Flyers

Flyers-Predators observations: Offense finally cools off in shutout

Flyers-Predators observations: Offense finally cools off in shutout

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Nine days after an electrifying and yet controversial finish at Bridgestone Arena, the Flyers and Predators left all the offensive fireworks back in Nashville.

The Wells Fargo Center crowd Thursday was treated to a ho-hum defensive duel that saw the Predators prevail, 1-0, to sweep the season series.

Third-line center Colton Sissons, who did not play in the first game between these two teams, fired a slap shot that beat Michal Neuvirth far post during the third period.

Pekka Rinne stopped all 28 shots for his second win over the Flyers this season.

• Sissons' goal was the result of a multitude of breakdowns. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald got tied up on the play. Wayne Simmonds, who was playing back, whiffed as he tried to play the puck on Kevin Fiala, and from there the Flyers were in disarray. Valtteri Filppula couldn’t keep up with Sissons, who loaded the shot that beat Neuvirth.

• Neuvirth has one win in his three starts. Then again, victories are hard to come by when the Flyers are shut out in two of those games. The other occasion was was Oct. 5 in Los Angeles, a 2-0 loss to the Kings.

• Dave Hakstol did quite a bit of mixing and matching in the third period. He paired Scott Laughton with Simmonds and Filppula, Simmonds with Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick, and a Laughton-Konecny-Patrick combo.

• Overall, this was Travis Sanheim’s best effort through four NHL games. While he proved to be turnover-prone at times, he recovered nicely to minimize the damage.

• Simmonds left Tuesday’s game against Florida with a lower-body injury and was uncertain to play prior to the morning skate. “The Wayne Train” hadn’t missed a game since he suffered a leg injury at the end of the 2014-15 season. Whatever the ailment, and it appears to be midsection related, Simmonds clearly wasn’t himself and didn’t quite have the same tenacity he usually brings.

• Simmonds missed a shift early in the second and left the bench, only to return late in the period when he took a 15-second shift and came back off. If Simmonds doesn’t improve by Saturday afternoon’s game against the Oilers, we may see Matt Read for the first time this season.

• Predators defenseman P.K. Subban still receives a smattering of boos from the Wells Fargo Center crowd. With Nashville making just one trip to Philadelphia every season, you have to think the animosity toward Subban is a residual from his days with Montreal when his feistiness would conflict with former Flyer Chris Pronger. 

• He missed the first meeting at Bridgestone Arena nine days ago, but you can see what Roman Josi brings to the Predators’ blue line. Arguably Nashville’s top two-way defenseman (although I really like Mattias Ekholm), Josi led the Preds with four shots on goal after two periods, and has a real knack of finding the open seams in the defense. 

• I completely agreed with Hakstol’s decision to insert Jori Lehtera right into the spot occupied by Jordan Weal (see below). With the offensive balance we’ve seen over the past several games, why disrupt the flow and chemistry of the other three lines to accomomdate one player? 

Weal out, Read recalled
After taking the ice in the morning skate, Weal was not available for the game against the Predators. Weal suffered an upper-body injury and is considered day to day. The Flyers also recalled Read from Lehigh Valley in a move that brought the Flyers’ active roster to 23 players.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jori Lehtera-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
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Brandon Manning, Matt Read, Jordan Weal.

Best of NHL: Brian Boyle's emotional goal helps Devils beat Canucks

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Best of NHL: Brian Boyle's emotional goal helps Devils beat Canucks

NEWARK, N.J. -- Brian Boyle scored one of the most meaningful goals of his career to help the New Jersey Devils beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 on Friday night.

The Devils were marking "Hockey Fights Cancer Night," a battle especially meaningful to Boyle, who was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia during training camp and missed the first 10 games of the season while undergoing treatment.

The Prudential Center erupted with cheers when Boyle, set up by a beautiful drop pass from Will Butcher, scored at 10:17 of the second period to snap a 1-1 tie.

Taylor Hall got the second assist as part of his big night. The Devils' leading scorer had a goal and two assists as the Devils picked up points in a third straight game (2-0-1).

Damon Severson also scored for New Jersey and Cory Schneider made 23 saves to improve to 6-1-2 against the team that made him a first-round draft pick in 2004.

The win gave the Devils a sweep of the two-game season series, having beaten the Canucks 2-0 in Vancouver on Nov. 1 (see full recap).

Pastrnak goal in 3rd lifts Bruins past Penguins
BOSTON -- Matt Grzelcyk scored his first career goal, David Krejci had a goal and an assist and the Boston Bruins stretched their season-long winning streak to four straight in a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

David Pastrnak's goal on a breakaway 5:06 into the third broke a 3-all tie and Anton Khudobin shut out the Penguins the rest of the way to win his fourth straight start. Khudobin finished with 17 saves for Boston, which outshot Pittsburgh 33-20 and has its longest winning streak of the season.

Sydney Crosby had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh, which rallied from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to tie it with three goals in the second period. Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel also scored for the Penguins, who lost their third straight.

After being outshot 14-4 in the first period, Pittsburgh pulled within 2-1 just 1:02 into the second on a one-timer by Jake Guentzel with assists by Crosby and Kris Letang.

Grzelcyk put Boston back up 3-1 at 10:31 of the second, when Krejci misfired on a slap shot from the blue line and the puck slowly, found Grzelcyk for a wrist shot that hit Murray's glove and continued into the net. Grzelcyk is the seventh Boston player to score his first career goal this season (see full recap).

