Flyers

Best of NHL: Hornqvist picks up where he left off as Penguins beat Capitals

ap-penguins-team-celebrate.jpg
AP Images

Best of NHL: Hornqvist picks up where he left off as Penguins beat Capitals

WASHINGTON -- Patric Hornqvist scored a power-play goal and assisted on another in his season debut to help the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Wednesday night in their first meeting since the playoffs.

Hornqvist assisted on a goal by Kris Letang, the defenseman's first since Feb. 4 after missing the end of last season and playoffs because of neck surgery. Hornqvist, who scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal last spring despite a broken finger on his right hand, was playing for the first time since offseason surgery to repair it.

Conor Sheary scored the Penguins' third goal as they went 3 for 6 on the power play. The Capitals' six minor penalties were a season high and contributed to their first regulation loss.

Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading eighth goal of the season in the Capitals' fourth game. Christian Djoos assisted on Ovechkin's goal and scored in his NHL debut to become the third defenseman in franchise history to score in his debut after Steve Poapst and Hall of Famer Scott Stevens.

Matt Murray stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced to pick up the victory. Braden Holtby made 33 saves for Washington (see full recap).

Wood, Zacha help Devils hand Maple Leafs 1st loss
TORONTO -- Brian Gibbons had a rare 3-on-5 goal, Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha each scored twice and the unbeaten New Jersey Devils beat Toronto 6-3 on Wednesday night to end the Maple Leafs' perfect start.

Blake Coleman also scored, and Cory Schneider made 47 saves to help New Jersey open 3-0-0 for the first time since 2014-15.

Tied 2-2 after 20 minutes, New Jersey scored twice in the second period despite being outshot 17-12.

A key moment came late in the period with the Devils taking two minors on one play. Rather than Toronto taking advantage, New Jersey killed off the penalties and scored short-handed to make it 4-2.

Jake Gardiner was unable to keep the puck in at the New Jersey blue line and two Devils broke in. William Nylander's backcheck swept the puck off Adam Henrique's stick, and the puck went off goalie Frederik Andersen to Gibbons in front.

Auston Matthews, with his third of the season, cut it to 5-3 with 6:26 remaining and the Maple Leafs on a two-man advantage. James van Riemsdyk and Dominic Moore also scored for Toronto. The Maple Leafs dropped to 3-1-0 (see full recap).

Andrighetto lifts Avalanche over Bruins
DENVER -- Sven Andrighetto scored twice, the second an empty-netter with 1:34 remaining, and Alexander Kerfoot had his first NHL goal in helping the Colorado Avalanche to a 6-3 victory over the Boston Bruins in their home opener Wednesday night.

It was the second meeting between the two teams in three nights. The Avalanche beat the Bruins 4-0 in Boston on Monday night.

Colorado broke things open in the second period, with Nail Yakupov, Andrighetto and Matt Duchene all beating goaltender Tuukka Rask, who was replaced by Anton Khudobin for the third period.

Trailing 4-1 midway through the third, the Bruins made things interesting with goals from Tim Schaller and Torey Krug in a 1:27 span. Andrighetto and Tyson Jost responded with empty-net goals.

Semyon Varlamov stopped 20 shots to help the Avalanche start on the right foot at the Pepsi Center. The team went a dismal 13-26-2 at home a season ago when they finished with an NHL-worst 48 points (see full recap).

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

usa-sean-couturier-flyers-flames.jpg
USA Today Images

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

VOORHEES, N.J. — Home is where the _____.

For the Flyers, filling in this blank hasn’t solicited positive responses this season.

Of course, the Flyers haven’t provided positive results.

After trouncing the Capitals and Panthers in their first two home games of the season, the Flyers have dropped 10 of their last 12 in South Philly. They gifted the Arizona Coyotes their first win of the season back in late October and have turned in lethargic efforts against the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins in recent weeks.

More alarmingly, the Flyers have just a 1-2-5 record in one-goal games, a situation in which home ice should come into play as one of the deciding factors. The losing and frustration culminated with a barrage of boos and a “Fire Hakstol” chant during that 3-1 loss to the Sharks on Nov. 28.

“It doesn’t help, but we’re not doing anything to help ourselves,” goaltender Brian Elliott said Monday. “You’re trying not to listen to any crowd. You’re just trying to block it all out and stay in that moment, just playing with your team out there, and that’s probably how I approach it. It’s taking that road style hockey game and bringing it here.” 

“I think the atmosphere will be better,” Sean Couturier said. “When you’re losing, it’s tough. We were trying so hard to get a win. It didn’t seem to come, and then finally to get one, two and then three. We’re kind of on a roll, but at the same time, it’s only three games. We’re pretty excited to be back home and keep winning.”  

Tuesday, the team will be looking to change its Wells Fargo Center fortunes when it opens up another five-game homestand, its longest of the season, beginning with a visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Flyers are hopeful they can carry over their success from a three-game sweep in Western Canada when the Leafs hit town. 

“We keep it simple on the road. We went on the road and made a pact to keep it simple and play the right way,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We’ve had one of the best home records over the past three years. I think we do alright at home. Obviously, we’ve had a slow start at home, but we’ll pick it up.”

Not that the previous 14 home games have been irrelevant, but the final 27 games on home ice will have a much greater emphasis as 23 of their final 28 games come against Eastern Conference opponents, with 12 of those directly within the Metropolitan Division.

