Add a stellar debut to Flyers' month to remember

Add a stellar debut to Flyers' month to remember


In his first start in a Flyers sweater, the newly acquired Petr Mrazek upstaged former Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

Mrazek turned back 19 shots as the Flyers held off the Blue Jackets, 2-1, Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center. 

The Flyers came back to win after trailing entering the third period. They improved to 3-14-3 in that situation. They have earned a point in 10 straight games with a record of 8-0-2.

Claude Giroux broke the ice with his 21st goal of the game and Nolan Patrick scored the game-winner on the power play with 10:11 remaining in regulation. 

Artemi Panarin scored the Blue Jackets’ lone goal, an unassisted marker just as the Flyers’ power play had expired.

The Flyers had to make due without Travis Konecny. The top-line winger took pregame warmups, but was scratched with a foot injury he suffered in Tuesday’s win over the Montreal Canadiens. 

• Roughly a minute after Mrazek came up with a five-star save on a shorthanded breakaway, Panarin broke a scoreless tie. Panarin popped out of the box just in time to intercept Ivan Provorov’s pass to Andrew MacDonald at the blue line, which led to a 2-on-1 the other way. The incredibly-skilled Panarin never looked at the net until the very last second and sniped a shot over Mrazek’s blocker side shoulder that he had very little chance at stopping. 

• Two goals on two spectacular snipes. Giroux matched Panarin’s effort with a pinpoint effort that tied the game at 1-1. With Bobrovsky electing to drop into the butterfly, Giroux went high to Bobrovsky’s glove with such a quick release. The play opened up as Sean Couturier caught the attention of three Blue Jacket defenders, which opened up a lane down the slot for Giroux to bury the shot.  

• Patrick seems to be fitting in quite well on that top power-play unit, filling the role occupied by Wayne Simmonds. Patrick was stationed down in front when he quickly backhanded Shayne Gostisbehere’s point shot to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead. 

• An interesting sequence saw Couturier break out of the box and then skate with the puck into the Columbus zone, but for some reason the officials blew the whistle as the Blue Jackets were caught with too many men on the ice. Two minutes later, Panarin broke out of the box and scored.

• Thirty seconds into the game, Michael Raffl, who was playing on the top line, took a hooking penalty to give the Flyers an early power play. Playing Raffl on that top line seemed to be the obvious choice with Konecny unable to play. Raffl brings a different brand of game. While he doesn’t possess Konecny’s speed, Raffl makes the No. 1 line tougher to defend in the cycle game. That was a heavy line defensively for Columbus to contain.  

• It was a tale of two first-period power plays. On their first opportunity, the Flyers committed unforced errors and never had a quality shot on net. In their second attempt, they were buzzing around the net. Giroux lasered a cross-ice pass to Jakub Voracek, who tried to score on a one-timer. Against 98 percent of the other goaltenders in the league, that shot gets through.

• Jordan Weal was whistled for interference with 5:19 remaining in the first period — the first penalty called against the Flyers since Feb. 13 against the Devils. That snapped the Flyers’ streak of not having to kill a penalty at nearly 230 minutes. An underworked Flyers’ PK did not allow Columbus a SOG in killing off the Jackets’ power play. 

• Defensively, the Flyers gave up very, very little. They held Columbus without a shot on net for 14:23 of the first period. 

• Robert Hagg had a horrific turnover playing the puck from along the left boards in his own zone. Hagg’s errant pass to the middle of ice was intercepted by fourth-line call-up Zac Dalpe, who got a shot on net. Had that been Panarin or one of the Jackets’ skilled players, the Flyers could have easily trailed, 1-0, after the first period.

• Twenty-two seconds into the second period, Mrazek faced his first real shot from the slot as Zach Werenski cut in from the blue line. Early on, Mrazek was very quick at resetting himself and positioning his body to cut down the angle. In the first 25 minutes, Mrazek appeared locked in and focused.

Robert Hagg finds himself the odd man out vs. Rangers

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Robert Hagg finds himself the odd man out vs. Rangers

Rookie Robert Hagg will be a healthy scratch for the first time in his career following his performance Tuesday in Detroit, where the defenseman played just 12:39 and finished with a minus-2 rating, including just four shifts and 2:28 during the Flyers' third-period comeback.

Hagg missed four games with a lower-body injury, and when he returned he played on the left side, paired with Radko Gudas. For most of the second half of the season, Hagg has played the right side with Andrew MacDonald as the team’s second pairing.

“It’s not always about the individual,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “The pair (Hagg and Gudas) didn’t have easy chemistry there. We ended up in some situations with and against the speed and ended up with some bad gaps. The pair and combination wasn’t as effective as we needed it to be.”

Lyon in the crease
If Hakstol wanted to be a very unconventional think-outside-the-box coach, he would start Petr Mrazek for a period and then bring in Alex Lyon for the remaining two periods and beyond.

