Flyers rebound with 60-minute effort in bounce-back win over Maple Leafs

Flyers rebound with 60-minute effort in bounce-back win over Maple Leafs


TORONTO — Turning the page, turning the corner.

Whatever label you want to attach to it, the Flyers proved yet again Saturday night that disappointments don't seem to fester with this club, as they turned in a complete 60-minute effort, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-2, at Air Canada Center (see observations).

It also helped the Flyers didn't spot their opponent a 3-0 lead like they had in their previous two road games, in Nashville and against just two days ago in Ottawa, where they felt robbed of a game-tying goal in the final minute of a 5-4 loss.

"I thought we deserved a better result than what we got in Ottawa," Brian Elliott, who won for the fifth time in seven starts, said. "I thought we played a good game. We knew we had to come out 50 percent on this road trip. These are a big two points in this building right now."

"I think we played a really good hockey game, all 60 minutes," Jakub Voracek said. "It's a tough building to play in. That team is very good. I'd say they're one of the best teams in the NHL with a lot of young guys and a lot of speed. I think we eliminated them pretty well.”

The turning point Saturday came in the opening minutes of the second period when Shayne Gostisbehere was called for a necessary slashing penalty on Zach Hyman that negated a potential goal. Roughly a minute and a half later, Robert Hagg went to the box for holding, which left the Maple Leafs with a 5-on-3 power play for 32 seconds.

After killing those two minors, the Flyers gained control of the second period, outshooting Toronto, 16-8, and took a two-goal advantage into the third period.

“That’s a big part of the hockey game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “You can break it down even further than that — the faceoff. We win the faceoff, we get the clear and they never did get set up. That was a big momentum builder for us and we were able to take advantage of it.”

After losing Andrew MacDonald a week ago to a leg injury in a win over Edmonton, the Flyers sustained another big blow on their blue line when Gostisbehere was forced to leave the game with an upper-body injury after taking a borderline hit from Leafs forward Leo Komarov, who extended his arms sending Gostisbehere face-first into the boards.

“It’s a tough hit,” Hakstol said. “It’s one that’s got to be looked at. It’s a hit in the numbers and it’s a tough play for our player.”

Komarov was not penalized on the play, but it’s one that will certainly grab the attention of the league office for supplemental discipline. Not only were the Flyers forced to play with five defensemen, but Hakstol also shortened his bench, primarily rolling three lines to solidify their two-goal lead.

“When you go down to five defensemen, the forwards did a really good job of helping them out,” Elliott said. “It’s tiring out there. When they’re working hard for the D, they can focus on the little things — getting those pucks out of the blue line and mitigating a lot of chances they had.”

Now the Flyers will have to dig even deeper and find a way to get over the loss of another key member of their defense.

A player that leads all NHL defensemen in points, and that, could have a lingering effect.

Getting offensive from defense
Despite playing without the NHL’s leading scorer among defensemen, the Flyers generated the majority of their shots from their blue line, as 20 of the team’s 30 shots on net came from the Flyers' defense, led by Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov, who both had five apiece to lead the team.

“They play a defensive game pretty close to the net," Voracek, who has a goal in two straight games, said of the Leafs. “The defenders are open on the blue line. Sometimes you have to play like that. It’s really important for defenders to get the shots through.”

Some home cooking
Any game in Toronto is usually a homecoming affair for the visiting team. The Flyers have about five players from the Toronto suburbs and the surrounding area, including forward Scott Laughton (Oakville, Ontario) and goaltender Brian Elliott (Newmarket, Ontario), who both played a solid game in front of family and friends. 

"I got about 20 people in the stands that you know is family or friends,” Elliott said. “It’s always fun to win for them. You grow up around here as a Leafs fan, so beating them is extra special.”

“I probably had 20 people there,” Laughton said. “It’s nice for my grandparents to come and stuff. They don’t get to see me too often — all my extended family and things like that — my best buddy growing up. It’s nice for them to come. Yeah, it’s an expensive ticket here.”

Petr Mrazek in strange yet familiar territory

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Petr Mrazek in strange yet familiar territory

DETROIT — Petr Mrazek knew the day he was traded to the Flyers wouldn’t be the last time he’d be in Detroit. Looking at the Flyers’ schedule, Mrazek noticed one more game left to be played against his former team.

Tonight, Mrazek will make his 12th start with his new team against the organization that drafted him in the fifth round in 2010.

Prior to the morning skate, Mrazek spent time talking with former teammates and fellow netminders Jimmy Howard and Jared Coreau. But it was a little strange walking into Little Caesars Arena for the first time as a visitor.

“A little different, different entrance, but it’s a fun building and one of the nicest visitor locker rooms in the league,” Mrazek said. “Every game is different. I wouldn’t know who’s got more of an advantage. I talked with Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) this morning and asked if he’s going to do the same move as he always does or if he’s going to go backhand. But when the puck drops, we've just got to focus on ourselves.”

Mrazek won his fifth game in orange and black with a 6-3 victory over the Washington Capitals Sunday. If the Flyers advance to the playoffs, the Red Wings would receive a third-round draft pick as compensation.  

The Dead Wing era
With a win tonight, Mrazek and the Flyers can eliminate the Red Wings from the postseason. It will mark the second straight season Detroit has failed to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which hasn’t happened in Hockeytown since the early 1980s.
The current-day Red Wings have completely tanked since the trade deadline. They’ve dropped ten straight (0-9-1) since Feb. 26, and have just one regulation victory over the last 15 games.

The Flyers will be looking for a three-game season sweep of the Red Wings while being mindful of a dreaded letdown game against one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s important for us to be ready from the start,” said center Sean Couturier. “We don’t want to get surprised. They’re still a good team. They’ve got some talent probably some guys who want to prove themselves. These games are never easy. We’ve got to be prepared for that and just focus on what we’ve got to do.”

The Dead Wing Era is a period in Detroit hockey from the late 1960s to the early 1980s when the Red Wings failed to reach the postseason in 15 of 17 seasons. 

Passing 'Big E'
With a point tonight Claude Giroux can pass Eric Lindros for fifth place on the Flyers' all-time scoring list with 660 points. Whenever his career ends, Giroux will join Lindros one day in the Flyers Hall of Fame.

The current and former Flyers captains spoke briefly in Voorhees earlier this season prior to Lindros’ No. 88 retirement ceremony on Jan. 18. Overtaking “Big E” is an accomplishment Giroux holds in high regard.

“Just for what he’s done for the organization it means something. He’s had a great career,” Giroux said. “Just talking with him was pretty special. He talked about what experiences he’s had, talking about things he was going through as a team. To be able to pass him, it’s pretty special.” 

This season alone, Giroux has worked his way from 11th on the franchise’s career scoring list to where he is now. Once he moves past Lindros, Giroux will be 38 points shy of passing Rick MacLeish for fourth place, which in all likelihood, will come next season.

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).