Forget the deadline madness ... Flyers are in 1st place

Forget the deadline madness ... Flyers are in 1st place


MONTREAL — Apparently trade deadline deals are completely overrated.

After all, the Flyers made their one significant move a week ago when general manager Ron Hextall rescued Petr Mrazek out of Detroit.

Monday night, Mrazek returned the favor and bailed out his teammates with a sensational 28-save performance, and then followed that up by stopping five of six in the shootout to stifle the Canadiens, 1-0, at the Bell Centre in Montreal (see observations).

The Flyers may have also discovered their shootout netminder in the process as Mrazek has won his last eight shootouts dating back to the 2016-17 season with Detroit.

“It’s for the fans,” Mrazek said. “They have some fun for the players and the goalies. It’s hard to say. I like to challenge the guy and go 1-on-1. I feel like it’s flipping a coin for who’s going to win.”

Right now, Mrazek is calling heads and the coin is landing in his favor. He’s won his first three starts to begin his Flyers career and now owns four shutouts in 18 starts this season.

Apparently Mrazek embraces all things new. A new situation, new teammates, a new coaching staff, and against the Canadiens, Mrazek played with new pads for the first time.

“I had them [Sunday]. I like new stuff and new gear when I have it on and finally I got the color I wanted,” Mrazek said. “After the game in Ottawa, the second goal I let in, we worked a little bit with the goalie coach (Kim Dillabaugh) and talked about it a little bit. Sunday in practice we’re focusing on stuff like that, so I was going to work on that and bring it into the game today.”

Mrazek’s course of correction may have been his angle and positioning in relation to the near side post where the Senators were able to beat him for a couple of goals on Saturday. However, the Canadiens had no success and if Mrazek wasn’t in perfect position, he flashed the glove on several highlight-reel saves.

“It was unbelievable seeing Mrazek stand on his head like that,” Travis Konecny said. “It’s not surprising, we’ve all played against him, but some of the saves he made were unbelievable and same at the other end. It was definitely a challenging game and makes it a lot of fun.”

While the Canadiens had no answer for Mrazek, the Flyers were also flummoxed trying to solve 24-year-old rookie Charlie Lindgren at the other end. The Flyers came up empty in their 33 shots in regulation and overtime, but Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier were both able to convert in the shootout.

“I saw Jake go lefty. We had a lot of righties go, so it was different,” Couturier, who converted the game-winner, said. “I saw Jakey seemed to have a lot of room. He even told me before I went, 'It’s open. Maybe fake him out glove side, go low blocker,' and I just listened to him.”

Couturier had quite the cheering section he was looking to impress, as well, with a large group that came to Montreal to watch him play. 

“I had a few family and friends and a lot of people from back home,” Couturier said. “I think they had a big bus come down for the weekend, probably 25 people from my hometown, so it was nice to get that support.”

And with that, Couturier and the Flyers rose to the top of the Metropolitan Division for the first time since October (see standings).

They may not have the marquee player like the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Flyers have this indescribable confidence and chemistry. 

And on deadline day, those are things you can’t trade for, either.

Why have Penguins dominated Flyers recently?

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Why have Penguins dominated Flyers recently?

VOORHEES, N.J. — The keys to the Keystone State Rivalry are now in the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have been in the driver’s seat recently in their feud with the Flyers.

The Penguins are on the verge of a season sweep for the first time since taking all eight meetings during the Flyers' disastrous 2006-07 season.

It’s a complete turnaround from the Flyers' eight-game winning streak from November 2013 to April 2015. PPG Paints Arena, formerly known as Consol Energy Center, could also be commonly referred to as Wells Fargo Center West.

However, in the Dave Hakstol era, which has also coincided with the Mike Sullivan era in Pittsburgh, the ice has been tilted toward Lake Erie. The Flyers are just 3-7-1 against the Penguins over the past three years.

Over time, that vitriolic and acrimonious attitude seems to be missing from a once-bitter feud and the Flyers seemed to thrive off that animosity.

“There’s not as many fights as we used to and not as many hits,” captain Claude Giroux said. “If you don’t take care of the puck and you don’t play smart out there, it’s going to cost your team.”

