Flyers

Flyers send Samuel Morin to Phantoms

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Flyers send Samuel Morin to Phantoms

The Flyers on Wednesday afternoon assigned defenseman Samuel Morin to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, officially securing Travis Sanheim's spot on the NHL roster.

Morin served as a healthy scratch during the Flyers' four-game season-opening road trip. The Flyers carried eight defensemen out west because of an upper-body injury to Shayne Gostisbehere, but the third-year defenseman didn't miss a game.

"It's the first time in my career that I've been a healthy scratch and it's pretty hard," Morin said Tuesday in Nashville. "What else can I do? I think it's normal that I'm pretty upset. I just need to keep working hard and see what's going to happen.

"There's not much I can do right now. … I'm sure I can play in this league. If I go back to the AHL, I'm going to just work my ass off like I do all the time. I just want to play in the NHL, honestly."

After their preseason finale, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said defenseman Robert Hagg and center Nolan Patrick earned their spots but didn't say who won the competition for the second opening on defense.

With both Morin and Sanheim scratched for the season opener in San Jose, it remained unclear. Then, in Los Angeles, the Flyers tipped their hat. Sanheim drew into the lineup against the Kings.

Sanheim has played since while Morin sat. There was some thought the Flyers could get one last look at Morin in Anaheim last Saturday following Sanheim had a costly mistake in his NHL debut, but that didn't happen.

Hagg, Morin and Sanheim were competing for two spots in training camp and despite previously indications all three defensemen could make the team, Hextall opted against carried three rookies on the blue line — at least for now.

Morin proved himself as an NHL player during camp, but he falls victim to a numbers game. One NHL scout said Morin is ready and the Flyers' current logjam is “a good problem to have.”

With veterans Brandon Manning and alternate captain Andrew MacDonald here, there's not enough room for Morin, who's strictly a left defenseman, which the Flyers are heavy on.

Whether that is the right decision is up for debate.

There's no question we'll be seeing Morin with the Flyers sooner or later. If an injury hits the Flyers' blue line, he'll come up from Lehigh Valley.

And in that scenario, it'll be hard to see him going back down.

'Special play' by Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux highlights Flyers' 4th straight win

'Special play' by Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux highlights Flyers' 4th straight win

BOX SCORE

The entire play was a thing of beauty.  

The only debate was which part was prettier: Claude Giroux’s pass or Sean Couturier’s shot?

“I don’t know," Couturier said. "Ask him and see what he thinks."

“It’s a pretty special play to be able to get that puck into open ice to let Coots skate onto it,” head coach Dave Hakstol said.

After Couturier won a faceoff in the defensive zone, the puck eventually swung towards the far boards in the neutral zone. Giroux delivered a backhand pass between his legs and the legs of Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev before Couturier chased it down and uncorked a perfectly placed shot that found the top-right portion of the net (see highlights).

“The puck was rolling so I just shot as hard as I could,” Couturier said. 

"I saw Coots had a foot race and usually he doesn’t beat the other guy, but he was able to beat him there,” Giroux said half-jokingly. “He’s been playing great hockey and it’s fun to be on his line.

“It’s that kind of play that you can’t really describe. I’ll put it somewhere where he might be able to get it."

Couturier’s game-winner with 2:55 remaining in regulation Tuesday was part of the Flyers' three-goal third-period outburst on the way to a 4-2 win (see observations). It was the team's fourth consecutive victory, making it the first time since February 2014 the Flyers have strung together four straight wins in regulation, improving their record to 12-11-7.

The Flyers also snapped a six-game winless streak at the Wells Fargo Center dating back to Nov. 9.

“The last three games before this one, we had the lead and everybody bought in on how we wanted to play to keep the lead, and now we had a different test,” Giroux said. “We’re down a goal and guys just have a feeling in the room that we’re going to come back. It’s a good feeling right now.”

The Couturier-Giroux combination got the Flyers on the board in the opening period when Couturier won the draw in the offensive zone after sliding the puck behind him and Giroux finished with a one-time blast that beat Frederik Andersen.

“We switch around and try different things offensively,” Couturier said. “Having him on the right side there, G is ready for a one-timer if I win it and lucky enough the puck ended up right on his tape.”

