Flyers

Flyers wake up too late from holiday slumber

Flyers wake up too late from holiday slumber

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SUNRISE, Fla. — The Flyers picked up where they left off prior to the Christmas break Thursday night with their third straight defeat, a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers.

Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie scored his first goal of the season and the fifth shorthanded goal the Flyers have allowed this season as Florida won its fourth in a row.

Jared McCann and Jonathan Huberdeau also scored for the Panthers.

Scott Laughton scored his sixth goal of the season and is now one shy of matching his career high of seven he finished with in 2015-16.

Starting his 12th straight game, Brian Elliott stopped 24 of 27 shots. Elliott is 7-4-1 during this current stretch. 

Claude Giroux saw his point streak extended to six games with an assist.

The Flyers and Panthers will meet one final time on March 4 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.

• It was an absolute brutal start for the Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere, who was whistled for an interference call just 36 seconds into the game. Vincent Trocheck collided with “Ghost,” who made it look like he lowered his shoulder to deliver contact. 

• Moments later, Elliott was whistled for tripping Aleksander Barkov on a breakaway attempt. Elliott tried to poke check the puck away from Barkov. You see goalies make that play without drawing a penalty and I’m not sure Elliott actually tripped Barkov.  

• The Flyers’ PK, which came into the game ranked 29th, did an excellent job of killing off 1:19 of 5-on-3 time. The Panthers had just one shot on net and another ring off the post, but the Flyers did a solid job of closing off the passing lanes.

• The Panthers struck first when McCann made a move around Wayne Simmonds and fired a snap shot from the high slot that beat Elliott low to the blocker side. Replays didn’t appear to show the puck was deflected. My biggest problem was how the Flyers just gave the Panthers a clean zone exit and allowed them to move freely in the neutral zone. 

• Not sure what got Andrew MacDonald so fired up that he practically jumped Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson. Perhaps it was a slashing infraction as both guys went to the box during the matching minors as MacDonald was whistled for roughing.

• There was an irresponsible high-sticking penalty from Nolan Patrick, as the rookie raised his stick and clipped Michael Haley when neither guy was playing the puck. Hard to understand why players hold their sticks up high when there’s simply no need. 

• The Flyers played a typical opening 20 minutes for a team that had a three-day Christmas vacation. They were outshot 13-5 and trailed 1-0. The skated much better once the penalties were served. 

• Head coach Dave Hakstol has threw his lines into a blender as he moved Laughton onto the second line and bumped Jordan Weal to the third line. Hakstol appeared to be trying to find any combination after a lackluster first period.

• The Flyers were saved by the Panthers’ ineptitude to stay onside in the opening minute of the second period. Florida was looking at a potential 3-on-1 if Barkov hadn’t stepped over the line prematurely.

• The Flyers’ power play has been charitable when giving the opposition shorthanded chances. That was the case again when Giroux moved the puck down the boards just inside the blue line. Florida’s Colton Sceviour retrieved it to spring a 2-on-1 rush the other way. Giroux couldn’t keep up with MacKenzie, who scored on the one-timer pass from Sceviour.

• In an effort to drum up some emotion, Michael Raffl dropped the gloves with Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic. Give Raffl credit as he also drew a roughing penalty on Petrovic. The Flyers appeared lifeless in the first 30 minutes of the game.

• The Flyers couldn’t respond as the Panthers opened up a 3-0 lead when Matheson beat Robert Hagg to a loose puck to feed Nick Bjugstad. Bjugstad then fed Huberdeau for a perfectly-placed shot. Huberdeau also used Radko Gudas as a screen as Elliott was late to pick it up. The Panthers had two players in the zone to the Flyers’ four. Florida simply out-hustled the Flyers.

• Jake Voracek had an excellent opportunity to get a goal back when he broke in all alone on James Reimer. However, he couldn’t finish as it appeared Voracek was trying to go five-hole with his backhanded shot. Instead, he pulled it too much left and it deflected off Reimer’s pad.

• The Flyers finally got one back with 7:32 remaining in regulation after Aaron Ekblad broke his stick on a slap shot that sprung Travis Konecny. The Flyers capitalized as the trailer, Laughton, snapped off a perfect shot that beat Reimer just under the crossbar. 

• The Flyers’ power play broke through as well when Sean Couturier redirected Gostisbehere’s shot from the point to pull them within one.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Pleasant surprises in a first for Flyers

Pleasant surprises in a first for Flyers

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When asked what he thought about the current Flyers team prior to his retirement ceremony, Eric Lindros admitted he really didn’t know all that much regarding this year’s team. 

After Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Lindros’ hometown Maple Leafs (see observations), "Big E" and a sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd learned something about the Flyers that no one in Philadelphia had been privy to.

The Flyers capped off their first win this season when trailing by two or more goals entering the third period. Interestingly, the only other third-period comeback that led to a victory was when they trailed this same Toronto team, 2-1, on Dec. 12. Prior to this game, the Flyers were 1-12-2 this season when trailing after two periods.

Certainly, the Flyers needed goal scoring, but more importantly, they also received a handful of momentum saves from goaltender Michal Neuvirth.

