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.

Buried by Flyers' depth, Jori Lehtera may soon finally crack lineup

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Buried by Flyers' depth, Jori Lehtera may soon finally crack lineup

On the first day he was officially a member of the Flyers, Jori Lehtera was literally pumped. So much so, the weight room warrior hit the gym that morning and slapped on a few extra plates on each side of the barbell.

“My wife woke me up and said, ‘Do you know we’re going to Philadelphia?’” Lehtera said Sept. 11, after the first day he skated with his new teammates in Voorhees, New Jersey.

"I said, 'That's good.' I went to the gym and had a little bit bigger weights than normal. It was good. I needed some change because my game wasn't that good there."

Lehtera was acquired by the Flyers from the Blues at the 2017 NHL draft in the Brayden Schenn trade. In the span of one year, Lehtera’s status has plunged from a top-line center on a playoff team to the 13th forward on a non-playoff team.

That’s not to say the Flyers have failed to recognize Lehtera’s skill set and utilize him effectively, he just didn’t show enough in the preseason to warrant playing time.

The fourth-highest paid forward on the Flyers’ roster has started the first six games of the season as a healthy scratch. Dave Hakstol has opted for the speedier Dale Weise, who’s earning roughly half of Lehtera, who has a $4.7 million cap hit for the next two seasons.

Lehtera's opportunity could come as early as Thursday against the Predators. Wayne Simmonds left Tuesday's game for precautionary reasons with a lower-body injury.

If Simmonds can't go — general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday he'll have an update on Simmonds Thursday — Lehtera is the next guy up as Hakstol would have to shuffle his lines.

“I’m still excited,” Lehtera said recently. “Camp wasn’t good. I wouldn’t say terrible, it was OK. I’m kind of still looking to find my spot. When I get my opportunity, I’m going to take my spot. Where it is, I don’t know.”

Lehtera bolted St. Louis, the city he spent his first NHL seasons, in a cloud of dust. His "Spirit of St. Louis" was completely sucked dry during his time in St. Louis, as he finished the 2016-17 season with just seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.

“The whole season was a struggle,” Lehtera said. “I just couldn’t get everything out of myself. It wasn’t just a couple of things. It was a lot of big things, and a lot of small things together.”

Playing for Ken Hitchcock, who just passed Al Arbour for third on the NHL’s all-time wins list, has a way of wearing down a player’s psyche.

According to Hitchcock, who rejoined the Dallas Stars this summer after he was fired by the Blues back in February, Lehtera’s struggles were partly a result of centering the team’s top line with superstar winger Vladimir Tarasenko.

“First couple of years there was no attention being paid (to Lehtera)," Hitchcock said in the summer, "and last year, there was a lot of attention of being paid. He lost his confidence because he was in and out of the lineup, so the line wasn’t that effective. The line got special attention for the first time. Because of the way our lineup was built, we were really able to take advantage of matchups.”

Lehtera and Tarasenko developed a lethal chemistry as teammates for Novosibirsk in the KHL, but it didn’t translate to the smaller NHL rink, where time and space to operate with the puck is at a premium. Tarasenko’s reputation quickly earned the attention of the NHL opposition and their top defensive players.

“You saw that chemistry right away,” said Brian Elliott, a teammate of Lehtera’s for two seasons in St.Louis. “They were a dynamic duo and then they were split up, and I think he was looking for that guy to pass to and things like that.”

Compounding Lehtera’s struggles was a concussion he suffered that knocked him out of the lineup for several weeks in February. Once Lehtera returned, he was never quite the same, as he struggled with the speed of the game.

“We played him at wing after he came back from being injured, but his natural position is at center, and that’s where he played his best hockey,” Hitchcock said. “He’s a guy strong on the puck, good down low player, he protects the puck well.” 

Interestingly for a guy listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and lacking quickness, Lehtera would appear to be more suited at the wing position.

And the potential opportunity Thursday alone may have Lehtera pounding out a few more extra reps in the gym.

Best of NHL: Penguins blow lead, rally to top Rangers in overtime

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Best of NHL: Penguins blow lead, rally to top Rangers in overtime

NEW YORK -- Sidney Crosby scored the tying goal with less than a minute remaining in regulation, Evgeni Malkin put in the winner 58 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the struggling New York Rangers 5-4 on Tuesday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel and ex-Ranger Carl Hagelin also scored for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who handed New York (1-5-1) its fourth straight loss.

Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh turned the puck over in overtime and Kessel set up Malkin for the game-winning goal. Just before that, the Rangers iced the puck, leading to a faceoff in their zone.

Michael Grabner put New York ahead 4-3 when he and David Desharnais completed a nifty give-and-go at the 8-minute mark of the third period.

Desharnais, Pavel Buchnevich and J.T. Miller scored in a span of 2:30 as the Rangers got three straight goals early in the second to take a 3-2 lead.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray and counterpart Henrik Lundqvist each made 28 saves in the first of four meetings this season between the division rivals (see full recap).

Devils top Lightning in shootout
NEWARK, N.J. -- Kyle Palmieri scored the lone goal in a shootout, lifting the New Jersey Devils to a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

Drew Stafford scored twice in regulation as New Jersey improved to 5-1-0. Palmieri and Brian Gibbons each had a goal in the first period, and Cory Schneider made 33 saves.

Vladimir Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos scored for Tampa Bay, which had its four-game winning streak snapped and fell to 5-1-1.

Kucherov's goal was his eighth in seven games. He has scored at least once in every game this season, and the 24-year-old right wing became the sixth player in modern NHL history to score at least one goal in the first seven games of a season.

Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Ken Hodge and Tony Tanti are the others. Lemieux holds the record with at least one goal in the first 12 games of the 1992-93 season.

Peter Budaj made his first start of the season for the Lightning and had 30 saves (see full recap).

Anderson helps Maple Leafs blank Capitals
WASHINGTON -- Connor Brown scored the game-winning goal in the third period and Frederik Andersen stopped all 30 shots he faced for the shutout as the Toronto Maple Leafs continued their tremendous start by beating the Washington Capitals 2-0 on Tuesday night.

Toronto has won five of its first six games. Washington has now lost two in a row since top defenseman Matt Niskanen went out with a long-term upper-body injury.

After getting a promotion to the third line, Brown picked up his second goal of the season and broke a 0-0 tie with 14:07 left in the third. Brown corralled a rebound of Morgan Rielly's point shot and poked the puck between Braden Holtby's legs.

Holtby made 28 saves but couldn't help as the Capitals' offense couldn't cash in on limited high-quality chances. Nazem Kadri scored an empty-net goal in the final minute (see full recap).