Flyers

Flyers-Avalanche observations: A warrior mentality not enough in shootout loss

Flyers-Avalanche observations: A warrior mentality not enough in shootout loss

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The Flyers erased three different deficits but couldn't come up with the game-winner Saturday night as the Colorado Avalanche won, 5-4, in a shootout at the Wells Fargo Center.

Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon scored for Colorado in the shootout as the Avs scored twice in the three-round shootout. Jordan Weal was the lone Flyer to convert.

The Flyers controlled much of the play during overtime, outshooting the Avs, 6-5, but couldn't convert their one golden opportunity when Travis Konecny broke in all alone on Semyon Varlamov only to fire wide.

• At one point, every line was buzzing in the third period. The third line chipped in with a goal with a beautiful give-and-go between Dale Weise and Jordan Weal. Weal did much of the work, as he stick-handled the puck from behind his net and somehow his backhanded pass made its way through three Colorado sticks right to Weise, who was standing in the slot and fired a one-timer past Varlamov.

• A minute after the Flyers tied it at four, Shayne Gostisbehere may have had his worst play of the season when he turned the puck over as Matt Duchene stripped him from behind and fed Nail Yakupov, who then beat Michal Neuvirth's five-hole, a shot Neuvirth certainly should have stopped.

• Voracek got just enough of a rebound with a one-handed poke at the puck that practically traveled parallel to the goal line. The puck ricocheted off the inside of the post and past the line for the Flyers' first goal of the third period.

• Michael Raffl couldn't have had a better, closer look at his first goal and his first point of the season. Raffl was front and center in front of the crease when he took a centering pass and somehow fired a shot wide right. You have to think Raffl is growing impatient playing on that fourth line with Scott Laughton and Taylor Leier that's had some early-season success.

• After the Flyers' second power-play unit got a little overaggressive, it led to an Avalanche 3-on-2 break. Colorado's Blake Comeau was attempting to shoot low for a rebound, but his shorthanded goal hit the skate of Ivan Provorov, ramped up and found the top-right corner that Neuvirth had no chance at stopping. A lucky break for Comeau, a bad one for Neuvirth.

• Less than a minute later, Colorado capitalized with its other special-teams unit. The Avalanche's power play got on the board when Rantanen attempted a centering pass and with Robert Hagg dropping to his knee to block the pass. Rantanen instead banked the puck off Hagg's stick and into the net to give the Avs two goals in a span of 43 seconds. Just a pair of bad luck goals.

• In the second period, Konecny had a 2-on-1, where the pass was taken away and he should have taken the shot. On the same shift, Konecny, determined to get the puck to Valtteri Filppula, fired a perfect seed from below the goal line to Filppula, who poked it past Varlamov for the Flyers' first goal.

• The Flyers really needed to get Gostisbehere back on the power play, and it paid dividends on their first opportunity in the second period, when "Ghost" cranked up a big-time blast from between the circles. His shot was low enough that it led to an even bigger rebound, which Claude Giroux quickly put back in for a goal, as Varlamov wasn't in position to make the save.

• Giroux already has eight goals this season, which is more than halfway to his total of 14 from last season. He didn't score his eighth goal until Dec. 8, 2016, in the 2016-17 campaign.

• Mark Alt has been solid in the three games he’s played thus far for the Flyers. However, he had one pass that got away from him Saturday. Erik Johnson intercepted Alt’s cross-ice pass in the second period, skating in and getting off a big slap shot on Neuvirth. Perhaps Alt’s biggest mistake since his call-up.

• Neuvirth can thank the top-left part of his sweater for getting just enough of Sven Andrighetto’s wrist shot that bounced off his shoulder, veered to Neuvirth’s left and caught the post for Colorado’s best scoring chance in the second period. One of three Colorado shots that hit the iron through two periods.

• All the Flyers needed to do to get out of the first period scoreless was win the faceoff with nine seconds remaining. Instead, MacKinnon beat Sean Couturier and then it was MacKinnon who had a beautiful backhand-feed to a wide-open Duchene to his right for a wide-open goal with 1.9 seconds remaining in the opening period. A rare example of how important last-second faceoffs can make a difference.

• Of the four minor penalties in the first period, three of those were slashing calls. Flyers forward Dale Weise was guilty of one of those. Weise now has three slashing penalties in 12 games played. That’s one shy of the NHL lead. 

• Yakupov may not be the complete package deserving of being the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 draft, but he still possesses some breakaway speed. Yakupov wheeled completely around Hagg and cut in front of Neuvirth for the scoring chance. A backchecking Scott Laughton slashed Yakupov in an attempt to separate Yakupov from the puck. This penalty led to Colorado's power-play goal.

• Midway through the first period, the Flyers saw some poor, sloppy passing in their defensive end, which allowed the Avalanche to get some shots and chances on Neuvirth, who reserved his best save against Johnson. Johnson fired top right and Neuvirth made a lightning-quick reflex with his glove to make the save.

• With a handful of players dealing with flu-like symptoms, the Avalanche elected to play with seven defensemen and 11 forwards.

Lines, pairings and scratches

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

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt

Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratched: Nolan Patrick (upper-body), Matt Read (healthy), Radko Gudas (upper-body), Will O'Neill (healthy)

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

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Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

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When Dave Hakstol was hired on May 18, 2015, to become the 19th head coach of the Flyers, there was an underlying belief that given his collegiate pedigree, Hakstol was the perfect bench boss to handle the team's homegrown prospects.

However, as we’ve seen over the course of three seasons, the progression of a young player doesn’t always continue on an upward trajectory from the moment they start their NHL career.

As he juggles a roster that is now the youngest in the Eastern Conference following injuries to Brian Elliott and Wayne Simmonds, Hakstol appears to be pushing all of the right buttons, including those connected with the organization’s most prized prospect, Nolan Patrick.

Thursday night’s 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets further exemplified that as Patrick scored a power-play goal in his second straight game (see observations). With the injury to Simmonds, Hakstol believed Patrick could slide seamlessly into Simmonds' net-front role on the top unit, and the rookie has yet to disappoint his coach or teammates.

“I think there’s a little less pressure,” Patrick said. “You don’t have the puck on your stick as much. I think my shots are something I need to improve on. It’s kind of nice for me to be there and not try and beat goalies with my shots. I like it there.”

Hakstol recognized early in the opening month of the season that Patrick wasn’t quite ready to handle the role of being a top-six forward, but over the course of an 82-game season, he has gradually given the 19-year-old center more responsibility and Patrick has proved he’s deserving of the coach’s trust.

“His approach, his hockey sense and his intelligence is what gives him an opportunity to be successful in any situation,” Hakstol said. “Each time we’ve been able to give him more of an opportunity, he’s taken advantage of that. Nolan is doing a lot of those little things on a nightly basis — up and down the middle of the rink, playing a good 200-foot game, and the fact he’s taken pride in that is the foundation of his game.”

“He’s been great,” Patrick said of Hakstol. “When I first got here, they made me work for everything. They didn’t put me in situations I wasn’t ready for. Even now, when I’m not playing great, he does what’s best for the team. He’ll hold me back or not put me out there when I’m struggling on faceoffs. He notices that and he’s been huge for me.”

And Patrick has been huge for the Flyers. He’s now scored a goal in three straight games. 

You’re never quite sure when the future will eventually catch up to the present, but with the help of his head coach, it’s coming at just the right time for Nolan Patrick.