Flyers

Flyers-Sharks observations: Wayne Simmonds sparks opening win

Flyers-Sharks observations: Wayne Simmonds sparks opening win

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The "Wayne Train" was a freight train of goals on opening night Wednesday as Wayne Simmonds notched his second career hat trick in the Flyers' 5-3 season-opening win over the San Jose Sharks.

The Flyers blew a 2-0 lead and a 3-2 lead, but their power play bailed them out as they were able to pull out a win at the Shark Tank for just the third time in their last 22 matchups in San Jose dating back to 2002.

Simmonds scored the Flyers' final three goals of the game, the last of which was an empty-netter with 36 seconds remaining in regulation. The hat trick marked the Flyers' first on opening night in franchise history, according to NHL public relations.

• Brian Elliott got the start in net and appeared to struggle tracking the puck throughout the first period. However, he settled down and closed the door over the final half of the third period to collect his first win with the Flyers. Elliott stopped 32 of 35 shots. 

• One of my preseason keys was how the Flyers had to develop a potent second power-play unit. On its first rush following a change, it worked a perfect give-and-go as Travis Konecny flipped a pass to Jordan Weal, who beat Martin Jones with a cross-ice shot. Weal’s shot was perfectly placed, but it’s still a shot Jones should stop from that angle.

“It was a good breakout and we executed what we wanted to do,” Weal said. “I just put it in a spot where I thought I could either put it in, or if it didn’t go in, it would create a rebound for a guy going to the net. But it found a way in.”

• All of that preseason concern and panic over the Flyers’ power play was a worthless exercise. The Flyers’ two PP units needed just 1:09 to convert its first three power-play opportunities.

• Sharks goaltender Jones essentially put the Flyers on the board first when he hesitated behind his net and then sent a perfect tape-to-tape pass right to Jakub Voracek, who quickly tapped it over to Claude Giroux for a one-time goal in the opening period. Interestingly, Elliott nearly handed the Sharks a goal in the first few minutes of the game when he misjudged a puck, which resulted in an awkward lunge. However, San Jose couldn’t convert on Elliott’s turnover.

• Who in the world is Kevin Labanc and what was he doing on the Sharks’ top line? Well, Labanc proved just what type of player he is with a pair of first-period goals. San Jose’s sixth-round selection (171st overall) in 2014 brought some speed and energy alongside veterans Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. That’s what the Flyers were hoping for from their 2014 fifth-round pick Oskar Lindblom. One knock on Labanc: he committed the Sharks’ first three minors, two of which resulted in goals for the Flyers.

• On Labanc’s first goal, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was caught deep in the offensive zone and the Sharks broke out with what was shaping up to be a 3-on-1. However, the Flyers recovered nicely in their end, and if Elliott would have controlled the rebound, the team would have avoided that early goal. 

• If the Flyers’ top line is to have any sustained success, Sean Couturier has to develop some sort a finishing touch working with Voracek and Giroux. Couturier had a breakaway and after putting a nice move on Jones, the Sharks’ netminder got a piece of the shot with his right pad. Couturier would have scored a goal had he elevated the puck. Still, one benefit with Couturier on that line is the players will have more possession time in the offensive zone. Overall, he was very assertive and he makes that top line tougher to defend.      

• In his NHL debut, Nolan Patrick, the Flyers’ second overall pick, played 13:30 with three shots on net. He also won 5 of 9 faceoffs. Patrick played a responsible game and rarely seemed out of place. For Patrick, I’m sure it’s good to get that first one out of the way. 

• The Flyers are 23-19-8 all-time in season openers, and they’ve now won back-to-back season openers on the West Coast.

Lines, pairings and scratches

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Jori Lehtera, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim.

Still quiet outside top line as Flyers give one away to Jets

Still quiet outside top line as Flyers give one away to Jets

BOX SCORE

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Now that the Flyers have seemingly rediscovered their scoring touch, they must next find a way to win a game again.

Mark Scheifele provided the game-tying goal with 49 seconds remaining in regulation Thursday after the Flyers had led for nearly 57 minutes before finally losing to the Jets, 3-2, in a shootout (see observations).

The defeat marks the Flyers' first three-game losing streak of the season.

“It’s something that hurts," Jakub Voracek said. "We were up 2-1 with a minute left. That’s a game you have to control and find a way to win. I think in overtime we were better. We had a lot of scoring chances, but again, it hurts."

Scheifele’s goal came after the Jets had pulled goaltender Connor Hellebuyck for the extra attacker. The Jets' No. 1 center worked a nice play with forward Blake Wheeler, as he sneaked his way between four Flyers and snapped a shot over the shoulder of Brian Elliott (see highlights).

“We had some tired coverage, and part of that is we had a couple of forwards that were tired on that coverage play and we had five D that played a lot of minutes through Periods 2 and 3,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s still no excuse. We don’t want to give that goal up obviously, but we played a pretty good road game tonight.”

Voracek gave the Flyers their initial lead just 2:27 into the game when he jumped on Sean Couturier’s rebound shot and wristed it past Hellebuyck for the 1-0 advantage. Voracek’s fifth of the season snapped the Flyers' scoreless drought at 158 minutes and 36 seconds. Less than three minutes later, Couturier answered with a rebound goal of his own.

“We knew we were going to score today," Voracek said. "It’s kind of a relief that after two games we scored two quick ones. We couldn’t close it. Too bad for us."

