Flyers

Metro gets crazier as Flyers-Devils series ends with bang

Metro gets crazier as Flyers-Devils series ends with bang

BOX SCORE

We now know why the NHL’s Metropolitan Division is more tightly packed than the metro subway system during rush hour.

On a night when the Flyers were just 81 seconds away from separating themselves from the Devils by five points in the standings, New Jersey fought back to the tie the game in regulation before eventually winning, 5-4, in a shootout, eliminating any breathing room the Flyers were hoping to gain Tuesday (see observations).

Devils forward Taylor Hall scored a pair of goals, including the one that tied the game at 4-4 with 1:21 remaining in the third period (see highlights)

“It’s that kind of play where it’s not much we could have done. It is definitely frustrating,” Claude Giroux said. “They’re a team that’s in the race with us. It’s two points that we could’ve used.”

“Just a little breakdown. They had one extra guy there at the net front,” defenseman Radko Gudas said. “I think we’ve got to do a better job of boxing them out and know where the puck is. I thought we played a pretty solid game. There are some things we would like to change, but that’s hockey.”  

However, Hall’s first score is one shot Michal Neuvirth would like to change, and most definitely would like to have back. Hall took a sharp-angled shot from near the Flyers' goal line that squeezed past Neuvirth, who failed to secure the near-side post. It was a shot reminiscent of a similar one he allowed just two weeks ago in Washington.

“For sure, that’s the one you’ve got to have,” Neuvirth said. “That was not a good goal. I’ve got to watch it on video and definitely have got to improve on shots from bad angles because a lot of teams are shooting from bad angles. The game in Vegas, I thought I had at least 10 saves from the corners. Teams are definitely going to try me.” 

Hall sat out nearly the entire second period going through the NHL’s concussion protocol after scoring his first goal in which he was leveled by Gudas. It was Gudas who also blasted Kyle Palmieri in the game in New Jersey just two weeks ago that led to a fight with Travis Zajac. Although the divisional rivals refrained from dropping the gloves, the intensity was building as the two teams battled four times over the span of a month.

“I thought it was a clean hit,” Hall said of Gudas’ check. “I told them that on the ice. He’s a player that’s always going to finish his hits. Sometimes they’re dirty, but I didn’t think that one was.”

“[Those games] are just fun to play,” Giroux said. “Especially here, I think the fans kind of like that. We did a good job of staying focused on what we had to do. There are going to be games like that, but you've got to try to stay focused.”

Recently, the Flyers have been the stronger, more determined and focused third-period team, outscoring the opposition, 6-2, in the final period over the previous five games. The Flyers rallied to earn a point against Ottawa, stifled Carolina to just two shots on net, scored three goals against Montreal and locked down their defense against Vegas.    

After the Flyers outshot the Devils, 6-0, in the opening five minutes of the game, fatigue and jet lag appeared to catch up to Dave Hakstol’s club, playing its third game in four days. New Jersey appeared to have a little extra jump over the final 10 minutes of regulation. 

“There’s always challenges,” Hakstol said. “That’s part of the schedule now. We knew those challenges coming in. I thought the start of the game was really good for us. We had energy and we were sharp mentally. There’s just points and times in the game where a little bit of fatigue sneaks in, both mentally and physically. There’s challenges in every portion of the schedule and that was our challenge tonight.” 

“Yeah, definitely, I think everybody needs it,” Neuvirth said, regarding the rest. “It’s been really tough especially with the travel. It was definitely tough to wake up today because we were still on Vegas time, but this is a tough week and we’re all professionals and we need to be ready.” 

Neuvirth and the rest of the Flyers can now get their watches and bodies completely in sync with their next 20 games to be played in the Eastern time zone.

After all, the Metro doesn’t appear to be slowing down for any team.

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

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John Boruk/NBCSP

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

Aaron Roberts proudly wore his No. 88 Eric Lindros jersey when the Flyers traveled to Edmonton in December. Roberts also owns a John LeClair jersey, a Wayne Simmonds sweater, and at the time, a Claude Giroux that was on order.    

Roberts, like many who attended that game, is an orange and black die-hard who was born and raised in Canada.

“Growing up when Philly won their Cups I started watching hockey,” Roberts said. “I don’t know. I went with a winner then and I just never, ever veered away from it. Of course, there’s temptation, but it’s always been Philadelphia for me.”

It’s not unusual to see a Philly faithful make their way out of the Canadian woodwork. Their popularity even rivals that of American-based original six teams.  

“I find that when I go to games, Flyers fans are more friendly, like everyone wants to high five and stuff, which is cool,” said Troy Krechuniak, who lives in Calgary, but grew up in Edmonton. “I had to go through all of that (the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup). That’s the problem going through the (Wayne) Gretzky years, 1985 Game 5, 1987 Game 7.” 

So why this allegiance to a team located hundreds of miles away in another country? 

At one time, the Flyers were as Canadian as the Montreal Canadiens themselves, considering they’re still the last team to win a Stanley Cup with an all-Canadian roster. 

“First off, you choose the identity of a team when you’re probably 6-to-9 years old, and at my age, I cheered for the Broad Street Bullies — Bobby Clarke, Dave Schultz and so forth,” said Rick LeFort of Saskatchewan. “I moved to Manitoba years later. Manitoba connections are Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach.”

More than 40 years after bringing the city of Philadelphia its first Stanley Cup championship, the Broad Street Bullies left behind a legacy that has impacted a region where hockey is indeed a religion.

“Being in Calgary when there was no team, you got to choose which team you wanted to affiliate yourself with,” said Shawn Cochlan of Langdon, Alberta. “I did love that brand of hockey, and yet, a lot of my friends didn’t. I liked Philadelphia better because they were tougher.”

And the allegiance to the Flyers has been passed down from a generation of fans to their children and siblings.  

“My aunt and uncle were big Flyers fans, and I loved being an outsider,” said Ryan Doram of Edmonton. “Every year when the Flyers come to Edmonton we make sure we come to the games. I loved Lindros. I loved the Recchi years, and you always find your new favorites I guess. You always find players you look and gravitate to.”

Giroux has that gravitational pull. As the Flyers hit Ottawa and Montreal one final time Saturday and Monday, you’ll see No. 28 jerseys scattered throughout the arenas for the Hearst, Ontario, native.

“We haven’t won a cup in a while. We’ve been there four or five times, but we’re getting better. I like what Ron Hextall is doing, and we’re going in the right direction,” 54-year-old Tom Banks said. 

“You cut me in the winter months, I bleed orange.”

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

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USA Today Images

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).