Not only did the Flyers have a pair of first-rounders on their top line, Hakstol also elected to pair fellow first-round picks Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny on the team’s fourth line. Together with Taylor Leier they brought an element of speed and energy that led to the Flyers' game-tying tally in the third period when Konecny’s shot grazed off two Maple Leafs for just his second goal in his last 20 games.

“It was definitely part of our game plan to outskate their D and get in there,” Konecny said. “As a unit of three, we know we can cheat a little bit and get in on the forecheck because we know we can get back and defend in the right spots, so yeah, we were on top of them.”

“You guys can label them whatever you want,” Hakstol said. “They’re just one of our lines. We thought that line combination made sense with the speed and pace that all three of those guys play at. It’s one small tweak to our lineup that we made coming off the road trip out west.”

The Maple Leafs came into the game a little short on star power with top center Auston Matthews day to day with an upper-body injury. However, it hadn’t affected the Leafs in previous games as Toronto had a 5-0 record in contests Matthews had missed. Head coach Mike Babcock believed Tuesday night’s game was more of a missed opportunity.

“To me, we gifted two goals,” Babcock said. “The one tough play the goalie touched the goal and then the play where they come in, we are above those. To me, you can’t do that.”

The Flyers took down the Maple Leafs for the second time this season. They’ll meet one more time on Jan. 18 at the Wells Fargo Center.

Best of NHL: Devils snap Kings' 8-game win streak

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Best of NHL: Devils snap Kings' 8-game win streak

NEWARK, N.J. -- Taylor Hall scored twice and the New Jersey Devils ended the Los Angeles Kings' eight-game winning streak with a 5-1 victory Tuesday night.

Travis Zajac, Brian Boyle and Brian Gibbons also scored for the Devils, who snapped a two-game skid. Cory Schneider made 13 saves.

The Kings were beaten for the first time since losing 3-2 in overtime to Arizona on Nov. 24. Their winning streak was the longest in the NHL this season.

It was Los Angeles' first defeat in regulation since a 2-1 loss to Winnipeg on Nov. 22.

Jonathan Quick made 20 saves for the Kings, and Torrey Mitchell's goal with 7:56 left prevented Los Angeles from being shut out for the first time this season (see full recap).

Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point scored, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 32 shots and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the St. Louis Blues 3-0 on Tuesday night in a matchup of the NHL's top two teams.

Tyler Johnson added an empty netter as Tampa Bay (22-6-2) earned its fifth straight win. It was Vasilevskiy's third shutout of the season and the seventh of his career.

Jake Allen made 22 saves for St. Louis, which had won four in a row. The Blues (21-9-2) were shut out for the third time at home this season.

Point put Tampa Bay in front when he lifted in a rebound of his own shot at 19:15 of the first period. From the side of the net, Johnson fed Point in the slot. His shot hit the crossbar and caromed to the right. Point alertly followed the puck and extended his point streak to five games, setting a career high.

Vasilevskiy had several nice saves, turning away Vladimir Tarasenko on a 2-on-1 breakaway in the second period. Vasilevskiy leads the league in wins with 20, and Allen is second with 17 (see full recap).

Granlund lifts Wild to shootout win
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Mikael Granlund scored the winning goal in a shootout and the Minnesota Wild defeated the Calgary Flames 2-1 on Tuesday night.

The shootout reached the fifth round before Granlund beat Mike Smith. Alex Stalock stopped Michael Ferland to give Minnesota its third straight victory, the first two coming in overtime.

Ferland and Minnesota's Matt Cullen scored in regulation. Smith made 21 saves for Calgary, while Stalock stopped 16 shots in two periods plus overtime for the Wild. He replaced injured goalie Devan Dubnyk after the first.

Calgary dominated the puck throughout the first period and carried a 10-1 advantage in shots on goal 17 minutes in. But after the Wild killed off the second Flames power play of the frame, their second and third shots on net produced the game's first goal.

Ryan Suter took a shot from the top of the left circle that Smith turned aside. Joel Eriksson Ek took a whack at the rebound before Cullen poked it in to put Minnesota on top 1-0.

The Flames tied it with just more than a minute left in the second period on Ferland's 12th goal of the season. Ferland fired a slap shot from center point that deflected off Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin and beat Stalock over his left shoulder.

Stalock entered at the start of the second period in place of Dubnyk, who stopped all 10 shots he saw in the first but was removed after aggravating a lower-body injury (see full recap).