Since the third period of their first game in November, there have been costly mistakes and very little pushback from the Flyers. They’ve been outscored 14-4 in their last seven periods and a brief overtime against the Penguins.

“It’s a matter of us going out and being ourselves for a full 60 minutes,” Hakstol said. “We haven’t done that against Pittsburgh and you’ve got to credit them for that. They can push teams off balance.”

And clearly, the Penguins have presented a matchup problem for the Flyers, regardless of which team has owned last change. Sidney Crosby has thrived this season with a plus-6 rating against the Flyers.

With Sean Couturier serving as Evgeni Malkin’s shadow dating back to his rookie season in 2011-12, Giroux had been tasked with matching up with Crosby’s line. Now with Couturier and Giroux paired together, the task of containing Crosby has shifted elsewhere, whether it’s been Valtteri Filppula, Scott Laughton or Nolan Patrick.

The Flyers' 19-year-old rookie center has quickly discovered what works and what doesn’t against arguably the NHL’s best all-around player.

“You have to be a little more defensive-minded when (Crosby) is out there, and even Malkin too,” Patrick said. “Crosby’s not really a guy you can go after and knock the puck off. You just got to try and contain them and have a good stick on him.”

“I don’t think we’ve given them our best effort so far this year,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “We were a little timid last time. We were trying to feel out the game and see what kind of game it was going to be, rather than dictate the play.”

The Flyers haven’t exhibited their best effort against any team recently, and no need to prove a point against the Penguins this late in the season.

The Flyers simply need points and the Penguins just happen to be the next team on the schedule.

Devils' Hall wastes no time in overtime

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Devils' Hall wastes no time in overtime

PITTSBURGH -- Taylor Hall beat Matt Murray on a breakaway 27 seconds into overtime to lift the New Jersey Devils to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.

Hall was all alone when Nico Hischier found him with a long lead pass. Hall then slipped the puck between Murray's legs for his 33rd goal of the season as New Jersey picked up two vital points in the race for one of the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.

Hall added two assists for New Jersey. Hischier finished with a goal and an assist, and Blake Coleman and Will Butcher also scored for the Devils. Keith Kincaid made 40 stops for the Devils, who finished a season-high six-game road trip 4-2.

Sidney Crosby scored his 25th of the season for Pittsburgh. Brian Dumolin and Phil Kessel scored in the third period as the Penguins erased a two-goal deficit. Murray finished with 30 saves as the Penguins lost for just the second time in their last 17 home games.

New Jersey's drive to end a six-year playoff drought has stalled since the All-Star break. A lopsided loss in San Jose dropped the Devils to just 13-12 since Jan. 30 and skated onto the ice at PPG Paints Arena with a tenuous grasp on the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference (see full recap).

Bruins win on Pastrnak’s last-second goal
DALLAS -- David Pastrnak broke a tie with 12 seconds left and the Boston Bruins scored three straight goals in the third period to rally past the fading Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night.

A scramble followed a faceoff in the Dallas end, and Brad Marchand passed to Pastrnak in front. While falling down, he put the puck past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Tuukka Rask made a season-high 40 saves for the Bruins. Marchand scored Boston's first goal and also assisted on a short-handed goal by Tim Schaller that tied it midway through the third period.

The second-place Bruins won for the first time in three games (1-0-2) to move within four points of Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay. Boston has already clinched a playoff berth.

The Stars are winless in their last seven games (0-5-2). They remained four points behind Colorado for the second Western Conference wild card (see full recap).

Berglund, Blues push win streak to 4
ST. LOUIS -- Patrik Berglund scored twice and the surging St. Louis Blues beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Friday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Dmitrij Jaskin also scored for St. Louis. Jake Allen made 19 saves in his eighth straight start as the Blues won for the sixth time in seven games.

Sam Gagner scored for Vancouver, which has lost eight of nine. Anders Nilsson stopped 21 shots.

The Blues swept the season series and have won their last five games against the Canucks.

Tarasenko extended the lead to 3-1 just 14 seconds into the third period, slipping Jaden Schwartz's pass between Nilsson's legs. Tarasenko missed the previous two games with an upper-body injury.

Jaskin's sixth goal of the season with 2:29 left sealed it for St. Louis (see full recap).