Flyers

Flyers whiff on the high five

Flyers whiff on the high five

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After burning off some jet fuel coming off a weekend sweep out West, the Flyers simply ran out of gas back home.

Devils forward Taylor Hall scored the game-tying goal — his second of the game — with 1:21 remaining in regulation to help New Jersey gain a much-needed point. The Devils picked up the second point by scoring the lone goal in a shootout for a 5-4 win Tuesday. Drew Stafford scored the only goal in the three-round shootout as New Jersey closed to within two points in the Metropolitan Division (see standings).

On the same day starting goaltender Brian Elliott underwent successful core muscle surgery (see story), Michal Neuvirth fought through an up-and-down night in net. He allowed a soft goal to Hall, but rebounded and made some big saves over the final 20 minutes. In all, Neuvirth made 32 saves on 36 shots. 

A day after he was named the NHL’s First Star of the week, Claude Giroux continued his torrid scoring pace with a goal in his fourth straight game. Giroux also added an assist and now has eight points over the last five games.

Travis Konecny continued his second-half surge with his 14th goal of the season. Eight of those goals have come in the Flyers’ last 12 games with Konecny excelling on the top line. Radko Gudas and Scott Laughton also scored for the Flyers.     

The two teams completed the four-game season series with the Flyers finishing with a 2-1-1 record and the Devils 2-2-0.  

• You think these teams are tired of seeing each other with this the fourth meeting in the past month? Wayne Simmonds and Miles Wood were jawing with each other before the linesman could drop the puck for the opening faceoff. 

• The Flyers had a tremendous start to this game as they outshot the Devils, 6-0, out the gate. All four lines actively jumped into the offensive zone and applied constant pressure. The 13 shots on net in the first period were provided by 12 different players.  

• Konecny’s presence on the top line has created more chances and scoring opportunities off the rush, and it didn’t take long to get behind the Devils’ defense. Giroux once again showed why he’s one of the best playmakers in the NHL with a cross-ice, two-line backhanded pass right on the tape to Konecny, who is playing and shooting the puck with pure confidence. Giroux said at intermission he was at the end of his shift and was just trying to chip the puck out of the zone.

• Konecny scored his eighth goal in his last 12 games and is now on the verge of his first 20-goal season.

• Neuvirth did a horrific job of sealing the near post on Hall’s goal that tied the game at 1-1. For whatever reason, Neuvirth’s pad wasn’t parallel to the pipe, which allowed daylight for the puck to carom into the net. Unlike the goal he gave up against the Capitals from the same area, Neuvirth was at least in position to make a save. However, he must eliminate these soft goals on low-percentage shots.

• Just 43 seconds after Hall tied the game, the Flyers’ third line came right back and answered emphatically. Michael Raffl, who had a solid game, caught the Devils and goaltender Keith Kinkaid off guard as he threw the puck on net to Laughton. As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, the Raffl-Laughton combination is one that deserves to stick around. They’re hard on pucks and, most often, they draw third- and fourth-line matchups.

• Gudas is red hot as he scored a goal in his second straight game. This time it came with a goalie in front of the net after scoring an empty-netter in Vegas. Gudas has taken shots with regularity this season, averaging two shots on goal per game, but he hasn’t had success until now. In his Flyers career, Gudas been a streaky goal scorer.

• It was also refreshing to see Gudas lay some lumber as he leveled Hall on the Devils’ power play. I think Gudas is at his best when he brings a controlled physical element to his game. For much of this season, Gudas has been busy chasing the puck in his own end and hasn’t put himself into position to be that punishing player. Gudas also airlifted Hall after he scored the soft goal on Neuvirth. 

• The Devils refused to die and they capitalized on a neutral-zone takeaway. Once again, the Flyers’ fourth line was abused by the Devils’ top line without Hall. Jori Lehtera was driven into the bench-side boards and coughed up the puck to Nico Hischier. Hischier converted a give-and-go with Jesper Bratt, who was filling in for the banged-up Hall. It’s beyond time to bench Lehtera, who’s been plodding over the past weeks. 

