Flyers finally break a 13-year hex

Flyers finally break a 13-year hex


COLUMBUS, Ohio — The curse of Nationwide Arena is finally over. Sean Couturier's overtime goal Friday lifted the visiting Flyers over the Columbus Blue Jackets, 2-1, snapping an 11-game losing streak in the Blue Jackets' home building.

On the heels of three consecutive games in which the Blue Jackets recorded 50-plus shots, the Flyers were able to halt that streak, but were still outshot in regulation, 36-25. Entering overtime for the seventh time in their last 13 meetings with the Blue Jackets, the Flyers were able to add to their point total, which now stands at 68 (see standings).

Facing their nemesis Sergei Bobrovsky in net, the Flyers looked to remove the Nationwide hex with Michal Neuvirth in net. After a scoreless first period that played out like an opening round of a boxing match, with both teams feeling each other out, the pace picked up in the second, with Wayne Simmonds depositing the game’s first goal between Bobrovsky’s five-hole — a tip-in goal off the stick of Shayne Gostisbehere. Cam Atkinson’s third-period goal would get the host Blue Jackets to overtime, but it wasn't enough to collect the extra point.

• With his 20th goal of the campaign, Simmonds became the team’s second 20-goal scorer, trailing only Couturier (29) for the team lead. Gostisbehere and Nolan Patrick were credited with helpers on the tally.

• The lead would hold until the 16:32 mark of the third period, when Atkinson found the back of the net after the Flyers iced the puck.

• As per the norm, Bobrovsky was terrific in net. The former Flyer demonstrated his prowess with ridiculous saves throughout the contest, denying Jordan Weal and Couturier, and later sniffing out a one-timer attempt off the stick of Claude Giroux in the first period alone.

• Neuvirth kept the puck out of his own net in the first stanza as well, although in a more unconventional way. The interim starting goalie was able to disrupt a shot by Atkinson, but was unable to secure the rebound. With the puck sitting next to the net, a chaotic scene made for an interesting clear for the Flyers. Despite throwing 11 shots on goal in the first, Dave Hakstol’s team provided help for the goalie by picking off pucks in the neutral zone and serving as a shield for Neuvirth in its own zone.

• After switching ends for the second period, Neuvirth was able to stave off a close-range attempt from Lukas Sedlak, who nearly potted the game’s first goal in the first on a midair one-timer attempt.

• With the Flyers entering the third period holding a rare lead (in Columbus), the Blue Jackets upped the pressure with an aggressive forecheck early in the period before teeing off on Neuvirth in the latter half. The barrage of shots, of course, resulted in Atkinson’s game-tying goal late in the third.

• Referees Jon McIsaac and Wes McCauley were spectators on skates in the early going, as both teams played 5-on-5 for the entire first period. That’s not to say linesmen Tim Nowak and Jonny Murray weren’t active, as they whistled multiple offside violations on the Flyers, and several icing stoppages on Columbus.

• The clean play would ensue until the 13:07 mark of the second, when offsetting penalties to Dale Weise and Sedlak left the contest at 4-on-4 for a pair of minutes. Despite each participant’s penalties, neither team was given a man-advantage through the first 40 minutes.

• In the third, the orange and black were granted the game’s first power play thanks to a too many men on the ice penalty. The Flyers were unable to capitalize on the power play, though, Jakub Voracek was denied by the post with Bobrovsky moving side to side.

• Leading goal scorer Couturier demonstrated slick puck distribution through the early portion of the contest. The 25-year-old showed creativity in slinging centering passes to the slot, generating early scoring chances for his teammates. Couturier’s career year especially made for a scary moment in the second, as the Arizona-born center briefly left the bench area after taking a skate from Pierre-Luc Dubois to his groin area. Couturier would return, though, as fans both in attendance and back home breathed a sigh of relief.

• Despite owning the status of the team’s career-leading point-getter against Columbus (6-13-19), Giroux remains one goal shy of career goal No. 200, and three assists shy of the seventh on the team’s all-time assist list.

• With an assist on Simmonds’ second-period goal, Gostisbehere now needs four assists to reach career assist No. 100.

• The Flyers will return to action on Sunday when they visit the Rangers for a matinee at Madison Square Garden. Sunday’s divisional matchup will mark the first of six games with a single day off between each game to finish out the month, which also includes two showdowns against Montreal, and single games against Columbus and Ottawa.

Blue Jackets pull even with Flyers in points

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Blue Jackets pull even with Flyers in points

BOSTON -- Cam Atkinson scored 2:55 into overtime to lift the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 5-4 victory over Boston on Monday night for their eighth straight victory, spoiling a splendid NHL debut for Bruins forward Ryan Donato.

Sonny Milano, Boone Jenner, Thomas Vanek and Artemi Panarin also scored for the Blue Jackets. Nick Foligno had two assists, nd Vanek and Jenner each added one. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 34 shots.

Atkinson cut in on the left wing and fired a wrister past Rask for the game-winner.

Columbus moved into a tie with Philadelphia with 85 points, but the Flyers hold the tiebreaker for third place in the Metropolitan Division and the Blue Jackets hold the first wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Donato had a goal and two assists for Boston, which moved a point behind idle Tampa Bay for first in the Atlantic. Riley Nash, Brad Marchand and David Krejci also scored for the Bruins, and Tuukka Rask finished with 19 saves (see full recap).

