The one that got away from the Flyers

The one that got away from the Flyers


COLUMBUS, Ohio — The losses at Nationwide Arena are mounting up, and the time elapsing from the Flyers' last win in Ohio's capital grows more distant.

With Saturday night's 2-1 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets, the Flyers have now lost 11 straight games in Columbus — the Flyers haven't won here since Dec. 13, 2005.

Blue Jackets rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois scored the shootout's only goal.

Dave Hakstol's 200th game as the head coach wasn't all for naught, of course, given the Flyers at least exited with a point — just like they did in five previous losses on the road against the Blue Jackets.

In just their fifth contest of the season against a divisional opponent — and the first of four against their rival from Ohio — the Flyers once again found themselves playing catchup, thanks to Seth Jones' power-play goal in the opening stanza.

The Flyers answered in the second period with Ivan Provorov's blast from the point that found eyes through traffic and past Sergei Bobrovsky.

With Michal Neuvirth still on the shelf, Hakstol continued to ride Brian Elliott, who made his 11th straight start and second in as many nights. The 32-year-old backstop was once again sensational, turning away 35 Columbus shots on 36 total shots.

Before the Flyers take their holiday hiatus, here are some observations from Saturday’s showdown in the Buckeye State:

• Much like the previous 10 road games against Columbus, the Blue Jackets clogged the neutral zone early on, suppressing a good portion of the potential chances that did end up in the Flyers’ offensive zone. Columbus’ transition game, on the other hand, made zone-entry for them not so difficult.

The Blue Jackets’ speedy transition established possession often, and for as much of a cliché as “getting pucks deep” is, it’s exactly what the Blue Jackets did.

• The Flyers failed to damage Columbus’ fourth-ranked home penalty kill, as they struggled to set up shop in their own zone. The normally sure-handed Shayne Gostisbehere was unable to keep the zone on a pass to the point and later turned the puck over, leading to a breakaway chance for Matt Calvert.

The orange and black failed on their second power play of the night in the second period due in large part to an outstanding Bobrovsky save on a Giroux one-time attempt set up by Voracek. An early third-period penalty to Nolan Patrick was nullified by a roughing penalty to Artemi Panarin, which also came up empty.

• The orange and black’s penalty killing unit was not granted such fortune. Seth Jones broke the game’s seal on the man advantage thanks to a too many men penalty taken by the Flyers' bench.

Jones’ wrister from just inside the point deflected off of Ivan Provorov before setting the cannon off. With their first-period power-play goal, Columbus has now scored on the man advantage in four straight games.

• The Blue Jackets’ opening tally marked the 15th time they’ve scored the game’s first goal in their last 24 outings. Columbus is now 16-3-2 when scoring first. Conversely, the slow starts for Hakstol's team bit them Friday night in Buffalo and nearly once again Saturday night.

• Columbus continued to pressure the Flyers at the start of the second, pushing the visiting team back on their heels until Provorov blasted home the equalizer. Later in the second, it appeared as though the Flyers took the lead on a goal deflected off the stick of Taylor Leier, but an officials’ review determined that Leier’s stick was above the crossbar, wiping the go-ahead mark off the board. After the play was replayed on the big screen, it’s interesting the goal was not waived off right away.

• Although the number of former Flyers who have come back to haunt their former team is plenty, perhaps no other former Flyer has done so more than Bobrovsky. Not only has the Russian-born goalie gone on to win a pair of Vezina Trophies, he’s also been a nuisance to the team that’s historically had their share of goalie woes.

The fact Bobrovsky has thrived post-Philadelphia within the Flyers’ division, no less, adds salt to a wound that Elliott has otherwise bandaged.

Bobrovsky was excellent Saturday night. He made 30 saves and was perfect in the shootout.

• Tonight’s tilt was career game Mo. 692 for Giroux, moving him past Simon Gagne for 10th on the Flyers' all-time list. The captain now sits only 33 games behind Gary Dornhoefer for ninth on the list.

• Just the Flyers' fifth game this season against a Metropolitan Division opponent, and the first since just after Thanksgiving.

• After playing their fifth game throughout the span of the last full week, the Flyers will enjoy the holidays with an extra day off on the tail end of the Christmas break. Their next slate of action will include two games in the next eight days.

Stars score 7 goals in win over Sabres

AP Images

Stars score 7 goals in win over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn caught one of his teammates reaching for an extra chicken wing in the locker room after Saturday's game.

"Easy," Benn said. "We're only on game 48."

The Stars continued their midseason push into playoff positioning by closing out a four-game road trip with a 7-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

Mattias Janmark had two goals and an assist, Esa Lindell added a goal and two assists, Jamie Benn and Radek Faksa each had a goal and an assist, and Remi Elle also scored for the Stars, who return home after going 3-0-1 on the road.

"It's a battle every game and every day in this league," said Benn, who extended his point streak to seven games. "It seems we've been playing pretty good hockey as of late and I think we are still only seventh in the conference."

The Stars regrouped from a 2-1 shootout loss in Columbus on Thursday night to match their season-high scoring total (see full recap).

Jets snap Flames' 7-game winning streak with shootout win
CALGARY, Alberta — Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler scored in the shootout and the Winnipeg Jets beat Calgary 2-1 Saturday, snapping the Flames' seven-game winning streak.

Little opened the shootout with a wrist shot inside the post and past Mike Smith. After Mark Jankowski and Sean Monahan were stopped by Connor Hellebuyck and Smith stopped Patrik Laine, Wheeler clinched it on a deke to his forehand.

