Flyers

Finish-them-off mindset fueling Flyers' surge

ap-shayne-gostisbehere-flyers-stars-win.jpg
AP Images

Finish-them-off mindset fueling Flyers' surge

From the upbeat music blaring when you first walk in the locker room to the jovial tones the players on the team speak with, it's clear times have changed drastically from a few weeks ago for the Flyers.

Just over two weeks ago, the music would have been shut off and a straight-laced attitude of needing to play better would have been blatantly evident during the 10-game skid.

Wins cure all, don't they?

And the Flyers will be going for their seventh consecutive win when they host the Los Angeles Kings Monday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Beside the music and the attitude, what has changed over the last few weeks to ignite this stretch of success? The Flyers feel a massive key has been their play in tight games, specifically in the third period. Where they would have crumbled weeks ago, they are excelling now.

"We've come to the conclusion that, obviously, we have to be on the same page to win games," Wayne Simmonds said Monday after morning skate. "We've done the exact same thing every single third period. To win games, you have to be consistent and do the same things every night.

"[Saturday vs. Dallas] in the third period, I think everyone thought we were actually winning the game 2-1 instead of being tied. That sets our expectations high. That's what we expect of ourselves. It was a good feeling and we kind of knew we were going to win that game, whether it was going to take 65 minutes or a shootout. ... We've kept it simple. I think that's the main thing for our team — we've kept it simple and everyone is on the exact same page."

The proof is in the pudding of Simmonds' words.

During the miserable 10-game losing streak, the Flyers were outscored 10-2 in third periods. Five of those games wound up as one-goal defeats decided in either OT or a shootout. Leads were held at one point or another in six of those contests. 

Moral of the story? Points were there for the taking and the Flyers left them dangling on the table for the opponent to grab.

Now, during this six-game win streak, the Flyers are outscoring the opposition 7-1 in third periods.

"We've been going into the third period and we've been on the same page," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "We're excited to go out there and win that game. I think we're doing a lot of good things. We were doing a lot of good things when we weren't winning. But now it's more good things, doing the right things. 

"We go into the third period and it's a tight game or we're up a goal, we feel confident. If we play our game, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win. But we have to keep that mindset."

Much like Giroux, head coach Dave Hakstol feels the Flyers were doing good things during the skid, but now they're putting them all together and the wins are the result of just that.

"We obviously went through a stretch where we didn't have good third periods and at times we were our own worst enemy," Hakstol said. "Yet even within those periods we were playing pretty good hockey. But we had a tendency to try a little hard or look for a play that wasn't there that comes back to haunt you pretty quickly. 

"I think that's probably the biggest thing that has been different for us here over the last short stretch — just staying with the game."

Facing a defensively sound and structured Kings team that has a plus-22 goal differential and features a world-class goalie in Jonathan Quick, it likely means the Flyers are in for another close game Monday night.

And unlike two weeks ago, that's a welcomed situation. Because it's never too close for comfort now.

Twisted history
The Flyers on Monday can tie a weird, crazy, bizarre and whatever else you want to call it NHL record. They can tie the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs for the longest winning streak immediately after losing 10 games in a row. Those Leafs lost 11 in a row before storming back to win seven straight. Those Leafs also went on to win the Stanley Cup. 

Hey, who knows anything anymore, right?

More honors for Elliott
Flyers netminder Brian Elliott was honored by the NHL for the second straight week. This time, he was named the league's second star of the week after posting a 3-0-0 record, 1.31 goals-against average and .943 save percentage as the Flyers extended their win streak. His best performance last week came Saturday against the Stars when he stopped 27 shots in the 2-1 OT victory. Elliott, who will start Monday vs. the Kings and sports a 12-6-6 record, 2.61 goals-against average and .915 save percentage this season, was the third star the previous week.

Lineup
No lineup changes are expected for the Flyers Monday. Injured goalie Michal Neuvirth, whose missed almost the last two weeks with a lower-body injury, took part in morning skate again, but still isn't ready to go. Alex Lyon will again back up Elliott.

