Flyers

Flyers end Anaheim frustrations with OT win over injury-depleted Ducks

Flyers end Anaheim frustrations with OT win over injury-depleted Ducks

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Not even the finest sous chef in the United States can serve up duck on a silver platter like this.

No Ryan Getzlaf or Ryan Kesler — Anaheim’s top two centers with a two-way game capable of shutting down the opposing team’s best offensive players.

No Hampus Lindholm or Sami Vatanen — two of Anaheim’s top four defensemen capable of generating offense from the back end.

No Nick Ritchie, who was a late scratch, forcing head coach Randy Carlyle to promote a fourth-line player into the top six.

Add all of those key pieces to the Ducks’ lineup and you can see why these birds have been an Alfred Hitchcock-like nightmare to the Flyers — a frustration level unlike any other over the past seven years.

The frustration ended Saturday night.

Wayne Simmonds played hero again, potting the game-winner 44 seconds into overtime to give the Flyers a 3-2 win over the injury-ridden Ducks at the Honda Center, their first win in Anaheim since Dec. 2, 2011 (see observations).

"This is a tough building to get points in," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "And they had some key guys out. You know the guys who are in the lineup are going to be absolutely at their top level. You see that a lot within the game. You have a couple of key guys out and everybody else picks it up a notch or two.

"We wanted to make sure we controlled our readiness and our determination. It's a real good two points for us on the road."

Coming into Saturday, the Ducks had beaten the Flyers in eight straight in what has been a lopsided series, and had an 11-0-1 record against the Flyers since October 2010.

Simmonds' OT winner was his fourth goal of the season and his second game-winner in just three games. He recorded a hat trick in the season opener Wednesday in San Jose.

After the game, Simmonds acknowledged the importance of jumping on a team with such significant health issues.

"I think it's important," Simmonds said. "We're a young team so at this point of the season, we got to make sure we're worried about ourselves, make sure we're continuing to do the right things.

"I think we did that tonight, whether they were down a couple guys tonight or not. We just want to make sure we're playing hockey the right way and I think we did that tonight."

While it wasn't reflected on the scoreboard, the Flyers dominated the Ducks throughout long stretches of the game. Take the second period, for example. Through nearly the first 14 minutes, the Flyers actually had more goals (1) than the Ducks had shots (0).

And if the Anaheim Duck was the main course, Ivan Provorov was the Flyers' maitre d’ of defense. The Flyers' shutdown defender not only scored his first goal of the season but completely stifled the Ducks' top line of Andrew Cogliano, Rickard Rakell and Corey Perry as the trio combined for just three shots and was held off the scoresheet.

For 25 minutes, Provorov's defensive play was surgical in its precision, as he continuously separated player from the puck and negated Anaheim from cycling the puck down low.

"He's kind of a machine out there," said goalie Brian Elliott, who earned his second win of the season. "I heard when I came in here what type of guy he was. He played a great game tonight. It doesn't really get noticed all the time, but that's probably the best thing when a defenseman doesn't get noticed."

“For sure that team missed those guys, but it doesn’t matter, this league is so competitive,” Provorov said. “Everybody plays hard, so our main focus was focusing on our game, play the right way and that’s what we did tonight.”

There will be defining moments throughout the course of an 82-game season when the Flyers will win games they should have otherwise lost, and games like this one, where they may have felt deflated coming away with one point when they fully deserved two. 

Saturday night, to their credit, they took full advantage of a wounded bird.

A 1st for Patrick
Flyers rookie Nolan Patrick collected his first NHL point Saturday night, assisting on Provorov's first-period goal. Patrick and Provorov were previously teammates in the WHL with Brandon.

However, Patrick appeared to have found a running mate, as he was paired with second-year player Travis Konecny. The duo had instant chemistry that was refreshing to see after Hakstol switched Patrick and Valtteri Filppula in the lineup.

"I love playing with guys like that," Patrick said of Konecny. "He competes hard and he's fast and makes plays down low. I really like his game. Obviously, I like (Dale) Weise's game, too. He plays heavy and sees the ice well and it was obviously a good first game with both of those guys."

Giroux passes Recchi
With a secondary assist on Sean Couturier’s goal, Claude Giroux passed Mark Recchi into fourth-place in franchise history with his 396th assist. Moving forward, Giroux has only franchise Hall of Famers to pass up. The captain is now 68 assists shy from overtaking Bill Barber for third place on the all-time list.

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.