Mathieu Perreault scored in regulation for Winnipeg, which improved to 7-2-1 in its last 10. TJ Brodie scored for Calgary.

Hellebuyck had 30 saves for the Jets and Smith stopped 33 shots in defeat (see full recap).

Pastrnak scores twices as Bruins continue dominance over Habs
MONTREAL  — David Pastrnak scored twice and set up another goal to help the Boston Bruins beat Montreal 4-1 on Saturday night, their third win in eight days against the Canadiens.

Torey Krug had a goal and two assists and Riley Nash added an empty-netter for Boston, which is 12-0-4 in its past 16 games.

Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal, which ended a stretch of five games in eight days since their midseason break at 1-2-2. The Canadiens were coming off a 3-1 win Friday night in Washington.

Pacioretty got his seventh goal in seven games 11:29 into the second period. Paul Byron lost the puck, stripped it back from Charlie McAvoy from behind and then slipped a backhand pass to Pacioretty on a 2-on-1 (see full recap).

Avalance beat Rangers for 9th straight win
DENVER — The Colorado Avalanche have gone from pushover to powerhouse in less than a season, and their recent streak is evoking memories of past glory.

Nathan MacKinnon, Erik Johnson and Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist each, Jonathan Bernier made 27 saves and the streaking Avalanche beat the New York Rangers 3-1 on Saturday for their ninth straight win.

The Avalanche have won eight straight at home and haven't lost since Arizona beat them on Dec. 27. Colorado has outscored opponents 37-15 in the last nine games and has not trailed during the winning streak, which has moved the team into playoff position in the Western Conference.

"We can't get comfortable," MacKinnon said. "That is why we are fighting every night because we need these points. It's so tight, the division is so tight." (see full recap).

Provorov, Gostisbehere, oh my for Flyers' opponents

Provorov, Gostisbehere, oh my for Flyers' opponents


Ivan Provorov's hockey intelligence is off the charts for a guy who just turned 21 years old a week ago.

When he talks the game, he resembles a player with mounds of NHL experience.

In actuality, he's only 128 games into his professional career.

But it doesn't take Provorov's precociousness to understand what makes him click with Shayne Gostisbehere and how both can be a grueling pain in the opposition's side.

"If we play on offense, they can't score," Provorov said simply.


In a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils, Provorov and Gostisbehere were a two-headed monster, a blue-line duo that can terrorize the competition when it's performing the way it did Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

"We look toward the challenge," Gostisbehere said. "Obviously we're playing against the other teams' top lines and it's a challenge every game, it's the teams' best players. I think as a pair, we just need to keep it simple, pick our spots and it's working."

It more than worked against the Devils.

Provorov scored a goal, played 23:13, was a plus-2 and led the Flyers with six shots on goal and nine total shot attempts. Gostisbehere opened the scoring with a doozy of a primary assist, played 20:09, was a plus-2 and strong in his own zone.

Most ideally, though, when Provorov and Gostisbehere are wreaking havoc in the opposition's zone by keeping their team on the offensive, the Flyers can be awfully tough to beat. 

Saturday was case in point as the Flyers seized a commanding 3-0 lead in the first period to eventually win for the sixth time in the last seven games, creeping to within a point of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.

"Doing the little things and taking care of the puck," Provorov said of the fast start, which has often eluded the Flyers through 46 games thus far. "If we take care of the puck and move it forward, we don't have to play defense and that helps us to create offense and create energy."

It can also limit the counterpart's best unit. In this case, it was the Devils' first line of Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt, New Jersey's top three scorers. The trio was held in check with just a goal and an assist, while each player finished a minus-2.

"It's not just the D-pairing, I think it's a combination of the group of forwards that spent most of the time against that line," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "They did a good job. It's a big challenge, those are good players that have been generating a lot. I thought Provy and Ghost did a good job along with the majority of the time with [Sean Couturier's] line."

When asked about neutralizing the Devils' big boys, Provorov showed that hockey intelligence of his, which belies his age.

"Just take away time and space," he said. "When guys can skate that fast, just try to limit their time, angle them and don't give them time to pick up their head — just be on them hard.

"That whole line is pretty fast, but our main focus was to try and limit their chances and play on offense."

Provorov and Gostisbehere are tied for second among NHL defensemen with nine goals apiece, while Gostisbehere's 33 points are tied for fourth. He recorded his 33rd point off a sparkling play in which he took the puck from his own blue line, skated around Hischier, darted toward the middle and hit a wide-open Travis Konecny for a 1-0 lead 3:29 into the game.

"Honestly, I just knew if I was skating, he was going to find that lane," Konecny said. "Sure enough, I didn't have to move, it just came right to me."

Konecny registered two more points Saturday, giving him nine in his last 10 games, as the Flyers' youth answered the bell against a divisional opponent. And when Provorov and Gostisbehere are driving play, the Flyers are a different animal for a variety of reasons.

"It's good, it's fun to watch, they're both really good with the puck, make good plays and both can score," Valtteri Filppula, who netted the Flyers' other goal, said. "It's definitely fun to see them out there and they get a lot of minutes, too, which is nice."

Goalie Michal Neuvirth, who won his second straight start, quipped: "They don't feel young to me."

They're not looking it.

"I think we understand the game in a similar way," Provorov said. "We move the puck, we understand where we are on the ice all the time, which helps us get out of our zone quick, get through the neutral zone real fast and create something on offense."

Which creates trouble for whomever the Flyers see down the stretch.