Flyers

Brian Elliott shows Flyers what he's made of

Brian Elliott shows Flyers what he's made of

Ivan Provorov barely had time to settle in after his backhanded clear went out of play untouched for a delay of game penalty. It put the Flyers down two men for one minute and 44 seconds late in the second period with a two-goal lead and momentum fizzling.

The Blackhawks won the faceoff, set up and found Patrick Kane, one of the most lethal passers in hockey, at the goal line to the left of Brian Elliott. Before the puck arrived, Kane knew what he was going to do: feed former Flyer Patrick Sharp on the backdoor.

There was one problem for Chicago. Elliott was one step ahead of Kane, as the Flyers’ goalie made a subtle poke check to prevent a goal and the Flyers escaped unharmed.

Perhaps it was the six seasons Elliott spent in the Western Conference or the five years with the Blues. Whatever the reason was, Elliott out-anticipated a Hart Trophy winner.

“You definitely pick up on stuff, tendencies and stuff like that,” Elliott said. “They could be saying the same thing about me. If they’re on the winning end, you’d be asking them those questions. You just try to better each other every night and we came out on top.”

On Thursday night, Elliott produced his best effort yet in orange and black, turning away 38 shots as the Flyers beat the Blackhawks, 3-1, at the Wells Fargo Center (see story).

Elliott didn’t face much danger on the successful 5-on-3 kill, stopping the only shot he saw, a testament to the killers — specifically Robert Hagg, who logged a 2:12 shift that featured a big blocked shot. Shortly after Provorov exited the box, Elliott bailed out the Flyers once again. This time, it was a Brandon Saad breakaway with 22.9 seconds left.

Throughout, Elliott, whose unorthodox style, at times, is fundamentally a wreck to watch, was tracking pucks far greater than he has this season. He was patient in net, outwaiting Blackhawks shooters. He looked calm, and even when he didn’t, he looked in control.

There was a sequence during the third period in which Elliott staved off a shot that deflected twice. There was a sprawling stop on Richard Panik. He saw 16 pucks in the final stanza and answered each one. It was Elliott at his finest, and an Elliott that we hadn't seen in his first nine starts.

“I felt good out there,” Elliott said. “I thought we did a good job defensively to allow me to lock in on the puck, took away lanes, took away passes. That’s what you have to do against a team like that.”

Thursday was Elliott's second consecutive start against the Blackhawks after serving as the backup in the Flyers' previous two games. Elliott stopped 34 of 36 shots his last time out, a 3-0 loss in Chicago on Nov. 1.

In 10 games, Elliott is 6-3-1 with a 2.90 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. His 38-save effort Thursday brought his GAA below three for the third time this season — the first was after his second start and the other after his fifth.

Since allowing six goals against the Ducks on Oct. 24, Elliott has allowed just nine goals on 137 shots. He now has three straight 30-plus-save performances.

"You just want to keep getting more and more comfortable," Elliott said. "It's a process. It's not going to happen automatically. Sometimes you hit bumps in the road. You're only as good as your last game."

The Flyers are Elliott's third team in as many seasons. The 32-year-old signed a two-year contract with the Flyers on July 1 after spending the 2016-17 campaign in Calgary.

Last season with the Flames was a rollercoaster for Elliott. He had a 2.96 GAA and .889 save percentage after his first 20 games with Calgary, but he finished with a respectable 2.55 GAA and .910 save percentage.

This season hasn't been as lousy as his start last year, but it hasn't exactly been smooth. He's allowed six goals twice in 10 starts and has looked erratic at times. That's part of who he is as a goalie, though.

Elliott isn't fundamentally sound as a netminder. He has his own style and it can be cringeworthy. But throughout his career, he's proven to be a reliable goalie.

As part of a tandem with Michal Neuvirth, Elliott figures to give the Flyers two steady goaltenders. Through 16 games, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol has split it up 63/37 in Elliott's favor.

If Thursday's effort against Chicago is an indicator, Elliott's starting to find his footing with the Flyers and that is a welcomed sign.

"He's going to get better and better," Flyers center Sean Couturier said. "He's been pretty good so far this year. He's making the saves he needs to do to get the wins — that's what matters.

"He's probably getting more comfortable. You'd have to ask him. You're coming into a new town, new city, new team, you've got to get to know the guys, get to know the city. It's always a little change."

Dadonov's hat trick helps Panthers beat Penguins

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USA Today Images

Dadonov's hat trick helps Panthers beat Penguins

SUNRISE, Fla. — Evgenii Dadonov scored with 1:53 to play to complete a hat trick and give the Florida Panthers a 6-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

Dadonov beat goalie Matt Murray on a one-timer off Aleksander Barkov's pass for the winner. Dadonov has 18 goals this season.

Vincent Trocheck, Jamie McGinn and Derek MacKenzie also scored. Barkov had three assists, Keith Yandle added two, and Roberto Luongo made 24 saves.

Evgeni Malkin had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, and Carl Hagelin, Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust added goals. Tristan Jarry made 13 saves for Pittsburgh before he was replaced in the second period. Murray had 11 saves in relief.

