Flyers

Debating Brayden Schenn trade? Sean Couturier playing role in it

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Debating Brayden Schenn trade? Sean Couturier playing role in it

NEW YORK — For two straight seasons, Brayden Schenn made a living doing it.

Roaming the middle from circle to circle on the power play, ready to let a shot rip, punch home a tip pass or flush a rebound.

Schenn mastered the role by understanding how to complement the playmakers surrounding him. He turned the art into 28 man-advantage goals from 2015-17, fourth-most in the NHL over that span.

When Schenn was traded to the Blues on draft night last June, the Flyers' top power-play unit suddenly had a job opening.

It caught Couturier's eye.

"Yeah, I saw an opportunity," he said Tuesday following morning skate at Madison Square Garden. "Didn't get it early in the year, but as the year went on, got the chance to get a look in that spot and just trying to capitalize on it."

As part of a career year that still has half a season to go, Couturier is seizing the opportunity to fill Schenn's skates. Three of his seven goals during the Flyers' four-game winning streak have come on the power play. On the season, he has six man-advantage markers in 43 games after scoring just three over 416 games the six seasons prior.

"He's a smart player, he watched someone for such a long time like he did with Schenner," Jakub Voracek said. "He knows what to do and we talk about it a lot, we talk a lot of power play, how to get better, what to do when we have a bad game to make sure it doesn't happen again."

With perimeter weapons in Voracek, Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere to go along with a net-front presence like Wayne Simmonds, Couturier's intelligence of proper spacing and finding open areas has made the transition for the power play seamless.

"When you're such a smart hockey player, you know when to go the net, you know when to stop. I wish I had that gift. I always swing it away around the net," Voracek said with a laugh. "It's different with me, too, because I always try to create something. He knows when he plays with me and G that he's going to get the puck around the net eventually. So he stops there, he goes there and he's having a great year so far."

So is the power play, which entered Tuesday's game against the Rangers sixth among the NHL in success rate with a 21.9 percentage, while posting a 24.3 percentage on the road, good for third best.

"My job being in the middle is to be ready to jump on loose pucks, let the guys on the outside — Jake, G and Ghost — to do plays and I just try to create myself a shooting spot, or if it's a loose puck, try to be strong on it and get it back," Couturier said. "Just supporting all over the ice is probably the biggest thing."

Simmonds, second in the NHL since the 2013-14 season with 66 man-advantage tallies, said his teammates saw the ability in Couturier.

"He's done really well, extremely well, obviously you can tell by his 25 goals," Simmonds said. "Point-per-game player, I think a lot of people didn't expect this kind of offense to come out of Coots, but everyone knew he could do it. He's got his confidence, he's got his swagger and I think if you watch him with the puck, he's a completely different player. When you have your confidence, it just propels you to the next level.

"He's having a coming out party this year and it's really great to see."

Couturier continued the party last time out when the Flyers beat the Devils, 5-3, on Saturday night. The 25-year-old center scored two more goals, one off a nice power-play connection with Giroux.

"I think he's getting more opportunities. When you're in that spot on the power play, you get to showcase a few different abilities," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "The quick release that he scored on the other night — first of all, it's a hell of a play from G through the three sticks and it's a real good finish by Coots. I think with success, you probably feel a little bit better about those opportunities, but I haven't seen a great difference because I've seen Coots score probably four of five goals this year on second and third opportunities at the goal crease. I think there's some depth to his abilities in and around the net."

Notes and tidbits
• The Flyers are looking for their fifth straight win as they open their four-game regular-season series with the Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m./NBCSP). With a regulation win, the Flyers (48 points) can leapfrog the Rangers (49) in the Metropolitan Division standings. They come in two points behind the Islanders (50) for the Eastern conference's second wild-card spot.

• Forward Taylor Leier reenters the lineup after three straight healthy scratches. Tyrell Goulbourne, who made his NHL debut on Jan. 6 and has played the previous three games, will sit in Leier's place.

