Flyers

Football could've been Alt-ernate ending for Flyers' D-man

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AP Images

Football could've been Alt-ernate ending for Flyers' D-man

If the Eagles raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy Sunday night, Flyers defenseman Mark Alt will be reminded of that other promising career he once had. 

As of now, Alt may be Philadelphia’s only professional athlete to win a football championship in the state of Minnesota, where he was a prolific quarterback at St. Paul’s Cretin-Derham high school, guiding the Raiders to the Class 5A state championship in 2009. He was considered the best football player in the state, claiming the coveted Minnesota Player of the Year award.

Then again, all of that should come as little surprise. Mark’s father, John, was one of the NFL’s best offensive lineman from 1984-96, a two-time All-Pro tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, and a member of their Ring of Honor, where his name can be spotted easily inside Arrowhead Stadium.

“He pushed me hard,” Mark said. “He just wanted the best for me. There is a great sense of pride I feel for him, not only because he played in the NFL, but because he is my dad.” 

As much as Mark enjoyed football, there was that other sport that also piqued his interest.

"He was always outside on the rollerblades, always shooting around," John told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We had pucks all over the yard. The lawnmower chewed up a thousand pucks over the course of his upbringing. Other kids, they played video games or whatever. He had no interest in that. He was always outside."

At one point, Mark was leaning towards a collegiate football career, and why not? He was offered a scholarship to play at his father’s alma mater, the University of Iowa, under head coach Kirk Ferentz, and there were offers from UCLA and Stanford as well. Ultimately, he saw a more promising future playing hockey in his hometown at the University of Minnesota.

“I think the opportunity at the time hockey just presented itself,” Mark said. “I just got drafted. I knew I could go play at Minnesota right away, whereas football, you don’t know. You don’t know who’s at that school, who the quarterbacks are, who’s coming in. I think for me the opportunity (in hockey) was there.”

Right away, Mark was a key contributor in his freshman season. As a sophomore, Alt and the Golden Gophers lost to Johnny Gaudreau and the Boston College Eagles at the 2012 Frozen Four in Tampa Bay. A year later the Carolina Hurricanes, who selected Alt in the 2010 NHL Draft, traded him to the Flyers for Brian Boucher, and he signed his first professional contract later that summer.

However, father and son still talk football. 

In fact, mention the Super Bowl to Alt’s father, John, and the topic sets in like a hornet sting. Protecting legendary Joe Montana, Alt and the Chiefs were one game away from reaching Super Bowl XXVIII before losing to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. It's as close as he ever got to playing on professional football’s biggest stage, and it was even a conversation piece recently.

“I asked him about it a few years ago," Mark said about his father. "He definitely brought it up and he was definitely a little sour about it.

“He played 13 years and played on some good teams. Joe Montana was his quarterback and that sort of thing. They had teams that could have made a run and he definitely wishes he could have gone.”

The Flyers' season will prevent Alt from attending Super Bowl LII in his home state and just down the road in Minneapolis, where he won his state title at the now demolished Metrodome. However, Alt can truly appreciate a quarterback’s journey and can probably relate to Nick Foles who, like Alt, had played most of the season as an obscure backup until he was pressed into duty following the injury to Carson Wentz.

“The way he played in the NFC Championship and before that was outstanding,” Mark said. “He’s had successful years in the past and to take this team as far as they have and look as good as they did. They looked like a well-oiled machine in that championship game. They’ve been fun to watch.”

After Alt witnessed the Eagles demolish his hometown Vikings, he now feels no different than the rest of the championship-starved fans who are hoping the 2017 Eagles bring back the city’s first professional football title since 1960.

“It’s going to come down to a big turnover," Alt said. "Against the Vikings, that first interception was a big momentum swing. If they can play solid on defense and get a turnover like that, I think they’ll have a good shot.”  

Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

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USA Today Images

Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

RALEIGH, N.C. — Taylor Hall scored on a rebound with 22 seconds left in overtime, giving the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

The goal extended Hall's league-best streak of games with a point to 18.

New Jersey had won the first of the teams' four meetings this season on Thursday night to start the Hurricanes' three-game losing streak.

Keith Kinkaid stopped 40 shots for the Devils.

The Devils led 1-0 after a first period in which the Hurricanes outshot them 13-9.

Nico Hischier scored New Jersey's first goal on a power play midway through the first, assisted by Sami Vatanen and Kinkaid (see full recap).

Matthews scores in final minute to give Maple Leafs win over Red Wings
DETROIT — To Jeff Blashill, the outcome came down to one simple fact.

"They made one more play than us," the Detroit coach Blashill said.

To Toronto center Auston Matthews, it came down to persistence.

"We've got a lot of chances the last couple of games," Matthews said. "We had some pretty good chances tonight, the puck just wouldn't go in.

"It was nice to finally finish it off there with a half a minute left."

Matthews scored with 30.2 seconds left to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings on Sunday night.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner also scored for Toronto, and Curtis McElhinney made 27 saves (see full recap).

McDavid notches 3rd hat trick of season in Oilers' victory vs. Avalanche
DENVER — Late in the second period, with his team outplaying Colorado, Edmonton coach Todd McLellan couldn't believe his Oilers were trailing 2-1.

"Jay Woodcroft and I looked at each other and said, `How are we losing this game?'" McLellan said.

They didn't, thanks to another big game by Connor McDavid.

