Flyers

Flyers-Predators observations: Late collapse to end road trip

Flyers-Predators observations: Late collapse to end road trip

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — What looked like a dream comeback turned into a nightmare finish.

Nursing a 5-4 lead with 2:41 remaining in regulation Tuesday, the Flyers committed a pair of penalties to put the Predators on a 5-on-3 power play.

It was the start of the meltdown.

Nashville twice capitalized on the man advantage in the final 1:17 to deal the Flyers a frustrating 6-5 loss at Bridgestone Center.

This came after the Flyers wiped out a 3-0 deficit in the second period with three goals over a 4:46 span. They then snared the lead in the first seven minutes of the third with goals from Travis Konecny and Valtteri Filppula (see highlights).

However, it went for naught when the Flyers unraveled with a Dale Weise holding penalty, an Andrew MacDonald tripping penalty, and a failed coach’s challenge (no offside call), resulting in a third costly infraction (see story).

With the loss, the Flyers finished their season-opening road trip 2-2-0 and return for their home opener Saturday night against the Capitals.

• Dave Hakstol's challenge lost was on Scott Hartnell's game-tying goal at 5-on-3 with 1:17 remaining. No offside was confirmed and put the Flyers back on a two-man disadvantage. Hakstol's decision was risky because of the new NHL rule penalizing a failed challenge.

Forty-one seconds later, Filip Forsberg scored the game-winner for the Predators. Earlier in the final stanza, Forsberg started Nashville's comeback with his first of the game, trimming the Flyers' lead to 5-4.

• The holding call on Weise was questionable as he became tied up with two Nashville skaters while pursuing the puck in open ice. MacDonald's tripping came not long after with the Flyers trying to force the play dead.

• The Flyers quickly erased a three-goal, second-period deficit by scoring three unanswered goals. They roared back by scoring their first two goals just 16 seconds apart. MacDonald initially stopped the bleeding and got the Flyers on the board with a slap shot from just inside the blue line that beat Pekka Rinne. 

To his credit, MacDonald did a nice job of wheeling out of trouble in the neutral zone and allowing the Flyers to gain a clean entry into the Predators’ zone.

On the next shift, Weise burned the Predators with a tenacious forecheck to force a takeaway behind Nashville’s net. He then fed Nolan Patrick, who found the soft area in the low slot that pulled the Flyers within a goal.

Weise looked slow in the first three games, but that shift was a textbook forecheck to set up the rookie’s first NHL goal.

“Obviously, it’s really exciting. It was an unbelievable play by Weiser to jump right off the draw, get [past] their D and throw it in front for a pretty easy goal for me,” Patrick said. “It was a great play by him.”

• Hartnell, who went out to dinner with some of his former Flyers teammates Monday night, ripped a slap shot off a rebound that Brian Elliott was slow to react to in the second period. Hartnell’s shot hit off Elliott’s pad and went in to give Nashville a 2-0 lead. 

• Nashville’s big free-agent signing, Nick Bonino, extended the Predators’ lead to 3-0 after defenseman Mattias Ekholm wheeled around Claude Giroux and put a shot on Elliott that created Bonino’s rebound goal during 4-on-4 play. Giroux failed to negate Ekholm’s speed and cut down his angle to the net. 

• Predators coach Peter Laviolette said pregame his team needed to play with more speed. The Predators nearly used that to their advantage when speedy winger Viktor Arvidsson raced past Ivan Provorov and MacDonald for a breakaway that Elliott denied with his left pad in the opening minute of the game.

• After an 0-for-5 performance in Pittsburgh, the Predators spent a majority of Monday’s practice working on their power play and puck movement. The work paid off on their first opportunity as Craig Smith worked his way into the high slot and fired a shot that beat Elliott blocker side.

• Despite the goal, Elliott was the Flyers’ best player in the opening 20 minutes as he battled through screens and traffic to stop 8 of 9 shots and keep the Flyers’ deficit to 1-0.

• Quebec born Samuel Girard made his NHL debut for the Predators as he replaced Roman Josi on the team’s top pairing. Nashville wasted no time rushing the defenseman, who is just 19 years and 151 days old, to the NHL. Girard displayed an impressive skill set reminiscent of what we’ve seen from teammate P.K. Subban over the years with some nifty skating and puck skills. 

• Predators general manager David Poile is a genius at finding, drafting and developing young defensemen. Among those that have come through the Predators’ system include Kimmo Timonen, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Dan Hamhuis, Marek Zidlicky and Josi.

• When the Flyers host the Capitals Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, that will leave the Wild as the only team in the league that has yet to play on home ice. They’re scheduled to host the Blue Jackets that same night.

Lines, pairing and scratches

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald    
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg                    
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas                        

Goalies
Brian Elliott                                
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Sam Morin, Jori Lehtera, Brandon Manning

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jordan Hall contributed to this report.