"Taylor's case, Taylor has been out of the lineup for the last couple of games, but he didn't come out because he played a poor game," Hakstol said. "We put a different player with different abilities in the lineup. So for Taylor, just come back, do the things that he does well and he'll help our team.

"Taylor is a confident player and the biggest challenge sometimes in that role, when you're in and out of the lineup, is the work that you do on the days when you're out. And Taylor does that work."

• Here is the Flyers' projected lineup, which sees the return of Gostisbehere, who missed Saturday's game with an illness:

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny

Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek

Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds

Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere

Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald

Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott

Michal Neuvirth

Healthy scratches: Forwards Tyrell Goulbourne (healthy) and Dale Weise (healthy), and defenseman Travis Sanheim (healthy).

Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

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USA Today Images

Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

RALEIGH, N.C. — Taylor Hall scored on a rebound with 22 seconds left in overtime, giving the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

The goal extended Hall's league-best streak of games with a point to 18.

New Jersey had won the first of the teams' four meetings this season on Thursday night to start the Hurricanes' three-game losing streak.

Keith Kinkaid stopped 40 shots for the Devils.

The Devils led 1-0 after a first period in which the Hurricanes outshot them 13-9.

Nico Hischier scored New Jersey's first goal on a power play midway through the first, assisted by Sami Vatanen and Kinkaid (see full recap).

Matthews scores in final minute to give Maple Leafs win over Red Wings
DETROIT — To Jeff Blashill, the outcome came down to one simple fact.

"They made one more play than us," the Detroit coach Blashill said.

To Toronto center Auston Matthews, it came down to persistence.

"We've got a lot of chances the last couple of games," Matthews said. "We had some pretty good chances tonight, the puck just wouldn't go in.

"It was nice to finally finish it off there with a half a minute left."

Matthews scored with 30.2 seconds left to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings on Sunday night.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner also scored for Toronto, and Curtis McElhinney made 27 saves (see full recap).

McDavid notches 3rd hat trick of season in Oilers' victory vs. Avalanche
DENVER — Late in the second period, with his team outplaying Colorado, Edmonton coach Todd McLellan couldn't believe his Oilers were trailing 2-1.

"Jay Woodcroft and I looked at each other and said, `How are we losing this game?'" McLellan said.

They didn't, thanks to another big game by Connor McDavid.

McDavid had his third hat trick of the season and fourth of his career, and the Oilers beat the Avalanche 4-2 on Sunday to snap a six-game losing streak.

McDavid now has 11 goals in the last nine games and two hat tricks. His first two goals tied the game, and his last one was into an empty net with 1:26 remaining (see full recap).

Sheahan scores twice in Penguins' win over Blue Jackets 
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Riley Sheahan scored two goals in the first period, rookie Tristan Jarry had 35 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Sunday night.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, and Brian Dumoulin and Zach Aston-Reese also scored for the Penguins. They have won five straight and 10 of their last 12. The win in front of a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena moved them past Washington into first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The 22-year-old Jarry played well standing in for starter Matt Murray, who got a rest as Pittsburgh played the second leg of a back-to-back and its third game in four days. It was Jarry's first NHL action in a month after going 3-0 in three starts for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL.

Artemi Panarin and Alexander Wennberg scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots for the Blue Jackets. They have lost two straight and seven of the last nine. In what is becoming the norm lately, Columbus outshot its opponent (37-23) but couldn't score enough to win. The Blue Jackets lead the NHL in shots per game but are lingering near the bottom of the division (see full recap)

Alex Lyon unfazed by the moment in massive relief effort

Alex Lyon unfazed by the moment in massive relief effort

BOX SCORE 

NEW YORK — Entering a game cold to start the second period following a wild six-goal first period while staring down at future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist at the other end of the rink may have intimidated most rookies, but Alex Lyon simply wasn’t phased. Not this time. 