Trocheck finished a 2-on-1 cross-ice pass from Malgin after a breakout pass from Yandle early in the first period. Trocheck tapped in the pass at 3:44 for his team-leading 24th goal (see full recap.)

Maple Leafs win ninth straight at home
TORONTO — Ron Hainsey broke a tie with 1:23 left to give the Toronto Maple Leafs their franchise record-tying ninth straight home victory, 4-3 over the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

Hainsey's one-timed William Nylander's pass past goalie Tuuka Rask for his fourth goal of the season.

Toronto moved a point ahead of Boston for the second seed in the Atlantic Division.

Nazem Kadri scored twice, Mitch Marner had a goal and three assists, and Nylander had two assists. Frederik Andersen made 23 saves to improve to 10-1-0 against the Bruins.

Brad Marchand scored twice, and Jake DeBrusk also connected for Boston. Rask made 32 saves (see full recap.)

Point leads Lightning to shootout win over Canadiens
MONTREAL — Brayden Point scored in regulation and added the shootout winner and the Tampa Bay Lightning regained the top spot in the NHL with a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.

Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Callahan also scored in regulation to help the Lightning (42-17-3) win their third straight and move a point ahead of idle Vegas for the overall NHL lead.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for his league-leading 36th victory of the season.

Byron Froese, Joe Morrow and Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal. Antti Niemi, making his second straight start in relief of the injured Carey Price, stopped 36 shots. Price is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion (see full recap.)

Ovechkin scores twice in Capitals victory 
WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin added to his NHL lead with two goals on the night he tied the Washington record for most games played, and the Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-1 on Saturday.

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 50 seconds into the game and had two assists. Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller also had goals for Washington, which leapfrogged Pittsburgh and moved back into first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals had lost two in a row and five of seven.

Ovechkin's 37th goal came on the power play with 9:47 remaining after Buffalo closed to 2-1 on Sam Reinhart's goal 14 seconds into the third period. Ovechkin redirected a shot past Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner with 1:24 left for his 38th goal.

The 32-year-old Ovechkin played in his 983rd NHL game, tying Calle Johansson for most in Capitals history. Ovechkin holds franchise records for goals (596) and points (1,105) (see full recap.)

Even the bounces are going Flyers' way

Even the bounces are going Flyers' way

BOX SCORE 

OTTAWA, Ontario — An early goal, a beautiful goal, a lucky goal and a disallowed goal. That’s all you need to know about the Flyers' 5-3 win over the Ottawa Senators Saturday afternoon (see observations). Just for fun though, here’s a little more detail.

Ivan Provorov scored 28 seconds into the game to get the Flyers going in what eventually turned out to be their fifth consecutive win and 11th consecutive game with a point.

With the score 2-1 in favor of the Flyers late in the second period, Zack Smith looked like he had tied the game for the Senators, but coach Dave Hakstol issued a challenge and the goal was overturned on an offside that wasn’t originally called.

Well done.

In the third period, Claude Giroux scored a beautiful breakaway goal when he contorted his body to his backhand then back to his forehand before depositing the puck behind Craig Anderson in the Ottawa goal, who was left in a twisted heap in the corner of the crease.

That goal made it 3-1 four minutes into the third and after Nolan Patrick made it 4-1, Brandon Manning dumped a shot in just passed the red line, but the puck hit a stanchion in the glass and redirected into the net. Anderson had a great view of the goal from behind the net where he was standing after he went out to play the puck.

“We’re getting the bounces,” Giroux said.

“Brandon Manning’s goal, you can’t draw that up, but we’re definitely going to take it.”

Robert Hagg also scored for the Flyers, who momentarily slipped into a first-place tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins atop the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins lost in regulation at Florida, but Washington downed Buffalo, so the Capitals have moved back into first with 76 points, one more than both the Flyers and Penguins. The Flyers are in second in the Metro right now because they have played 62 games, one less than the Pens. But Pittsburgh currently owns the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker 34-32 and that could come into play down the line when the games played even out.

Still, the Flyers are four points clear of New Jersey and a wild-card spot and nine points clear of Columbus and the playoff brink.

Considering they were last in the division about two months ago, that’s a pretty remarkable turnaround.

“I think it was always in the room and that we just had to believe in ourselves and know that we were capable of doing good things,” said forward Travis Konecny.

“We just had to stick with it and eventually things were going to pay off for us.”

That they have, and although Saturday might not have been the Flyers' best effort, it was good enough. The Senators got two late goals from Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel to make the final count a little more respectable. Mike Hoffman also scored.

“We’re playing some good hockey right now and everyone has bought into what we want to do here,” Giroux said, adding the overturned goal was big.

“Anytime you get a goal like that turned (over), it’s a relief and a walk-up call at the same time,”

Patrick scored just his ninth goal in his rookie season, but he has six in his last 13, including goals in four straight.

“I think I’ve been playing good in the last 15 to 20 games and not just because of the goals; I think I’ve improved on both ends of the puck,” Patrick said.

He was standing at the top of the crease when Manning’s shot-pass hit his stick and redirected in past Anderson.

On a final note and not to be lost in all the offense, Petr Mrazek made 25 saves and has won both starts with the Flyers since he was acquired last week from the Detroit Red Wings.

All is good on Broad Street.