McDavid had his third hat trick of the season and fourth of his career, and the Oilers beat the Avalanche 4-2 on Sunday to snap a six-game losing streak.

McDavid now has 11 goals in the last nine games and two hat tricks. His first two goals tied the game, and his last one was into an empty net with 1:26 remaining (see full recap).

Sheahan scores twice in Penguins' win over Blue Jackets 
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Riley Sheahan scored two goals in the first period, rookie Tristan Jarry had 35 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Sunday night.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, and Brian Dumoulin and Zach Aston-Reese also scored for the Penguins. They have won five straight and 10 of their last 12. The win in front of a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena moved them past Washington into first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The 22-year-old Jarry played well standing in for starter Matt Murray, who got a rest as Pittsburgh played the second leg of a back-to-back and its third game in four days. It was Jarry's first NHL action in a month after going 3-0 in three starts for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL.

Artemi Panarin and Alexander Wennberg scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots for the Blue Jackets. They have lost two straight and seven of the last nine. In what is becoming the norm lately, Columbus outshot its opponent (37-23) but couldn't score enough to win. The Blue Jackets lead the NHL in shots per game but are lingering near the bottom of the division (see full recap)

Alex Lyon unfazed by the moment in massive relief effort

Alex Lyon unfazed by the moment in massive relief effort

BOX SCORE 

NEW YORK — Entering a game cold to start the second period following a wild six-goal first period while staring down at future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist at the other end of the rink may have intimidated most rookies, but Alex Lyon simply wasn’t phased. Not this time. 

Perhaps Lyon didn’t have a moment to absorb the magnitude of the moment, and even better, playing on the grand stage of Madison Square Garden didn’t overwhelm him at all. After all, for Lyon, the best way to earn that first NHL victory was in a building where he had never lost. Lyon is now a perfect 4-0 in games at the Garden, dating back to his days with Yale and their battles with Ivy League rival Harvard.

“I actually did take a comfort in that,” Lyon said. “I’ve been here, I’ve won here. You know the surroundings here a bit, so it’s good. When you’re in college and you look at the building and say, ‘Oh my God, it’s huge’, but now that I’ve seen a lot of NHL and AHL rinks it calms things down a little bit.” 

Sunday, Lyon came off the bench in relief of Michal Neuvirth to stop 25 of 26 Rangers shots in leading the Flyers to a 7-4 win over their Metropolitan Division rivals (see observations)

“It really does make a difference when you get that first win, especially after my first start against New Jersey where I felt like I could have uplifted the team there and we lost late. I’m just happy I could contribute,” Lyon said. 

The Flyers announced after the first period that Neuvirth would not return to the game after suffering a lower-body injury. Neuvirth was slow getting to his skates on a Rangers 2-on-1 goal where he was forced to fully extend himself moving post-to-post. 

“You never want to see injuries happen and you never want to see them in key areas, but it is part of the game,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “With Neuvy and (Brian Elliott) being down, it’s a challenge. Alex stepped in today and did the job. And that’s what our guys will rally behind going forward.”

On the 50th anniversary of the very first game at the current Madison Square Garden, which coincidentally was played between the Flyers and Rangers, the two bitter rivals had no problem turning back the clock to a time when fighting went hand-in-hand with scoring goals. Shayne Gostisbehere dropped the gloves for the first time in his NHL career with Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich, who laid out Travis Konecny with a hard hit on the opening shift of the game.

“I’d never done that before, but the boys were happy I did it,” Gostisbehere said. “I just heard the loud noise and I saw him on the ground. I thought he got smoked and I passed it to him so, I don’t know, I dropped the gloves.”

“It was cool. It was a fun game. It’s not how we drew it up. 3-3 after the first. As a team, our coach said we didn’t really have it tonight, but we found ways. I think the boys stood up for one another and we went out there and got the job done.”

Most impressively after a dismal defensive effort in the opening 25 minutes and facing the adversity of losing another goaltender, the Flyers still found a way to earn a victory during a time of the season when earning points are vitally important. The Flyers have now collected at least a point in their last eight games with a 6-0-2 record dating back to Feb. 3.

“Sometimes you have those nights,” Hakstol said. “Guys were ready to go. There were three scraps in the early parts of the game. It was one of those nights playing against a good offensive team. We weren’t sharp enough and we weren’t quite hard enough with or without the puck, but we recovered enough to get the two points.”

Fortunately, the Flyers were still able to dismantle a fragile Rangers team that has plummeted to last place in the Metropolitan Division by racking up seven goals against Lundqvist for the first time in 56 career games against the Orange and Black.

“Obviously, there were a lot of mistakes,” Lundqvist said. “They’re getting deflections in our net, odd-man rushes. I just have to start with myself, somehow find energy and confidence to play your game, but it’s hard when you give up so many goals to stay confident.” 

“You got to get to the net. There were some flash screens and just a good job of getting pucks to the net and winning net-front battles and it kinda went both ways,” said MacDonald.

Notable stats
• The Flyers are digging the day games, now 7-1-3 in afternoon starts.

• The top line dominated once again with seven points and a plus-five rating. Konecny registered his first career three-point game and Claude Giroux scored his 200th career goal.

• The Flyers scored seven goals on the Rangers for the first time since November 11, 1992, at the Spectrum.

• The Flyers have not allowed a power play in back-to-back games, which has not happened since the NHL began tracking those number through box scores dating back to 1977.