Flyers

In a flash, Scott Laughton shows Flyers what he 'lost' 2 years ago

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In a flash, Scott Laughton shows Flyers what he 'lost' 2 years ago

It was Scott Laughton's first regular-season game at the Wells Fargo Center in 324 days.
 
And it took just one play to show he's a changed player.
 
Showing passion and effort in a not-so-glamorous role, Laughton made a pair of intelligent reads to score a tide-turning shorthanded goal, possibly the most influential marker Saturday in an 8-2 blowout of the Washington Capitals.
 
Playing on a late first-period penalty kill, Laughton aggressively jumped a pass near the blue line. Then, as goalie Philipp Grubauer abandoned his crease to poke the deflected puck away, Laughton played it perfectly, intercepting the attempt before flushing it in the open net for a 2-1 lead.

"That's the biggest point in the hockey game right there," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "Late in the period, for us to be able to score a shorthanded goal and turn that momentum back in our favor, I thought that was the key point of the hockey game. He made a good read and then made a heck of a play to get in and finish it."
 
The play was big for the game, but even more so for Laughton's declaration of being a different guy. During the offseason and into training camp, so much talk had been made of the 23-year-old forward's revamped game and focus.
 
This was the action.
 
"Be a good defensive player," Laughton said of his new approach, which started last season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. "I think I lost it a little bit there two years ago. Be good on the PK, taking big D-zone draws, things like that. Just tried to focus on that and continue to take it over to this year."
 
Laughton was a first-round pick of the Flyers at 20th overall in 2012. He scored in waves at the junior level, highlighted by a 40-goal, 47-assist 2013-14 season with the OHL's Oshawa Generals. After 71 games in 2015-16 with the Flyers, his first full NHL season, Laughton expressed his goals for what was next.
 
"I want to be a top-six forward in the NHL," Laughton said in April 2016. "And I am going to do everything I can this summer to try and do that.

"I know a lot of people put a third-line ceiling on me and things like that. But I played top six in junior and did all that. So that's what I am going to be looking to try to do. I am going to try to score some more goals and things like that. But that's my goal."
 
And there was nothing wrong with that. But right now, Laughton is on the fourth line and has never been in a better state with the Flyers. Following just two games with the Flyers last season and 60 with the Phantoms, Laughton had a realization.
 
He knew what general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers truly wanted from him.
 
"I think last year really helped my game plan in all situations, really contributing down in the minors," Laughton said. "I think that was best for me and Hexy kind of told me that, played in all situations. I think it's helped my game, but at the same time, I've got to continue to go. It's only five games into the year and I've got to maintain it and be consistent."
 
In Saturday's home opener, Laughton added an even-strength tally in the third period, giving him the first two-goal game of his NHL career.
 
"He looks like he's a lot more confident, I think he knows his role and what’s expected of him," Wayne Simmonds said. "He's got a ton of offensive time at the same time, so you put him in a position to succeed and he's going to succeed, and I think that's what he's doing."
 
Through five games, Laughton leads all Flyers forwards in shorthanded ice time (11:25) and shorthanded faceoffs won (eight). Not only has he found his niche, but he also hasn't forgotten the offense. Laughton sees a way to still provide an offensive spark on the fourth line with Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl.
 
"They both make plays, they're both quick — that's what we try and do," Laughton said. "We've been playing pretty good minutes, been good on the PK. Just trying to play that role and use our skill when we can and spend a lot of time in the offensive zone — I think that's a big thing."
 
The big thing for Laughton was working his way back here.
 
"Laughts has been dialed in from Day 1 of camp," Hakstol said. "His focus, energy and effort level hasn't changed once. I think he's found some chemistry and cohesion with his two linemates. That line, we trust that group for different roles. … I think they've been a catalyst for our team. Laughts is the guy that's playing up the middle there, so he's the backbone of that line.
 
"He hit some bumps in the road last year, handled them extremely well. You know what, he's the one that deserves full credit for putting himself back in this position."