“From now on, games are going to get more and more important,” Couturier said. “Every point is pretty much necessary for us, especially when you lose 10 games in a row. You get behind in the standings and you’re chasing. We've got to stick together and get some more wins.”

'Ghost' feels for Wentz
Shayne Gostisbehere knows what it's like to wake up the way Carson Wentz did on Monday morning.

Wentz tore the ACL in his left knee during Sunday’s 43-35 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. 

In November 2014, Gostisbehere tore the same ACL in his knee during his rookie season with the Phantoms just five games in and never returned to action. Faced with months of rehab, there were moments when "Ghost" didn’t feel as if the injury was improving.   

“I saw the game yesterday,” Gostisbehere said. “I hope for the best for him. The rehab is really grueling. It's ups and downs. Some days you’re going to feel great, feel like you’re getting ahead of the game, and other days you feel you’re never going to get better. I think overall he’s going to have the best care in the world. I think obviously you hope for the best and hope it’s not that bad.”

Elliott named third star
Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott was named the NHL’s third star of the week after posting three road wins with a 1.67 goals-against average and .954 save percentage.

“It’s great when you get recognized,” Elliott said. “Whenever you get those recognitions as a goalie, it really shows how the group has been playing, especially this last week here. It’s probably my name up there, but definitely the whole team deserves that.”

Nolan Patrick's start reminder of rookie life adjusting to NHL

ap-nolan-patrick-flyers.jpg
AP Images

Nolan Patrick's start reminder of rookie life adjusting to NHL

VOORHEES, N.J. — If Nolan Patrick is to have a long and storied career in the National Hockey League, then perhaps we shouldn’t get caught up in the prologue - that section of a book you likely skim over before you begin chapter one.

This season is Patrick’s prologue - a short blurb that will likely be passed over when the final chapter is eventually written.  

In fact, Flyers GM Ron Hextall reminded us recently that, as an 18-year-old, Joe Thornton scored three goals and seven points in 55 games during his rookie season with the Boston Bruins in 1997-98. Does anyone remember or discuss Year 1 of the Thornton Era?

“People forget this stuff,” said Hextall. “These guys are young kids. It’s why some players need time in the minors. It’s a process. It’s hard to go out 82 times against 25, 30-year-old men and play. It’s demanding as hell. People don’t realize that.”

Starting the season on the Flyers' second line with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds, Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in this past June's entry draft, was consistently logging 13 and a half minutes a game and contributing offensively despite inconsistencies while acclimating and adjusting to playing at a much higher pace. Then came the hit against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 24 and the prolonged post-concussion period that lasted for nearly a month.

Recently, the mistakes have piled up with turnovers and poor positional play, and head coach Dave Hakstol has cut Patrick’s ice time. The rookie averaged a little below nine minutes during the recent three-game Western Canadian sweep.

“Patrick’s 19 years old. He’s a kid,” said Hextall. “I know people want more out of him. We want more out of him, but he’s a 19-year-old. People think because a kid’s got a big name, he’s drafted high, he’s going to come into the league and bang, he’s going to make an instant impact.

“He’s shown enough of signs that he can compete at this level and be a factor, and that’s what you want with a young kid. I don’t like putting young kids on a team that aren’t a factor. Why would he even be on your team? Nolan has shown at times he can be a factor and he needs to get better as the year goes on.”

Patrick’s season is more than anything a by-product of last year in juniors with the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings when he suffered a muscle tear in the midsection area that went misdiagnosed. Admittedly, he was never performing at 100 percent while fighting through pain and discomfort. 

While the majority of non-playoff NHLers begin their offseason regimen sometime in May, Patrick barely did anything. He worked out prior to combine testing in June leading up to the draft, and only after meeting with renowned core muscle surgeon Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia did Patrick realize his injuries were career-threatening. 

Had Patrick gone through an injury-free season with the Wheat Kings and a full offseason to recover from normal nagging injuries all players go through, he would have been back in the gym before the first round of the NHL playoffs had commenced.  

“I think [Brandon] lost out in April, so obviously I would have liked to have that whole time to train and work on my game, but my body had other ideas for me,” said Patrick. “The big thing for me was I was hoping I was in good enough shape to do well with fitness testing and all of that. I only had a month to train. That was kind of the main thing I was worried about.”

A second surgery followed with a 4-to-6 week recovery and then came a bizarre abscess/boil that prevented him from skating in late July. By the time Patrick started working out in August, he was a good two months behind even the most experienced veterans. 

“He didn’t have a regular offseason, didn’t play a lot last year," Hextall said of Patrick. "It’s not an excuse, but those are things you got to look at. This is where he’s at right now, and Nolan has done some goods things for us. Does he need to do better? Yeah, he does.”

Just about every player would like to re-write their rookie season, especially those who came into the league as a teenager. Prior to Patrick, Sean Couturier was the last Flyer to play in the NHL the same year he was drafted. In Couturier’s case, he had the luxury of playing on a talented in 2011-12 team while focusing on his role as a fourth-line defensive center.

“It’s all about getting adapted to a new lifestyle,” Couturier said of transitioning to the NHL as a teenager. “Everything’s new. You’re going from juniors, being with a bunch of 17 and 18-year-olds, and all of a sudden, you’re with men. It’s definitely a big change in your life. Offseason training, nutrition -- a lot of little details matter.

“I think Nolan’s figuring it out, but you can see he’s got all the potential to succeed. I’m not too worried about him to be honest."

Eventually Patrick will turn the page on his career. It just might not come this season.