Luongo, Panthers blank Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Roberto Luongo stopped 28 shots for his third shutout of the season and 76th of his career, leading the Florida Panthers to a 2-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov scored to help the Panthers inch closer to a playoff position, pulling three points behind idle new Jersey for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Florida has two games in hand on the Devils.

Antti Niemi finished with 38 saves for Montreal, which was shut out for the second straight game and 12th time this season -- including three against the Panthers. The Canadiens were coming off a 4-0 loss at Toronto on Saturday.

The opening 10 minutes saw two fights, one of which had Ekblad sparring with Nicolas Deslauriers. It may have fired up the big defenseman because he stole a puck from Michael McCarron, deked past defenseman Jeff Petry and beat Niemi with a move to the backhand for an unassisted goal with 1:29 left in the opening period.

Jacob De La Rose thought he had tied it for Montreal 17 seconds later, but a video review showed Alex Galchenyuk was offside by a toenail and it was waived off.

Barkov got his 26th of the season at 6:23 of the third when his shot from the left side went in off Montreal forward Logan Shaw.

Star goalie Carey Price returned to the Montreal lineup after concussion suffered Feb. 20. He backed up Niemi (see full recap).

Rinne makes 35 saves in Preds’ shutout
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Pekka Rinne stopped 35 shots for his eighth shutout of the season and the Nashville Predators set a franchise record by earning a point in their 15th consecutive game with a 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

Mike Fisher and Ryan Johansen scored goals 4:34 apart in the second period, and Filip Forsberg and Ryan Hartman sealed the victory by scoring in the final four minutes.

The NHL-leading Predators improved to 14-0-1 in their past 15, and also extended their team-best road winning streak to nine straight.

Rinne won his 11th straight to match his personal best in a stretch in which he's allowed just 18 goals. The shutout was the 51st of his 12-year career and third in nine games.

And Rinne also improved to 40-9-4 in becoming the NHL's seventh goalie to win 40 games in a season three or more times.

The Predators haven't lost in regulation since a 3-1 defeat to Detroit at home on Feb. 17. And they improved to 12-0-3 in their past 15 road games since a 3-0 loss at Vegas on Jan. 2 (see full recap).

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny is one of a handful of young Flyers who thrives on confrontation, lining up an opponent in his crosshairs and going for the kill.

And that’s just his profile in Call of Duty — the popular war-based video game he plays occasionally with teammates.

And while Konecny didn't show up on the score sheet Sunday evening, he still answered his call of duty, leading the charge in a variety of ways in the Flyers' 6-3 win over the Capitals that inched the Flyers within four points of division-leading Washington and two points of Pittsburgh for second place. All three teams return to action Tuesday with the Flyers in Detroit.

Battered, bloodied and perhaps a little beaten, Konecny was determined that the Capitals weren’t going to get the best of him.

“I just think I’ve learned in the two years I’ve been here it doesn’t matter what your role is on the team,” Konecny said after the game. “Everybody buys in, everybody blocks shots, everyone goes to the net, everyone backchecks. I think it’s a part of me that’s learned to become a Philadelphia Flyer.”

The orange and black uniform was only a cover for the black and blue bruises Konecny’s body endured. In the third period, he stood directly in the line of fire of Christian Djoos’ shot and then limped back to the locker room. On his next shift, Konecny blocked another shot from Dmitri Orlov.

Even after giving all the postgame interviews, Konecny was still limping. The playing surface at the Wells Fargo Center may not have had enough ice for all of his sore spots.

“He’s got the heart of a lion and I think you’ve seen that all year long,” said Wayne Simmonds, who tallied twice in the win. “I kept telling him that’s what winners are made of. It’s the type of effort we’re going to need from every single guy in this dressing room. He blocks one shot, he gets up slowly, gets back on the ice, blocks another.”

The clean-cut and rather reserved Konecny that came to the Flyers as a 19-year-old rookie last season has now been replaced with a more brash, tattoo-sporting, always-chirping Konecny with a longer hairstyle and the appearance of facial hair.

The only missing element to complete the look is a leather biker’s jacket.  

That rugged toughness was on display again when he dropped the gloves with Washington winger T.J. Oshie and bloodied his knuckles 7:41 into the third period.

“I just got high-sticked right before,” Konecny said. “I got frustrated and I finished my hit on him. Not a bad guy to take off the ice when they’re trying to score."

“It was awesome. It was great to see,” Simmonds said. “You see him get high-sticked there. He didn’t quit on the play and kept going. He battles with a guy who’s probably 20 pounds bigger, maybe more than that. It was a great emotional leap for the team in the third period there. Unbelievable job and kudos to him.”

Konecny, who has 19 goals and 22 asissts on the season and has earned Dave Hakstol's trust with a bump up to the first line alongside Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, has quickly rounded into a five-tool player this season with speed, playmaking, a scoring touch with a hard-nosed edge. Much like Brad Marchand with the Bruins, that type of player becomes vital once the postseason rolls around.

“It gives the bench a good injection of life,” Hakstol said. “They love it and guys love to see that on the bench. I think that’s what our guys expect, but it’s always great when you see one guy doing it.”  

Which is probably why Konecny enjoys that other Call of Duty. Another game with a similar approach, except a lot less painful.

Raffl out
Forward Michael Raffl will miss two weeks with an upper-body injury suffered in the second period against the Capitals Sunday. Raffl, who has 11 goals and eight assists this year, had been seeing some time on the top line with Giroux and Couturier recently.