“For sure, it helps mentally,” Couturier said of the goals. “At the same time, we were prepared tonight to come out and it was behind us our last two games. We worked on it Wednesday trying to be more in front of the net, more in front of the goalie. I think we did a better job, for sure.”

The problem with the Flyers' goal scoring is how it continues to be pumped out of the same well. The Flyers' top line has been counted on to score the team’s past five tallies with the last goal from someone not named Claude Giroux, Voracek or Couturier coming in a 5-4 loss to the Avalanche on Nov. 4. 

With the return of rookie Nolan Patrick, Hakstol switched up his second and third lines for a second straight game. Patrick was eased back into the Flyers' lineup and played just 7:32 after sitting out the previous nine games with suspected concussion-related symptoms, centering a line with Dale Weise and Wayne Simmonds.

“I thought his game was good,” Hakstol said. “He didn’t play on the power play, but he was limited in his minutes. I thought he was sharp. He was strong on the puck. For not being in the lineup and coming into a pretty heavy game, I thought he played a pretty good hockey game.”

The Flyers were also forced to play shorthanded with five defensemen after Radko Gudas was assessed a five-minute major for slashing Mathieu Perreault in the back of the head while he dropped to his knees on the ice (see video). Initially, referees Jon McIsaac and Gord Dwyer assessed matching minor penalties to Gudas and Perreault but reconvened shortly after the play was shown on the scoreboard and the crowd collectively gasped in horror over the hit.

Not long afterwards, Gudas was given the major/misconduct penalty and ejected from the game. 

“I’ll assume they didn’t look at video,” Hakstol said. “They have a process they go through. If they have something in question, they huddle up and they make their best judgement. I would absolutely assume they did not have video involved."

The Jets converted 3 of 4 shootout attempts with Scheifele, Patrick Laine and Bryan Little beating Elliott, who was superb once again, but it was Laine’s goal Elliott would like to have back.

“He does [that move] every time. I knew he was doing it and he still scored," Elliott said. "That’s on me. If you look at every tape he does, it’s every shootout. He does the same thing and he still put it in. I don’t know what happened. He hit my stick and it went in.” 

The Flyers picked up a point, but giving one back hurts even more. They’re now 2-4-3 in one-goal games, having dropped their last five by the slightest of margins.

Best of NHL: League-best Lightning spoil Ben Bishop's return

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AP Images

Best of NHL: League-best Lightning spoil Ben Bishop's return

TAMPA, Fla. -- Steven Stamkos had two goals and two assists, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves to beat his mentor Ben Bishop, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 6-1 Thursday night.

Vasilevskiy was Bishop's backup in Tampa Bay for parts of three seasons until Bishop was dealt to Los Angeles last February. Bishop holds the Lightning career wins record with 131, while Vasilevskiy has gone 26-5-3 since taking over the starting role. This was Bishop's first game against Tampa Bay since the trade.

Stamkos has 10 goals and an NHL-best 35 points after missing most of last season with a lateral meniscus tear.

Mikhail Sergachev, Brayden Point, Jake Dotchin and Nikita Kucherov also scored for the Lightning, who have the NHL's best record at 15-2-2.

Dallas, which went 0-2-1 on a three-city, four-day trip, got a goal from Radek Faksa. Bishop stopped 22 shots (see full recap).
    
Wild use 4 late goals to rally past Predators
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jason Zucker scored with 2:55 left and the Minnesota Wild scored four goals in less than six minutes in the third period to beat the Nashville Predators 6-4 on Thursday night.

Jared Spurgeon scored twice and Eric Staal had a goal and two assists for Minnesota, which won its fourth straight.

On the winner, Mikko Koivu fought off a defenseman into the left corner and centered to Zucker in front. With two defenders nearby, Zucker sent a backhand shot past Pekka Rinne for his eighth goal in five games.

Spurgeon added an empty-net goal. Matt Dumba and Nino Niederreiter also scored.

Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk with a franchise-record shutout streak of 195 minutes, 5 seconds. That ended 49 seconds in when Ryan Johansen converted a pass from Filip Forsberg, the first goal allowed by Dubnyk on 108 shots. He finished with 26 saves.

Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Viktor Arvidsson also scored for Nashville, which lost for the first time in six games (see full recap).

Coyotes battle back for 1st regulation win
MONTREAL -- Derek Stepan and Christian Fischer scored power-play goals in the third period and the Arizona Coyotes rallied to beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 on Thursday night for their first regulation victory of the season.

Brad Richardson, Christian Dvorak and Tobias Rieder also scored for the Coyotes, and Antti Raanta made 33 saves. Arizona snapped a five-game losing streak to improve to 3-15-3.

Brendan Gallagher, Paul Byron, Joe Morrow and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, and Charlie Lindgren stopped 27 shots.

With the Coyotes down 4-3 in the third period, Stepan got Arizona level for the third time in the game with a wrist shot from the crease at 4:54 following a failed clearance by Jordie Benn. Gallagher was in the box for tripping.

Arizona scored again on the power play at 10:10, this time with Weber penalized for slashing, when Brendan Perlini's shot ricocheted off Fischer's stick and in.

Rieder made it 3-3 with 51 seconds left in the second, but Weber answered back 40 seconds later.

The Coyotes scored five goals for the first time this season. They had a combined five goals in their previous four games (see full recap).