• Sean Couturier has a future as a battering ram as he continued to crash the net at every opportunity. Couturier had a couple of high-danger zone scoring chances and then laid out a Giroux-like backhand pass to the captain. Couturier had a team-high four attempted shots in the first period.

• The Flyers got caught late with their fourth line of Valtteri Filppula, Lehtera and Dale Weise on the ice against the Devils’ top line of Hischier, Hall and Kyle Palmieri. Needless to say, it was the Devils’ best scoring chance of the first period. The Flyers displayed some careless, sloppy play to close out the first period. 

• Wood was screaming at Shayne Gostisbehere from the penalty box as the two players were assessed matching minors — “Ghost” for crosschecking and Wood for roughing. On further inspection, Wood was bleeding from his lip and was trying to challenge Gostisbehere to a fight. As the penalties expired, Wood was jawing with Gostisbehere, but nothing transpired. 

• Gostisbehere had a tremendous opportunity to score in the final seconds of the second period as he filled the slot and launched a missile that missed the net.

• The Flyers’ second power-play unit was on point early in the third period with a handful of chances to extend the Flyers’ lead to two goals. The combination of Jordan Weal, Nolan Patrick, Ivan Provorov, Konecny and Filppula has formed a consistent threat since Dave Hakstol put it together.  

Lineups, pairings and scratches

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

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

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Alex Lyon

Scratches: Forward Taylor Leier (healthy) and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics

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Jakub Voracek had dead aim, at least that’s what the score sheet confirmed Tuesday following the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens (see observations).

Two shots on net. Two shots that found a way past Carey Price.

Even though the NHL’s assist leader has more shots on net than Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Voracek hears the voices that say he passes up on quality scoring opportunities. 

One prime example came with 30 seconds remaining in the second period. Claude Giroux forced a takeaway and fed Voracek on a 2-on-0 prime scoring chance, but it resulted in Voracek sending a pass back to Giroux when perhaps he should have shot.

“It’s always easier to say we’re over-passing things,” Voracek said. “If you’re on the ice, the actual situation looks completely different. I hear ‘shoot the puck’ every single time I touch it. If I listened to all the people who say shoot the puck, I’d have 500 shots at the end of the season.”

However, Voracek shot the puck when it mattered most. With the Flyers trailing, 2-1, Dave Hakstol pulled goaltender Alex Lyon for the extra attacker Voracek, who took a shot from the top of the right circle that deflected off the stick of Max Pacioretty and past Price for the game-tying goal, and then buried the game-winner 1:26 into overtime (see highlights).

When asked if he caught Price by surprise on the equalizer, Voracek responded: “Me shooting? 100 percent. I just tried to hide behind the D and I got lucky and it went in.”

“It’s one of those nights when you had a lot of really good scoring opportunities and we weren’t able to cash in on them,” Hakstol said. “It’s nice to get a bounce like that with a minute and a half to go to tie it up.”

For the game, the Flyers had 79 shot attempts to Montreal’s 55. Thankfully for the Flyers, No. 79 was Voracek’s game-winner, which came at the end of his 56-second shift. Had he missed the net and been forced to play defense at the other end of the ice, there may not have been much left in the tank.     

“I was pretty tired,” Voracek said. “I’d rather have it like that. If I had missed the net, I’d have to stay on the ice and try to backcheck after, so I got lucky.”

Voracek became the second player in franchise history to score a game-tying goal in the final two minutes of regulation, and then follow it up with an overtime game-winner. Moving forward, the Flyers may need Voracek to shoot and score more with the recent injury to Wayne Simmonds, who will miss the next two to three weeks with an upper-body injury (see story).

To make matters worse, Flyers top-line winger Travis Konecny may have suffered a foot injury after taking a shot off his skate in the opening period (see video). Konecny never left the game but labored playing short, limited shifts, and wasn’t on the ice with Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov to begin the overtime session.

