Flyers

Best of NHL: Alex Ovechkin gets historic hat trick as Capitals beat Canadiens

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Best of NHL: Alex Ovechkin gets historic hat trick as Capitals beat Canadiens

WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin had a historic night, and now he could use a travel agent.

Anything to keep this roll going.

Ovechkin scored four goals to become the first player in 100 years with back-to-back hat tricks to open a season, and the Washington Capitals beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-1 on Saturday night.

Ovechkin had three goals in the third period in Thursday's opening night win at Ottawa, then matched the feat while helping chase Montreal goalie Carey Price in the first period Saturday. He added his fourth goal at 16:46 of the second period against Al Montoya.

Ovechkin jokingly credited the outburst to his Russian sister-in-law, who has been visiting the U.S. this week.

"Every time she's in town like I score a hat trick," Ovechkin said. "Back-to-back and she's leaving Monday. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to talk to someone to keep her here."

It was the fourth four-goal game of his career and second against the Canadiens (see full recap).

Leafs edge Rangers in wild home opener
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri scored third-period goals and the Toronto Maple Leafs held off the New York Rangers 8-5 on Saturday night in their wild home opener.

It was an adventure in defending for both teams at times, with Toronto pulling ahead 5-1 in the first period and chasing Henrik Lundqvist before the Rangers scored four straight to quieten the Air Canada Centre crowd.

Bozak ended the Maple Leafs' slide to make it 6-5 at 7:17 of third, redirecting a pass from the corner from Jake Gardiner over Ondrej Pavelec's glove. The Rangers lost a challenge that the play was offside, earning a minor penalty in the process.

Kevin Hayes took a slashing penalty for New York, and Komarov made it 7-5 at 9:52, tapping in the rebound after William Nylander roofed a backhand off the crossbar.

The Rangers pulled their goalie with some 3 minutes remaining only to see Ryan McDonagh take a hooking penalty. Kadri took advantage with a low shot with 1:30 to go.

Zach Hyman scored twice, and Dominic Moore, Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev added goals for Toronto (see full recap).

Butcher steals spotlight from Hischier in Devils' win
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils' youth movement has a lot more going for it than No. 1 overall draft pick Nico Hischier.

The Devils are three deep in the rookie department. Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher and Swedish import Jesper Bratt stole a lot of the spotlight from Hischier in a 4-1 season-opening victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

Butcher set up three power-play goals and Bratt had a goal and an assist as the Devils created some excitement after posting the worst record in the Eastern Conference last season.

"The vibe the arena gave off is what I'll remember most," Butcher said after becoming the first Devil to collect three assists in his initial game with the franchise. "It was an unbelievable crowd. And to play my first game with Nico and Jesper, it's like we were all in this together. It was a great feeling"

Adam Henrique, Jimmy Hayes and John Moore also scored as the Devils fielded a lineup with eight new players. Kyle Palmieri added two assists before leaving in the second period with a leg injury. Cory Schneider made 40 saves.

Hischier was the player the crowd at the Prudential Center wanted to see. He was hailed as a conquering hero in pre-game introductions, and the first time he stepped on the ice there were chants of "Nico" for the 18-year-old Swiss center (see full recap).

Neal scores OT winner as Vegas wins yet again
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- James Neal's goal at 3:46 of overtime Saturday night gave the expansion Vegas Golden Knights their second win in two games, 2-1 over the Arizona Coyotes.

Neal, who scored twice in the Golden Knights' first regular-season game Friday at Dallas, completed a comeback that saw Vegas tie the score at 1 with 1:12 to play in regulation. Anti Raanta, in his first game as the new No. 1 goaltender in Arizona, stopped 42 shots.

Vegas, unable to put a shot past Raanta for nearly the entire game, drew even at 1 on Nate Schmidt's goal. The Golden Knights had pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with 2:18 to play for an extra attacker, and the move paid off.

Fleury made 27 saves.

Raanta was sharpest in the second period, making 19 saves. The Coyotes earned their first point for new coach Rick Tocchet after losing their season opener at Anaheim on Thursday (see full recap).

Danick Martel's debut highlights Travis Konecny's regression

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Danick Martel's debut highlights Travis Konecny's regression

Danick Martel made his Flyers debut Wednesday night at left wing on the second line … without one NHL game to his credit or even a single practice with his linemates.

Perhaps it can all be viewed as a refreshing change for a team that needed a shock to the system, and certainly a different look for an offense that has routinely struggled to score goals.

But more than anything, it revealed a much more glaring problem for the Flyers: Has Travis Konecny regressed to the point that general manager Ron Hextall needs to consider other options?

Martel has now slipped into the role once occupied by Konecny, whose performance so far this season has been nothing short of sporadic.

The second-year winger had a string of games playing on the left side of Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds, but the line never really generated any sustained success, and head coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t seem to know what to do with Konecny at this stage of his career. 

Left wing, right wing, second line, third line. One quarter into this season and already Konecny has been a linemate with eight different teammates, and his ice time has fluctuated anywhere between nine and 18 minutes per game.

This can’t be what the front office envisioned for Konecny when he made the Flyers' roster straight out of training camp in 2016. He may have played like an All-Star during the preseason, but exhibition hockey games typically lack a full complement of NHL players, many of which take the necessary measures to ensure they don’t overextend themselves and suffer an injury before the regular season begins. 

At this stage of their careers, the 22-year-old Martel and the 20-year-old Konecny appear to be almost side by side in their development. As Martel has exploded in his third season with the Phantoms, Konecny has struggled in Year 2 with the Flyers, and a lack of confidence has seemingly followed.   

He has just two goals on 84 attempted shots, many of which have left a black smudge on the glass behind the net, and he’s one of the few Flyers forwards with less than 50 percent of his shots on goal. Konecny, more than anything, needs to experience success along with a committed focus on his defensive responsibilities.

One Western Conference scout who attended Tuesday’s Flyers game against the Canucks believes Konecny could benefit greatly given time with the Phantoms. 

“He went straight from juniors to the NHL,” the scout, who chose to remain anonymous, said. “He hasn’t really learned to play a responsible two-way game at the pro level. I don’t think it would hurt him to refine his game and gain some confidence in the American League.”

Martel had no choice. He went undrafted after three seasons in the QMJHL. Nothing has been given and everything has been earned. Martel told Joe Santoliquito of the Philly Voice last week there’s a certain dose of determination that comes with being 5-foot-9, 162 pounds. 

"I love proving people wrong. It’s why I went undrafted,” Martel said. “It’s why I have a f--- you attitude! That started when I was younger. Not a lot of people trusted in the way I play and my size. I’m going to score anyway. That’s the way I think. It’s the way I play. I’m not small. I play big. You want to make a mistake. Judge me by my size.

“I love pissing off the bigger players because they automatically assume that they’re better than me. It’s why I will never stop working. I need to work on the defensive zone if I’m going to play in the NHL.”

Martel has a hunger and determination that Konecny needs to rediscover. There’s no reason he should have minor-league immunity. Scott Laughton needed a full year with the Phantoms to become the player the organization envisioned, and it appears to have paid off. 

As Hextall stated when he sent highly-touted Oskar Lindblom to Lehigh Valley prior to the season opener in San Jose, “American League time hasn’t hurt one player in the history of professional hockey. It’s not a death sentence.” 

Let’s remind ourselves that even Claude Giroux had a 38-game stint with the Phantoms. 

Right now, it can only help the career of Konecny in the same way it has worked out for Martel.