Here come Flyers with nasty OT combo

Here come Flyers with nasty OT combo

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — It may have taken eight straight unsuccessful overtime periods, but Dave Hakstol has finally found a deadly combination.

For the second time this week, the trio of Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov scored on the opening shift of OT, as the Flyers beat the Washington Capitals, 2-1, at Capital One Arena Sunday, while also earning their third straight win (see observations).

Konecny knifed his way through a defender along the wall before cutting to the middle and beating Caps goaltender Braden Holtby with a snap shot from between the circles. Just three days ago, it was Couturier who connected 18 seconds into overtime of Thursday’s 3-2 victory against the Maple Leafs.

“We got a good opportunity and we capitalized on it," Couturier said. “It’s all about starting with the puck and trying to control it. We did a good job of hanging onto it.”

“We’re just finding ways to win hockey games,” Konecny said. “They’re tough games to win when you’re playing against good teams. We’re just keeping things simple and trusting our abilities. I know that those two are on the defensive side of things, and Coots makes sure I know that every time by giving me a heads up to stay below my guy in the defensive zone. It just seems to be clicking right now.”

The offensive-minded Konecny has now scored goals in back-to-back games for just the second time in his career with the previous occasion coming in November 2016 of his rookie season.  

The victory was also the Flyers' seventh in their last eight games, which propelled them back into a playoff spot for the first time since Nov. 11, a day that coincided with the start of the team’s 10-game winless streak. Currently, the Flyers occupy the first wild-card position and are just a point behind Columbus for one of three automatic berths in the Metropolitan Division (see standings)

“It’s about finding the way to get the win and I think earlier in the season that was one of the issues is that we didn’t find a way,” captain Claude Giroux said. “We were playing good hockey, but we didn’t find ways. Now, we’re finding ways and we can’t stop here.”

“It’s big and I think if we keep going on the same track, we’ll keep plugging away at teams above us,” said goaltender Brian Elliott, who made 27 saves on 28 shots. “We've got to keep our heads looking forward and not behind us. We can be our best and our worst enemy.” 

Right now, the Flyers have the luxury of relying on two steady goaltenders. Michal Neuvirth has won his last three starts, allowing just four goals, and Elliott looked refreshed in just his third start over a two-week period after receiving some extended rest with the bye week.

“He was sure sharp tonight,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “As much as rest, it’s just a day or two of maintenance work. When you play as much hockey as Moose has played for us, you don’t get those quality practice days in. Sometimes you forget the value of just good, simple work.”

“I think it’s the confidence level right now. Obviously, Moose and Neuvy stepped up over the last couple of games and they played outstanding,” said Michael Raffl, who scored his ninth goal that gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead. “When you have good goaltending, you have a chance to win every game in this league.”

Impressively, the Flyers (23-16-8) have three different three-game winning streaks in which they’ve been forced to play three games over a four-day period. The first set of three came on their Western Canada road trip beginning in Calgary. They also ripped off three straight victories in four days leading into their bye week.

“I think it’s just guys battling through that extra step, that extra fight. That’s what you want,” Couturier said. “You don’t want to just sit back and try to save your energy. You've got to push and push through it and fight for your chances.”

“That’s a real credit to the players with their preparation,” Hakstol said. “The mental side is about your preparation, especially a 12:30 p.m. game is a little bit different routine. I thought the first period was going to be one of the keys to this game. Our checking and our brains were turned on that way. Getting through that first period made us a better team with the puck and pushing the game in our direction.”

The Flyers have two more games before the All-Star break as they travel to Detroit on Tuesday before hosting the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

Flyers complete weekend sweep of Metro's top-2 teams

Flyers complete weekend sweep of Metro's top-2 teams

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — For the first time since Nov. 11, the Flyers are back in a playoff spot.

The Flyers earned their third straight win and their seventh in their last eight games Sunday afternoon after knocking off the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals 2-1 at Capital One Arena.