“Huge," Neuvirth said regarding his 29-save performance. “When we tied it, it was like, 'OK, here we go. You gotta be at your best right now.' So I was just focusing on the next shot. Just happy the way the guys responded in the third.”

Neuvirth had little, if any, margin of error after the Leafs scored twice in a 28-second span to grab a 2-0 advantage, but the Flyers' backup netminder provided a handful of momentum saves that allowed the Flyers to win in overtime.

• A minute after Wayne Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with a shorthanded goal, Neuvirth stopped Auston Matthews and Connor Brown on back-to-back shots, including an impressive blocker save on Brown from up close.

• With 2:48 remaining in regulation, Neuvirth made the save of the game with the Leafs coming down on a 2-on-1. Neuvirth expected Nazem Kadri to shoot. Instead, he passed it to his left, forcing Neuvirth to make a full extension on Patrick Marleau, turning aside the shot with the tip of his right pad (see highlights).

• Neuvirth denied Matthews from in tight with another pad save just 10 seconds into overtime. That save created a 2-on-1 scoring chance resulting in Sean Couturier’s game-winning score. 

“At least three 10-bell saves by Neuvy. He was tremendous,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We generated a lot in the third period, but when you give up those chances against, Neuvy stole the show in my opinion and you need those saves sometimes to win games. For me, he was first star.”

Neuvirth and the rest of the Flyers needed an initial spark and 19-year-old rookie Nolan Patrick was surprisingly the one to provide it. After taking a shot that hit the side of the net and caromed behind it, Patrick chased down Mitch Marner, stole the puck and fired a quick shot on goaltender Frederik Andersen for his first goal in his last 25 games.

“I tried to forget how many games it was in a row without a goal and just keep playing,” Patrick said. “I thought I was playing some good hockey lately and I knew it would come.”

A minute and 52 seconds later, Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with the Flyers' second shorthanded goal of the season, extending his point streak to six games.

Struggling to find the right overtime combinations, Hakstol elected to go with the trio of Couturier, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov to start the extra session. Couturier continued his magical run and now has 11 goals in his last 12 games, while also providing five game-winning goals in the Flyers' last 10 victories. 

“He’s hot. We keep calling him ‘Rocket,’" Simmonds said, referring to Hall of Famer Maurice “Rocket” Richard. “You just keep giving him the puck and he’s going to find the back of the net. When you’re hot, you want to keep giving it to a guy like that. Hopefully, he’s going to continue to score for us.”

More Couturier goals and more game-changing saves, and the Flyers will find themselves rocketing up the standings.

Golden Knights make statement in clash of conference leaders

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Golden Knights make statement in clash of conference leaders

TAMPA, Fla. -- Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves, David Perron had a goal and an assist, and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 Thursday night in a matchup of conference leaders.

James Neal, Nate Schmidt and William Karlsson also scored for the Golden Knights, who swept the two-game season series with the NHL-leading Lightning.

Tampa Bay, coming off its bye week, got a goal from Ondrej Palat, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 shots. Vasilevskiy, an All-Star this season, has allowed 19 goals over his last four games.

Fleury made a number of impressive stops, including a left-circle shot by Steven Stamkos and in-close chance from Nikita Kucherov during the second period. The goalie, who spent most of career with Pittsburgh, is 19-11-4 against the Lightning.

Neal opened the scoring with a nifty deflection 56 seconds into the first, and Schmidt made it 2-0 with 3:57 left in the period. Deryk Engelland got his 100th NHL assist on Neal's goal.

Vegas is 19-1-0 when scoring first, with the lone loss coming Oct. 30 to the New York Islanders (see full recap).

Devils beat Caps in OT on Hall’s goal
NEWARK, N.J. -- Taylor Hall scored on a breakaway 34 seconds into overtime and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Thursday night.

Sami Vatanen collected his third assist of the game on the winning goal, a shot over the shoulder of goaltender Braden Holtby.

Drew Stafford, Andy Greene and Miles Wood also scored for the Devils, who have won two straight after breaking a six-game winless streak (0-3-3). Keith Kinkaid had 16 saves and the Devils killed off all five Washington power plays.

Brett Connolly scored twice and Dmitry Orlov had a goal for the Capitals, who lost for only the second time in eight games. The Capitals, however, extended their streak of getting a point against New Jersey to 14 games (12-0-2).

Holtby made 28 saves, but gave up three breakaway goals (see full recap).

Panarin puts Stars over the top in shootout
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Artemi Panarin scored in the second round of a shootout, and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 on Thursday night.

Joonas Korpisalo had 35 saves for Columbus (26-18-3), which returned from its five-day break after losing both ends of a back-to-back last week. Jordan Schroeder scored his first goal of the season in the first period.

Korpisalo blocked a shootout try by Jason Spezza before Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin came up empty. Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop blocked Jussi Jokinen's shootout attempt before Panarin beat him.

Korpisalo got the start ahead of Vezina Trophy-winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who struggled in the recent losses. The 23-year-old Finn got his first win in nearly a month in his ninth game this season.

Dan Hamhuis scored for Dallas with 2:15 left in regulation. Bishop had 25 stops, including a terrific glove save on Alexander Wennberg with 30 seconds left in the third.

Dallas (26-17-4) had won two in a row (see full recap).