Neuvirth an unlikely hero after Elliott leaves shootout with injury

Neuvirth an unlikely hero after Elliott leaves shootout with injury


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Flyers fans came out in bunches to Gila River Arena on Saturday night, as the Flyers defeated the Arizona Coyotes in a shootout, 4-3 (see observations).

While Flyers fans were serenading to “Let’s Go Flyers” and “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles," the team avoided a potentially ugly loss to the NHL’s last-place team.

The first five minutes of the first period looked promising for the Coyotes, as they were getting shots fast on Brian Elliott. The Coyotes surrendered three breakaways to the Flyers in the first period, and one arguably could have been a penalty shot.

Jason Demers got the scoring started for the Coyotes, as the puck couldn’t be cleared out of the zone by Shayne Gostisbehere and the 'Yotes took advantage. Demers’ shot was a weak tap off of a one-timer, right through the five-hole of Elliott.

That’s all the shine the Coyotes would get in the first period because the rest of it belonged to the Flyers.

Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl tallied goals just nearly two minutes apart from each other and gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead after one period.

The momentum wouldn’t last very long, as Elliott let in a shaky goal from a shot by Alex Goligoski over the blocker on the short side to tie the game at two.

Two minutes later, Wayne Simmonds was parked out in front of the net, per usual, and redirected a Gostisbehere shot to make it 3-2 Flyers. The assist for Gostisbehere marked his fifth in the last two games, two of those came on Saturday. The 11th-ranked power play for the Flyers finished 2-for-4 on the night, making it 4-for-8 in their last two games.

Ex-Flyer Zac Rinaldo scored his fourth goal of the season two minutes into the third period as Elliott allowed another stoppable puck to get past him to tie the game. The Flyers outshot the Coyotes, 18-4, in the final frame.

Neither team was able to put home the game winner in overtime and the Flyers looked to get their first shootout win this season.

That’s when the scare for Flyers fans came about.

In the second round, Coyotes forward Clayton Keller came in on Elliott and appeared to hit Elliott in the mask with his stick. Elliott stayed down on the ice and eventually came out of the game. Michal Neuvirth stepped in for the Flyers and went 5-for-5 to give the Flyers the win. It was announced after the game Elliott was diagnosed with a lower-body injury.

“I’m not going to speculate on how the injury occurred,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I don’t know if the dots connect because he got a stick in the face or some kind of chain reaction that happened. But you hate to see that. I don’t think the stick was intentional, but that was a tough play for our goaltender."

Jakub Voracek roofed a wrist shot over the glove of Antti Raanta to tie the shootout at one. After three failed attempts, rookie Nolan Patrick scored the game-winner to put the Flyers in sole possession of third place in the Metropolitan Division.

“I knew what I wanted to do,” Patrick said on his shootout attempt. “I was watching on the monitor and saw that his glove was low so I was going there from the minute the shootout started if I got a chance to go.”

“Good saves by Neuvy coming in a tough situation and he did a good job,” said Hakstol. “Also nice to see (Patrick) go out there with that kind of confidence and make the play.”

For the Coyotes, they drop to 13-32-10 on the season. Raanta made 40 saves for Arizona while ex-Flyer Nick Cousins scored the lone goal in the shootout.

This wasn’t the first time the Flyers have had a tough encounter with the Coyotes. The Flyers lost back on Oct. 30 at the Wells Fargo Center, which marked the first win on the season for the Coyotes. The Flyers survived the scare this time around and now ride a three-game winning streak.

“They (Coyotes) play a pretty aggressive game and they play the right way,” Giroux said. “If you’re not responsible with the puck, they will hurt you. A couple times in the game, we weren’t playing our best and they were all over us. But we stuck with it and we were able to get the two points.”

The Flyers will wrap up their brief two-game West-Coast road trip tomorrow night in Las Vegas when they meet the Western Conference-leading Golden Knights at 8 p.m.

Why Nolan Patrick is such a power-play fit

Why Nolan Patrick is such a power-play fit

Replacing Wayne Simmonds on the power play may be one of the toughest assignments in the NHL.

After all, the guy is second to only Alex Ovechkin with 85 man-advantage goals since the 2011-12 season.

So when the predicament actually faced Dave Hakstol this week, the Flyers' head coach turned to … a 19-year-old rookie.