Travis Konecny connected on the opening shift in overtime as he took the puck away in the neutral zone, cut to the middle of the ice and scored on a shot that deflected off Caps forward T.J. Oshie.

Konecny now has four goals in his last eight games.

Goaltender Brian Elliott made 27 saves to earn the victory in net.

Michael Raffl opened the scoring with his ninth goal of the season and his third in his last eight games, and Alex Ovechkin tied with a power-play goal in the second period.

The Flyers have beaten the Capitals in the first two games of their season series and the two teams will renew their rivalry Jan. 31 in Washington.

• The Flyers kept the Capitals' offense on the perimeter until Ovechkin picked the puck right off of Ivan Provorov’s stick, which ignited a 2-on-1 the other way. Ovechkin took the shot with the rebound kicking right out to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who fired the puck right into Elliott’s pad. The puck was bouncing and rolling on its side, otherwise, I think Kuznetsov would have been able to finish that play.  

• With the Flyers clogging the middle of the ice by placing a forward between the circles, the Capitals were looking to challenge Elliott with some sharp angle shots in the first period. The shot chart from naturalstattrick.com highlights where in the Flyers' zone the Caps were firing from with the bright orange circles indicating a higher frequency of shots.

For the most part, Elliott had some rather routine saves until the final five minutes of the opening period when the Capitals were able to find the soft areas in the slot. Dave Hakstol was able to utilize the Valtteri Filppula line against Ovechkin for most of the first period keeping his chances at a minimum, except for this chance late in the period.

• The Flyers were trying to get Capitals pest Tom Wilson off his game in the opening period. Provorov laid out Wilson with a perfectly-timed shoulder-to-shoulder hit leveling him to the ice and Konecny doing some major chirping with Wilson in an attempt to get under his skin until Wilson had enough and gave Konecny a nudge. Sure enough, Wilson showed his true colors with a tripping penalty in the first 10 seconds of the second period.

• I liked how the Flyers came out and dictated the pace in the second period, outshooting the Capitals 6-2 in the first six minutes. The Filppula-Michael Raffl-Jakub Voracek line was the Flyers' best line throughout the first half and finally exposed the Caps' top line with a strong forecheck that resulted in Raffl’s 1-0 goal from the left circle. Raffl’s shot placement was perfect as he elevated it just enough to graze the top of Braden Holtby’s pad and ricocheted into the net.

• Tyrell Goulbourne took his first penalty late in the second period when Jay Beagle was hooked in the act of shooting. I didn’t think it was a bad penalty on Goulbourne’s part considering the close range of Beagle’s shot, but the play evolved as defenseman Brandon Manning was stripped cleanly behind his net by Caps fourth-line forward Jake Vrana.

• If you thought the save on Ovechkin was solid, Elliott may have topped it as he turned aside Nicklas Backstrom from the low slot with a full extension kick out of the pads. However, Claude Giroux was guilty of slashing Backstrom that put the Capitals back on the power play, which led to vintage Ovechkin, who ripped home his ninth power-play goal of the season and No. 587 of his career, tying the game at 1-1.

• Shayne Gostisbehere put together another solid game following his performance against the Devils. Ghost blocked an Ovechkin shot with his stick early in the third period where Ovechkin had a clear break coming down the left wing.

• On Ghost’s next shift, he made a superb defensive play filling the middle of the ice, spinning around and using his stick again to spoil a potential high danger chance with Ovechkin looking to drop a pass to Kuznetsov. 

• Dmitri Orlov, Kuznetsov and Oshie applied some real hard pressure to the Flyers' defense including a give-and-go from Orlov to Backstrom. Kuznetsov was wheeling around the offensive zone in the third period and was a tough to contain for the Flyers' defense.

• Not a good penalty for Raffl to trip up Matt Niskanen on a puck battle along the boards behind the Capitals' net. It put the Caps back on the power play with just over five minutes remaining in regulation of a 1-1 game.