Lyon will start tonight’s game against the Rangers, the same team he earned his first career win against after replacing Michal Neuvirth following the first period. 

Some of Lyon’s best work this season has been coming in cold off the bench. He owns a .970 save percentage in games he has entered in relief, and a pedestrian .890 save percentage in five games he has started.

“It’s not just based on one performance, it never is,” Hakstol said. “ It’s always based on situation and a player’s body of work. Alex’s body of work has been good. He came in the other night and did an excellent job and that’s part of the decision.”

Shorthanded shortcomings
The Red Wings scored the tenth shorthanded goal against the Flyers Tuesday, matching the Colorado Avalanche for the most 5-on-4 goals allowed this season. 

This season, the Flyers are 4-4-2 in games in which they’ve given up a shorthanded goal, but more importantly, many of those goals have been momentum killers — the difference between tying a game or facing a two-goal deficit.

In the Flyers' 5-1 loss to the Rangers on Jan. 16, New York forward Paul Carey scored shorthanded with ten seconds remaining in the first period that extended the Rangers lead to 3-1, and took away any hope for a Flyers' comeback.    

“The Rangers are going to come with the kitchen sink on their penalty kill and they’re playing without a lot of pressure,” Hakstol said. “At times, you’re going to see two, three and four guys on their PK come up the ice offensively, so we’re going to have to do a very good job of that tonight.” 

Much of the blame can be attributed to the power play’s 1-3-1 setup — Shayne Gostisbehere serving as the only player on the point with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek in the circles, Sean Couturier in the high slot and Wayne Simmonds down low.

When a turnover or giveaway is committed between the circles and the blue line, typically only Gostisbehere or the player taking his spot at the point is the only player back to defend, leaving the Flyers wide open for a two-on-one shorthanded chance against.   

“We starting off taking a chance with one defenseman out there,” Gostisbehere said. “That’s just the name of the game. I don’t think there’s too many power play units with two D out there right now. I think for us, it’s staying within ourselves and keeping it simple.”

Crosby's highlight-reel goal sparks Penguins' rally

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Crosby's highlight-reel goal sparks Penguins' rally

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby ignited a rally with a highlight-reel goal and became the third active player with 700 career assists in the Pittsburgh Penguins' 5-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.

Crosby's picked up his 24th goal of the season when he knocked a pass from Jake Guentzel out of the air, deflected it toward the front of his stick and smacked it by Carey Price to tie it at 3 late in the second period.

Derick Brassard put the Penguins in front to stay, beating Price early in the third period as Pittsburgh avoided dropping both games of a back-to-back against also-rans Montreal and the New York Islanders.

Guentzel had a goal and two assists. His 21st goal of the season came off an assist from Crosby, the 700th of Crosby's career. Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist also scored for the Penguins, who drew within two points of idle first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division. Casey DeSmith finished with 27 saves.

Jonathan Drouin, Nikita Scherbak and Jacob de la Rose scored for the Canadiens, who have dropped nine of their last 10 games. Carey Price made 34 stops in his first start in a month due to a concussion (see full recap).

Schwartz, Blues top Bruins in OT
ST. LOUIS — Jaden Schwartz scored his second goal of the game 30 seconds into overtime to give the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

Schwartz skated up the middle and fired a shot past Anton Khudobin. The Blues won for the fifth time in six games to move within a point of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.

Jake Allen made 21 saves to improve to 24-21-2.

Ryan Donato scored for Boston. The Bruins clinched a playoff spot and moved within four points of Tampa Bay for the Eastern lead.

Schwartz tied it midway through the third period with a wrist shot from the top of the circle.

Donato scored his second goal in his second NHL game. He had a goal and two assists in a 5-4 loss to Columbus on Monday night.

Donato, still a student at Harvard University, returned to Massachusetts on Tuesday to attend class before flying back to St. Louis to rejoin the Bruins. His father, Ted, played 528 games in two stints with the Bruins (1992-99, 2003-04) (see full recap).

Rookie sets record in Coyotes’ victory
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Clayton Keller had two assists to set the Arizona Coyotes' franchise record for most points by a rookie in a 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night in a matchup of the NHL's two worst teams.

Rookie Dylan Strome scored in his first game after being called up from the minors. Derek Stepan had a goal and assist, and Richard Panik and Max Domi, with an empty-netter, also scored. Antti Raanta stopped 29 shots to improve to 12-4-4 in his past 20 starts.

Keller, Arizona's 2016 first-round draft pick, extended his points streak to six games, in which he has two goals and five assists. He has 55 points, one more than Peter Mueller had in setting the rookie team record in 2007-08. And Keller has 35 assists, one more than teammate Max Domi had in his rookie season two years ago.

Arizona improved to 13-5-2 in its past 20, and earned its 61st point in leaving Vancouver alone at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Jordan Nolan scored for Buffalo, which dropped to 23-38-12 to remain in last place in the overall standings (see full recap).