Why Nolan Patrick?

Three components of the decision stand out:

Intelligence factor
Leading up the NHL draft, the overwhelming strength of Patrick's scouting report was his hockey sense.

Those close to him, as well as draft experts, lauded Patrick for comprehending plays before they even happen and being above the ice in understanding spacing.

Those characteristics are crucial when having an extra man.

Patrick has two goals over two games filling in for the injured Simmonds on the Flyers' top power-play unit. Patrick exhibited his IQ with Thursday's game-winner, where he quickly planted himself right in front of the net, had the presence of mind to find the puck and then bury it past Sergei Bobrovsky.

"We told him, just stand in front, if you see a puck, bring it home," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We tried to simplify it for him and he's going to take care of it himself, he's a great hockey player. It's paying off for him."

All about the touch
Patrick has excellent hands.

Put him around the net, and he'll know how to deflect pucks and find holes in a goalie. His vision, skill and finesse are why he's regarded as such an all-around playmaker.

In Tuesday's win, Patrick found immediate success with the first power-play group. Making his way to the middle, Patrick took a Claude Giroux pass and showed off that touch, adeptly going top shelf as Carey Price went low.

Studying Simmonds' net-front proficiency hasn't hurt, either.

"I watch him every game, he's unbelievable there and good at tipping pucks and making plays," Patrick said. "You learn from just watching every day."

Building up the kid
With time, Hakstol and the Flyers have allowed for Patrick to become comfortable instead of putting the world on his shoulders from the get-go.

That's part of Patrick's makeup.

"He almost always wants to be comfortable and then he really starts to exert himself," Patrick's uncle, James, said to NBC Sports Philadelphia last June

We're starting to see Patrick let loose.

As the Flyers have gradually upped his opportunity and responsibility, Patrick has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last 12 games after putting up six (two goals, four assists) over his previous 34.

Placing Patrick among the team's best talent on the man advantage will only help with his confidence moving forward, in all situations.

The Flyers' power play entered Friday with the NHL's sixth-best percentage at 21.6.

It'll need more of Patrick — but the Flyers couldn't have asked for a much better start to life without Simmonds over the next two to three weeks.

Streaking Penguins move atop Metro Division

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Streaking Penguins move atop Metro Division

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin each had two goals and an assist and the Pittsburgh Penguins routed the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1 on Friday night for their season-best sixth straight victory.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, Sidney Crosby scored a late goal and Olli Maatta also scored. The Penguins took control with three goals -- two by Kessel -- in a 7:39 span in the second period.

Matt Murray made 27 saves for Pittsburgh, which has won 11 of 13 to overtake idle Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Since the Penguins were shut out by Carolina on Jan. 4, they are 16-3-1.

They were just as busy off the ice, completing a mid-game trade in which they picked up center Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators. As part of the complicated three-team deal, they sent defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Teuvo Teravainen scored and Cam Ward stopped 33 shots for the short-handed Hurricanes, who have gone 0-3-1 during a four-game slide that's keeping them outside the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Wild dominate skidding Rangers for New York sweep
NEW YORK -- Mikael Granlund and Eric Staal each scored twice and Devan Dubnyk made 22 saves in the Minnesota Wild's 4-1 victory over the free-falling New York Rangers on Friday night.

The Wild completed a three-game sweep of New York-area teams after beating the Monday night and New Jersey on Thursday night.

The Rangers lost for the sixth straight time in regulation. New York is 6-17-0 since beating Buffalo in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 (see full recap).

Blackhawks’ Berube dominant in 1st Chicago start
CHICAGO -- Jean-Francois Berube made 42 saves in his first start for Chicago to help the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Friday night.

Defenseman Jan Rutta, activated from injured reserve Friday, and Nick Schmaltz scored, and Artem Anisimov added an empty-netter with 30.5 seconds left.

Anthony Duclair had two assists for the Blackhawks. They won their second straight and third in four games following an eight-game losing streak that dropped them to last place in the Central Division.

Berube lost a bid for this first NHL shutout when Timo Meier scored his 15th goal on a screened shot with 7:51 left in the third period.

Martin Jones stopped 33 shots for the Sharks, coming off a 7-1 loss at Nashville on Thursday night (see full recap).