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Dale Weise
Travis Konecny-Scott Laughton-Taylor Leier

Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
Radko Gudas-Travis Sanheim

Brian Elliott
Alex Lyon

Golden Knights make statement in clash of conference leaders

uspresswire-goldenknights-marcandre-fleury.jpg
USA Today Images

Golden Knights make statement in clash of conference leaders

TAMPA, Fla. -- Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves, David Perron had a goal and an assist, and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 Thursday night in a matchup of conference leaders.

James Neal, Nate Schmidt and William Karlsson also scored for the Golden Knights, who swept the two-game season series with the NHL-leading Lightning.

Tampa Bay, coming off its bye week, got a goal from Ondrej Palat, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 shots. Vasilevskiy, an All-Star this season, has allowed 19 goals over his last four games.

Fleury made a number of impressive stops, including a left-circle shot by Steven Stamkos and in-close chance from Nikita Kucherov during the second period. The goalie, who spent most of career with Pittsburgh, is 19-11-4 against the Lightning.

Neal opened the scoring with a nifty deflection 56 seconds into the first, and Schmidt made it 2-0 with 3:57 left in the period. Deryk Engelland got his 100th NHL assist on Neal's goal.

Vegas is 19-1-0 when scoring first, with the lone loss coming Oct. 30 to the New York Islanders (see full recap).

Devils beat Caps in OT on Hall’s goal
NEWARK, N.J. -- Taylor Hall scored on a breakaway 34 seconds into overtime and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Thursday night.

Sami Vatanen collected his third assist of the game on the winning goal, a shot over the shoulder of goaltender Braden Holtby.

Drew Stafford, Andy Greene and Miles Wood also scored for the Devils, who have won two straight after breaking a six-game winless streak (0-3-3). Keith Kinkaid had 16 saves and the Devils killed off all five Washington power plays.

Brett Connolly scored twice and Dmitry Orlov had a goal for the Capitals, who lost for only the second time in eight games. The Capitals, however, extended their streak of getting a point against New Jersey to 14 games (12-0-2).

Holtby made 28 saves, but gave up three breakaway goals (see full recap).

Panarin puts Stars over the top in shootout
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Artemi Panarin scored in the second round of a shootout, and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 on Thursday night.

Joonas Korpisalo had 35 saves for Columbus (26-18-3), which returned from its five-day break after losing both ends of a back-to-back last week. Jordan Schroeder scored his first goal of the season in the first period.

Korpisalo blocked a shootout try by Jason Spezza before Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin came up empty. Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop blocked Jussi Jokinen's shootout attempt before Panarin beat him.

Korpisalo got the start ahead of Vezina Trophy-winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who struggled in the recent losses. The 23-year-old Finn got his first win in nearly a month in his ninth game this season.

Dan Hamhuis scored for Dallas with 2:15 left in regulation. Bishop had 25 stops, including a terrific glove save on Alexander Wennberg with 30 seconds left in the third.

Dallas (26-17-4) had won two in a row (see full recap).

Flyers go from running on E to comeback for 'Big E'

Flyers go from running on E to comeback for 'Big E'

BOX SCORE

On a night when a sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd celebrated “Big E,” the Flyers responded with an equally big ‘W’ by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, in overtime to sweep the three-game regular-season series. 

Sean Couturier scored his 26th goal just 18 seconds into the extra session on a feed from Travis Konecny.

The Flyers trailed, 2-0, after the first two periods, but erased that deficit in the first 3:25 of the third period.

Nolan Patrick opened the scoring in the third with his third goal of the season. 

Wayne Simmonds scored his 16th goal of the season and the second shorthanded goal for the Flyers this season, which tied the game at 2-2. Simmonds now has a point in six straight games (four goals, two assists).

Michal Neuvirth stopped 29 of 31 shots as the Flyers’ backup netminder has now won his last two starts.
    