“He obviously got hit with the puck there, but he finished the game and that’s part of the game,” Hakstol said. “He was obviously sore through the rest of the game, but I give him credit, he continued to battle through to do everything that he could.”

Less than 24 hours after the Flyers acquired Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings to solidify the goaltending position, Alex Lyon turned in another solid effort with 25 saves on 27 shots, beating perennial All-Stars Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price in back-to-back victories.

“Yeah, it’s cool obviously to play against those guys,” Lyon said. “You watch them and you try to model your game after them. Obviously, they’re fantastic. In the same breath, you've got to go out there and say, ‘I’m coming out here to be better than you today.’”  

“It’s always nice to have some clarity,” Hakstol said. “I think Alex said it best after the game in New York the other day — it’s an ever-changing business. You just have to be ready and prepared for what the next day brings. He pretty much lived by his words.”

Notables
• Simmonds' streak of 223 consecutive games played ended Tuesday night. It marked the first game Simmonds has missed dating back to April 11, 2015.

• For the third straight game, the Flyers weren’t forced to utilize their penalty kill at any point, becoming the second team in NHL history to go three games without allowing a power-play opportunity.

• Forward Oskar Lindblom made his NHL debut Tuesday night, replacing the injured Simmonds in the Flyers' lineup. Lindblom finished the game with 15:11 of ice time and one shot on net.  

Blue Jackets snap skid on rare Harrington goal

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Blue Jackets snap skid on rare Harrington goal

NEWARK, N.J. -- Defenseman Scott Harrington broke a second-period tie with his second goal of the season, and the slumping Columbus Blue Jackets snapped a three-game losing streak and ended the New Jersey Devils' four-game winning streak with a 2-1 decision on Tuesday night.

Boone Jenner also scored as the Blue Jackets moved into the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference with 65 points, one ahead of Carolina and the Islanders. Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves in helping the Blue Jackets win for the fifth time in 15 games (5-9-2).

Taylor Hall scored for the Devils to extend his point-scoring streak to 12 games, tying David Pastrnak of the Bruins for the league-high this season. He also pushed his personal point-scoring streak to 19 games. He missed three games with a thumb injury, so the league does not consider that to be part of his current streak.

Keith Kinkaid had 17 saves for New Jersey, which holds the first wild-card spot in the conference (see full recap).

Point helps Lightning beat Capitals in showdown
WASHINGTON -- Brayden Point scored two first-period goals, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots to earn his NHL-leading 35th victory and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 Tuesday night in a matchup between division leaders.

Chris Kunitz also scored in the opening period, which ended with Tampa Bay up 3-0. That was enough of a cushion for Vasilevskiy, an All-Star who came in with a 2.34 goals-against average.

After Alex Ovechkin notched his NHL-high 36th goal for Washington to make it 3-2 at 11:02 of the third period, Nikita Kucherov clinched it with a breakaway goal with 7:02 remaining.

The victory improved Tampa Bay's NHL-best record to 40-17-3 and kept the Lightning ahead of surging Boston in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.

Lars Eller scored a power-play goal for the Capitals, who lead Pittsburgh by one point in the Metropolitan Division (see full recap).

Andersen makes 40 saves in Maple Leafs’ shutout
TORONTO -- Frederik Andersen made 40 saves and James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal as the surging Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Florida Panthers 1-0 on Tuesday night.

The shutout was Andersen's career-best fifth of the season. The 28-year-old goalie has reached 30 wins for the third time.

Toronto (37-20-5) has won 11 of 12 and improved to 14-4-2 since Jan. 4.

The Panthers (26-25-6) have dropped back-to-back games after opening their five-game road trip with three straight wins. Florida entered the night six points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Florida threatened in the third with goaltender Roberto Luongo pulled for an extra attacker, but Andersen managed to thwart the Panthers' best chance -- a point shot from Keith Yandle with 23 seconds remaining.

Luongo stopped 30 shots in the loss (see full recap).