Best of NHL: Senators snap 5-game skid in return home

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USA Today Images

Best of NHL: Senators snap 5-game skid in return home

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Craig Anderson made 27 saves to stop his seven-game losing streak and the Ottawa Senators snapped their five-game skid Wednesday night with a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers.

Bobby Ryan, Cody Ceci and Zack Smith scored for the Senators (10-13-7), who returned home from a seven-game road trip and improved to 2-10-2 in their past 14 overall. It was only their second victory in regulation since Nov. 11, which was the last time Anderson had won.

Michael Grabner and Pavel Buchnevich scored for the Rangers (16-12-3), who dropped to 4-7-0 on the road. Henrik Lundqvist had 27 saves, becoming the 15th goalie in NHL history to reach 20,000 for his career.

Ottawa, which eliminated the Rangers in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, was coming off a 3-2 loss at last-place Buffalo on Tuesday night (see full recap).

Pitlick, Benn lift Stars over Islanders
NEW YORK -- Tyler Pitlick scored twice and Jamie Benn had a goal and two assists to lead the Dallas Stars to a 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.

Alexander Radulov and Remi Elie also scored for the Stars, who won their second straight after a three-game skid. Kari Lehtonen stopped 32 shots for his 300th career victory, and John Klingberg had two assists.

Anders Lee scored twice for the Islanders, who have lost five of seven (2-4-1), and John Tavares and Josh Bailey each had two assists. Jaroslav Halak, starting for the seventh time in nine games, was pulled near the midpoint of the second period after giving up four goals on 20 shots. Thomas Greiss came on and stopped six of the seven shots he faced (see full recap).

Sean Couturier proving he belongs in Selke Trophy conversation

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AP Images

Sean Couturier proving he belongs in Selke Trophy conversation

VOORHEES, N.J. — By definition, the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy is awarded to the NHL forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game.

Since the day Sean Couturier arrived in the league as an 18-year-old rookie straight out of the June draft in 2011, the defensive element has always been part of his game. He was tasked with shutting down one of the league’s premier centers in Evgeni Malkin as a teenager and a fourth-line center. His commitment to defense was the primary reason the Flyers drafted Couturier eighth overall in 2011.

Of all the NHL’s major postseason awards presented in Las Vegas next summer, the Selke may be the one piece of hardware the Flyers have the greatest chance at claiming, as Couturier has refined his all-around game. The paradox of the award is how winners typically need respectable offensive numbers to receive serious consideration for what’s regarded as a defensive accolade.

The last 21 winners have all scored at least 20 goals, while 11 of the last 12 winners have racked up 50 or more points. Couturier has never reached either scoring plateau, which probably explains why he’s never finished higher than eighth in the voting. He’s currently on pace this season for 41 goals and 82 points.

“It would be a nice recognition,” Couturier said Wednesday. “Obviously, just getting your name thrown out there with those guys that are there every year, it’s kind of nice. It gives you that extra boost to kind of push yourself and try to be as good as you can.” 

This season, Couturier has proven he belongs in that elite conversation. Tuesday’s game against the Maple Leafs was a vintage Selke effort: winning faceoffs, including draws that led to goals, staying committed defensively while playing 1:35 of the final 2:12, preserving a one-goal lead.

Over his last 50 games dating back to last season, Couturier also owns an impressive plus-32 rating.

“I know some people don’t like the plus/minus. Five-on-five, if you’re in the plus, it's usually a good thing and you’re helping your team win," Couturier said. "My mentality is still the same: being solid, taking care of details and like I said, if you take care of details defensively, the offense will come and that’s always the thought process I’ve had.”

Another Selke measurable is faceoffs — an area in which Couturier has improved greatly over the past two years from a 48 percent success rate to winning 55 percent from the beginning of last season.

“It’s the one area of his game that he’s taken a lot of pride in,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think if you look at the numbers in both faceoff dots, he’s done a real good job, as well as the neutral zone."

For an award voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, there’s almost no way to accurately assess the defensive play of 300-plus forwards without extensive video review, as most writers are solely covering the team in their city. So faceoffs, plus/minus, consistency on the penalty kill coupled with shorthanded goals can be areas that separate Selke candidates.

Currently, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron is the Selke gold standard as a four-time winner, and he’s finished first or second in voting in each of the past six seasons. Fair or not, Bergeron’s reputation alone will likely land him in the top three once again barring injury.

“When you look at (Anze) Kopitar, Bergeron and (Jonathan) Toews, I think Coots is up there with those guys,” Jakub Voracek said. “Without a doubt [Couturier is a Selke candidate]. He’s got 15 goals in 30 games. His stick is very good and he’s always one step ahead defensively. He doesn’t over-backcheck. He just knows what kind of responsibility that he has. You can see it on the PK, it’s really hard to get a puck through him. Those kind of players are very hard to find.”

Just ask the Flyers' organization. They haven’t had a Selke winner since Dave Poulin 30 years ago.