• The Leafs snapped a scoreless tie in the second period when Shayne Gostisbehere attempted to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Gostisbehere missed it completely, and with Ivan Provorov already pinching, only Couturier was back at the blue line. Couturier couldn’t catch Connor Brown, who broke in all alone on Neuvirth and beat him through the five-hole for a 1-0 Toronto lead. “Ghost” has to make sure that puck doesn’t squirt past him. 

• Just 28 seconds later, the Flyers surrendered another goal on a fluky play as Jake Gardiner harmlessly shot the puck on net from the left circle. Neuvirth made the initial stop, but the puck popped up straight in the air. Unfortunately for the Flyers, Robert Hagg couldn’t prevent Frederik Gauthier from getting a shot off. Neuvirth either lost track of it or the puck was tipped on the way to the net, but it put the Flyers down 2-0.

• The Flyers finally came to life when Patrick scored perhaps his most impressive goal of the season. After his initial shot from a sharp angle was turned aside and bounced behind the net, Patrick tenaciously chased down Mitch Marner, stripped the puck and turned to fire a shot that caught Frederik Andersen by surprise. Patrick continues to improve his play and show more jump in the offensive zone. He had a strong first period and followed it up with a goal.

• Neuvirth made the save of the game off a 2-on-1 when Patrick Marleau had a wide-open net. Neuvirth went post to post and was able to extend his right pad just enough to kick away Marleau’s shot.

• The Jori Lehtera interference penalty was absolutely ridiculous. The referees allowed both teams to play without much officiating and then whistled Lehtera for a penalty they had no business calling. 

• It was a tight-checking game in the opening five minutes. The only sustained pressure came from the Leafs’ top line of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Zach Hyman. The Flyers had a good look when Claude Giroux was able to feed Provorov, who came into the high slot untouched. However, Provorov’s one-timer hit Andersen in the chest.

• There was a great save from Neuvirth that started after Jakub Voracek was caught stick handling too much just inside the Leafs’ blue line. That led to a 2-on-1 rush with James van Riemsdyk leading the rush up the left side. Neuvirth did a fantastic job of anticipating the pass to Tyler Bozak, who was cutting down the middle of the ice.

• The Flyers worked a power play in the final two minutes of the opening period as Hyman tripped up Gostisbehere unnecessarily. “Ghost” unleashed a slap shot early that handcuffed Simmonds, who was looking for a shot where he could extend his hands a little bit more. Gostisbehere also had a prime opportunity as he broke in underneath the Leafs’ coverage for a quality scoring chance. 

• The Flyers continued to play with fire as they gave Toronto a shorthanded opportunity. Overall, it was a pretty good first period for the Flyers, who have struggled to score in the first 20 minutes with just five goals over their last 11 games. 

• Interestingly, Dave Hakstol had Lehtera as one of his penalty-killers. Lehtera, who’s not exactly fleet of foot, had a chance to jump on a loose puck and clear the zone, but simply couldn’t get there quick enough. Overall, the Flyers’ PK did a solid job of pressuring the Leafs from the top of the circle to the blue line, not allowing them to setup and ultimately no shots on goal.   

• If you enjoy the defensive part of the game, then you would have loved watching Couturier battle with Matthews. Couturier refused to give Matthews any room to maneuver with the puck. The Matthews line was clicking earlier this season when the Flyers faced the Leafs in Toronto, but not so much in mid-January.

• There was a very good save sequence from Neuvirth around the 12-minute mark of the second period as the Leafs had several whacks right around the crease area. Neuvirth stood his ground, looked calm and maintained his positioning for any rebounds.

• The Flyers came up empty with two of their best scoring opportunities from the high-danger area in the span of a minute. First, Konecny missed wide of the net, and then later, Jordan Weal’s shot was blocked by Leafs defenseman Gardiner. For Konecny, that’s a shot he has to bury.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Tyrell Goulbourne-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera

Defenseman
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Forwards Taylor Leier (healthy) and Dale Weise (healthy), and defenseman Travis Sanheim (healthy).