Perhaps Lyon didn’t have a moment to absorb the magnitude of the moment, and even better, playing on the grand stage of Madison Square Garden didn’t overwhelm him at all. After all, for Lyon, the best way to earn that first NHL victory was in a building where he had never lost. Lyon is now a perfect 4-0 in games at the Garden, dating back to his days with Yale and their battles with Ivy League rival Harvard.

“I actually did take a comfort in that,” Lyon said. “I’ve been here, I’ve won here. You know the surroundings here a bit, so it’s good. When you’re in college and you look at the building and say, ‘Oh my God, it’s huge’, but now that I’ve seen a lot of NHL and AHL rinks it calms things down a little bit.” 

Sunday, Lyon came off the bench in relief of Michal Neuvirth to stop 25 of 26 Rangers shots in leading the Flyers to a 7-4 win over their Metropolitan Division rivals (see observations)

“It really does make a difference when you get that first win, especially after my first start against New Jersey where I felt like I could have uplifted the team there and we lost late. I’m just happy I could contribute,” Lyon said. 

The Flyers announced after the first period that Neuvirth would not return to the game after suffering a lower-body injury. Neuvirth was slow getting to his skates on a Rangers 2-on-1 goal where he was forced to fully extend himself moving post-to-post. 

“You never want to see injuries happen and you never want to see them in key areas, but it is part of the game,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “With Neuvy and (Brian Elliott) being down, it’s a challenge. Alex stepped in today and did the job. And that’s what our guys will rally behind going forward.”

On the 50th anniversary of the very first game at the current Madison Square Garden, which coincidentally was played between the Flyers and Rangers, the two bitter rivals had no problem turning back the clock to a time when fighting went hand-in-hand with scoring goals. Shayne Gostisbehere dropped the gloves for the first time in his NHL career with Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich, who laid out Travis Konecny with a hard hit on the opening shift of the game.

“I’d never done that before, but the boys were happy I did it,” Gostisbehere said. “I just heard the loud noise and I saw him on the ground. I thought he got smoked and I passed it to him so, I don’t know, I dropped the gloves.”

“It was cool. It was a fun game. It’s not how we drew it up. 3-3 after the first. As a team, our coach said we didn’t really have it tonight, but we found ways. I think the boys stood up for one another and we went out there and got the job done.”

Most impressively after a dismal defensive effort in the opening 25 minutes and facing the adversity of losing another goaltender, the Flyers still found a way to earn a victory during a time of the season when earning points are vitally important. The Flyers have now collected at least a point in their last eight games with a 6-0-2 record dating back to Feb. 3.

“Sometimes you have those nights,” Hakstol said. “Guys were ready to go. There were three scraps in the early parts of the game. It was one of those nights playing against a good offensive team. We weren’t sharp enough and we weren’t quite hard enough with or without the puck, but we recovered enough to get the two points.”

Fortunately, the Flyers were still able to dismantle a fragile Rangers team that has plummeted to last place in the Metropolitan Division by racking up seven goals against Lundqvist for the first time in 56 career games against the Orange and Black.

“Obviously, there were a lot of mistakes,” Lundqvist said. “They’re getting deflections in our net, odd-man rushes. I just have to start with myself, somehow find energy and confidence to play your game, but it’s hard when you give up so many goals to stay confident.” 

“You got to get to the net. There were some flash screens and just a good job of getting pucks to the net and winning net-front battles and it kinda went both ways,” said MacDonald.

Notable stats
• The Flyers are digging the day games, now 7-1-3 in afternoon starts.

• The top line dominated once again with seven points and a plus-five rating. Konecny registered his first career three-point game and Claude Giroux scored his 200th career goal.

• The Flyers scored seven goals on the Rangers for the first time since November 11, 1992, at the Spectrum.

• The Flyers have not allowed a power play in back-to-back games, which has not happened since the NHL began tracking those number through box scores dating back to 1977.