us a good hockey game.”

New Jersey’s first goal came on a backdoor play as Kyle Palmieri was left wide open in the left circle, and the Devils converted again as Drew Stafford redirected a pass in front of Lyon that also slipped through his legs. In their season series, five of the eight goals the Devils have scored against the Flyers have come with the man advantage. 

“We allowed a seam play on the backdoor to Palmieri. There’s a couple of different ways ahead of that play to defend it a little bit better, and the tip play is a missed assignment at the net front,” Hakstol said. “When you give good players on the power play second and third opportunities, those are the ones that come back and get you. That’s something that we needed to be much better with the missed clears.”

Playing the Devils for the third time in 17 days, tensions started to rise after Radko Gudas collided with Palmieri late in the first period. As Gudas was attempting to skate back to his defensive position on the blue line, he jumped into Palmieri inadvertently. Gudas was assessed a two-minute minor for interference, but considering his history of cheap shots, the Devils rushed to Palmieri's defense.

Jakub Voracek and Taylor Hall were given matching roughing minors, and Brandon Manning and Damon Severson engaged in a brawl.

“I was getting out of the way of [Wayne Simmonds] when he showed up,” Gudas said. “I didn’t see him at all. I was just trying to get back to my position. It was unlucky. I shot it, and it was unfortunate.”

“Maybe it’s not avoidable, but there are ways you can maybe soften that blow,” Devils forward Travis Zajac said. “I don’t think you have to jump at the guy.” 

On Gudas’ next shift, Zajac came straight at Gudas as both players dropped the gloves in retaliation for the previous hit.

“I didn’t expect that from him, but it was OK," Gudas said. "It was a pretty good fight."

Still, the dogfight within the Metropolitan Division continues. Just 10 points separate the eight teams all jockeying for playoff position, and unquestionably, every single point matters as the Flyers let one, and quite possibly two, slip away Thursday night, marking consecutive losses with Brian Elliott (lower body) on the shelf.

And if “Ells” doesn’t return sometime soon, those other “L's” may continue to pile up in the standings.

Why Nolan Patrick is such a power-play fit

Why Nolan Patrick is such a power-play fit

Replacing Wayne Simmonds on the power play may be one of the toughest assignments in the NHL.

After all, the guy is second to only Alex Ovechkin with 85 man-advantage goals since the 2011-12 season.

So when the predicament actually faced Dave Hakstol this week, the Flyers' head coach turned to … a 19-year-old rookie.

Why Nolan Patrick?

Three components of the decision stand out:

Intelligence factor
Leading up the NHL draft, the overwhelming strength of Patrick's scouting report was his hockey sense.

Those close to him, as well as draft experts, lauded Patrick for comprehending plays before they even happen and being above the ice in understanding spacing.

Those characteristics are crucial when having an extra man.

Patrick has two goals over two games filling in for the injured Simmonds on the Flyers' top power-play unit. Patrick exhibited his IQ with Thursday's game-winner, where he quickly planted himself right in front of the net, had the presence of mind to find the puck and then bury it past Sergei Bobrovsky.

"We told him, just stand in front, if you see a puck, bring it home," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We tried to simplify it for him and he's going to take care of it himself, he's a great hockey player. It's paying off for him."

All about the touch
Patrick has excellent hands.

Put him around the net, and he'll know how to deflect pucks and find holes in a goalie. His vision, skill and finesse are why he's regarded as such an all-around playmaker.

In Tuesday's win, Patrick found immediate success with the first power-play group. Making his way to the middle, Patrick took a Claude Giroux pass and showed off that touch, adeptly going top shelf as Carey Price went low.

Studying Simmonds' net-front proficiency hasn't hurt, either.

"I watch him every game, he's unbelievable there and good at tipping pucks and making plays," Patrick said. "You learn from just watching every day."

Building up the kid
With time, Hakstol and the Flyers have allowed for Patrick to become comfortable instead of putting the world on his shoulders from the get-go.

That's part of Patrick's makeup.

"He almost always wants to be comfortable and then he really starts to exert himself," Patrick's uncle, James, said to NBC Sports Philadelphia last June

We're starting to see Patrick let loose.

As the Flyers have gradually upped his opportunity and responsibility, Patrick has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last 12 games after putting up six (two goals, four assists) over his previous 34.

Placing Patrick among the team's best talent on the man advantage will only help with his confidence moving forward, in all situations.

The Flyers' power play entered Friday with the NHL's sixth-best percentage at 21.6.

It'll need more of Patrick — but the Flyers couldn't have asked for a much better start to life without Simmonds over the next two to three weeks.

Streaking Penguins move atop Metro Division

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Streaking Penguins move atop Metro Division

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin each had two goals and an assist and the Pittsburgh Penguins routed the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1 on Friday night for their season-best sixth straight victory.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, Sidney Crosby scored a late goal and Olli Maatta also scored. The Penguins took control with three goals -- two by Kessel -- in a 7:39 span in the second period.

Matt Murray made 27 saves for Pittsburgh, which has won 11 of 13 to overtake idle Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Since the Penguins were shut out by Carolina on Jan. 4, they are 16-3-1.

They were just as busy off the ice, completing a mid-game trade in which they picked up center Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators. As part of the complicated three-team deal, they sent defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Teuvo Teravainen scored and Cam Ward stopped 33 shots for the short-handed Hurricanes, who have gone 0-3-1 during a four-game slide that's keeping them outside the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Wild dominate skidding Rangers for New York sweep
NEW YORK -- Mikael Granlund and Eric Staal each scored twice and Devan Dubnyk made 22 saves in the Minnesota Wild's 4-1 victory over the free-falling New York Rangers on Friday night.

The Wild completed a three-game sweep of New York-area teams after beating the Monday night and New Jersey on Thursday night.

The Rangers lost for the sixth straight time in regulation. New York is 6-17-0 since beating Buffalo in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 (see full recap).

Blackhawks’ Berube dominant in 1st Chicago start
CHICAGO -- Jean-Francois Berube made 42 saves in his first start for Chicago to help the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Friday night.

Defenseman Jan Rutta, activated from injured reserve Friday, and Nick Schmaltz scored, and Artem Anisimov added an empty-netter with 30.5 seconds left.

Anthony Duclair had two assists for the Blackhawks. They won their second straight and third in four games following an eight-game losing streak that dropped them to last place in the Central Division.

Berube lost a bid for this first NHL shutout when Timo Meier scored his 15th goal on a screened shot with 7:51 left in the third period.

Martin Jones stopped 33 shots for the Sharks, coming off a 7-1 loss at Nashville on Thursday night (see full recap).