Atkinson scores twice as Columbus tops Ottawa
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Cam Atkinson scored twice to lift Columbus over the Ottawa Senators 5-2 on Friday night, extending the Blue Jackets' league-high winning streak to six games.

Sergei Bobrovsky turned back 24 shots for his 14th win in 19 starts. Columbus improved to 15-7-1 and leads the Metropolitan Division with 31 points.

Ottawa's Craig Anderson stopped 27 shots as the Senators (8-7-6) lost their fifth straight.

Tom Pyatt got the scoring started off the Senators' second shot in the first period, taking a cross-crease pass from a driving Derick Brassard and going top shelf over Bobrovsky's left shoulder. It was Pyatt's fourth goal of the season, assisted also by Mark Stone.

Atkinson tied the score less than 30 seconds later, stealing the puck from Alex Burrows just inside the Jackets' blue line and creating his own breakaway. He slipped the puck under Anderson's left skate for his fifth goal of the season. It was Atkinson's first score in eight games.

A shot got behind Bobrovsky 17 seconds into the second period but was swept off the goal line by Boone Jenner without crossing (see full recap).

Streaking Jets roll past Ducks on Ehlers' 2 goals
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Nikolaj Ehlers scored two goals in the game's first 5 minutes, and the streaking Winnipeg Jets went on to beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Friday.

The Jets have won six of their last seven.

Bryan Little also had a goal and two assists for Winnipeg. Ehler added an assist to his two goals. Kyle Connor scored an empty-net goal from the red line, his sixth goal of the season.

Conner Hellebuyck stopped 30 shots for the Jets.

Anaheim's lone goal came from Francois Beauchemin. John Gibson stopped 34 of 36 shots for the Ducks.

Winnipeg scored on two of its three power plays, while Anaheim was unable to score during its two man-advantage situations.

The Jets went up 3-1 on a power play midway through the second period, Little slipping one past Gibson. Little assisted on Winnipeg's first two goals (see full recap).

Latest loss forcing Flyers to reexamine narrative

Latest loss forcing Flyers to reexamine narrative

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Black Friday is that designated day after Thanksgiving when buyers are enticed to something special they wouldn’t be able to get any other day of the year.

Instead, Flyers fans got a whole lot more of the same. Same blown lead. Same defensive breakdown in overtime. Same result in the standings.

The Flyers fell, 5-4, in overtime to the Islanders for their seventh straight loss Friday at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

In fact, Black Friday looks and feels similar to Groundhog Day right now.

“We obviously have to work on it,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “It’s the definition of insanity if you keep doing the same thing over and over again. We have to change some things and talk about it because these are big points and they can come back and hurt us.”

Right now, it hurts to watch. During the Flyers' current seven-game losing streak, their longest stretch of winless hockey since 2008, they’ve lost four of those games after regulation and they’ve held a lead in each of their last five games — and a two-goal lead in three of their last five.

“If you’re looking for a confidence level on this side of the TV, I can’t give you one,” Elliott said. “Everybody here is battling their own battles and trying to do their jobs. You don’t make it to this level without being able to handle things like this and being able to handle the ups and downs.”

Sure, you can cite the first-year players on defense for some of the late-game breakdowns. After all, there’s a rookie on every pairing, but the veterans have been just as culpable throughout this two-week skid. Jake Voracek has blown assignments on two of the overtime losses, including Nick Leddy’s OT winner Friday.

“Mistakes, personal mistakes,” Voracek said, “It is simple. Leddy was open there. He is my guy. I got caught puck watching. I didn’t cover my guy and got scored on. My bad.”

“I don’t know if it is a lack of confidence,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “I think we kind of get away from our game. I think it is just up to us to own it and finish the game.”

After the game, and perhaps equally as disturbing, is how Dave Hakstol has spin-doctored the past four weeks. As he opened up his postgame comments, he made it sound as if the team should be patted on the back on their way out the Wells Fargo Center door.

“You got to evaluate it for what it is," Hakstol said. "I think in seven of our last ten we’ve gotten a point. Five of those are shootout or overtime losses.”

So, let’s evaluate it for what it is. The Flyers have collected just nine points in those 10 games. Spread that out over an 82-game season and you finish up in the 74-point range. That usually secures a top-five lottery pick, not a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Accumulating a point here and there is presenting a silver lining where one doesn’t exist.

Instead, the Flyers have won just four of their last 17 games. That’s the picture that needs to be painted and winning hockey games is the only solution to this problem.

“I really believe we’re going to learn from this,” Claude Giroux said. “We’re going to get a better team and we’re going to get back in a playoff spot.”

If the Flyers don’t heed the captain’s words soon, then this season will feel more like a Black Monday, that October day in 1987 when the stock market crashed.

I'll take 6 for 600
Giroux became the 10th player in Flyers history to record 600 points with the franchise. Giroux now sits one point from tying and two points from passing Rod Brind’Amour for ninth place on the Flyers' all-time scoring list.

Johnny on the overtime spot
Islanders captain John Tavares has been New York’s overtime spark plug. On Wednesday, Tavares put on a dazzling display fighting off Sean Couturier before firing a cross-ice pass to Josh Bailey, who scored the overtime winner at Barclays Center. Friday, Tavares was the on the ice again and registered the secondary assist on Leddy’s goal.

“Three-on-three, I don’t think there’s a guy other than maybe (Connor) McDavid that I would take Johnny over," Islanders rookie Mathew Barzal said. "Obviously, he’s one of the most skilled players in the league. I think we got a really skilled team up front. I’ll take us 3-on-3 against anybody."