Flyers

Pressure-free Flyers win 2nd straight behind secondary scoring

Pressure-free Flyers win 2nd straight behind secondary scoring

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EDMONTON, Alberta — The last time the Flyers won back-to-back road games came nearly a full calendar year ago last season in New York.

Now, they’ve strung together consecutive victories in Western Canada — which has been the perfect getaway following a 10-game winless streak — by playing simple, basic road hockey.

“Yeah, we talked about that. These aren’t our fans out here. We don’t have to entertain them,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “We've just got to come away with the two points. We’re playing that good road-style hockey when you have nothing, you've got to get it in deep and live to fight another day, and I think our guys are really buying into that right now.”

The Flyers on Wednesday night completed a season sweep of the Oilers, winning, 4-2, at Rogers Place, and they finally received some secondary scoring from some unlikely contributors (see observations).

“This is a real solid road win,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought from start to finish, this was a real good way to follow up a good win in Calgary. I just thought all parts of our game were pretty good tonight.”

Jordan Weal chipped in with a power-play goal on a perfectly executed tic-tac-toe play that started with Claude Giroux’s slap pass to Sean Couturier, who then found Weal stationed in front of the crease for the tap-in goal. Weal had taken Wayne Simmonds' spot momentarily with the other members on the top power-play unit.

“It’s been a long time coming," Weal, who scored his first goal in his last 13 games, said. “I think Simmonds had something with his skate. I just jumped out. It’s nice when you can get out with special players like that. Coots made a helluva play to get it to me.” 

Dale Weise scored his first goal in a month taking a feed from Claude Giroux, who outraced the defense to a loose puck in setting up Weise (see highlights).

“It definitely feels good,” Weise said. “I’ve really liked the way we’ve played the last two games. We made some adjustments throughout our neutral zone and really clogging teams up. They’re not coming with as much speed and we’re getting out of the zone a little cleaner.”

More importantly, Weal’s goal came about five minutes after the Oilers jumped on the board first with a shorthanded tally when Connor McDavid stripped Couturier of the puck and led a 2-on-1 the other way, resulting in Leon Draisaitl’s goal that gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead.

Outside of McDavid’s assist, the Flyers executed textbook defense against the Oilers' superstar, much like they did in the game in Philadelphia, holding him to just one shot which came late in the third period.

“That’s what he does — he builds up that speed and catches you flat-footed," Elliott said. “Our guys did a [good] job to limit him and keep him to the outside there. He didn’t really get a grade-A shot off. Hats off to the guys in front of me, for sure.”

“Our forecheck was really good tonight in the neutral zone,” Weal said. “We were a five-man group. We were all connected. If you beat one guy, there’s a couple other guys there to support. Whenever their skill guys tried to cut to the middle, I thought we had good back pressure and they weren’t able to make plays they wanted to.”

Jakub Voracek and Simmonds accounted for 16 of the Flyers' 33 shots on goal, and it was Simmonds' last shot on an empty net that sealed the game in the final minute.

Elliott stopped 24 shots and he’s expected to play on back-to-back nights after Michal Neuvirth was placed on injured reserve Wednesday morning (see story).

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics

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Jakub Voracek had dead aim, at least that’s what the score sheet confirmed Tuesday following the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens (see observations).

Two shots on net. Two shots that found a way past Carey Price.

Even though the NHL’s assist leader has more shots on net than Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Voracek hears the voices that say he passes up on quality scoring opportunities. 

One prime example came with 30 seconds remaining in the second period. Claude Giroux forced a takeaway and fed Voracek on a 2-on-0 prime scoring chance, but it resulted in Voracek sending a pass back to Giroux when perhaps he should have shot.

“It’s always easier to say we’re over-passing things,” Voracek said. “If you’re on the ice, the actual situation looks completely different. I hear ‘shoot the puck’ every single time I touch it. If I listened to all the people who say shoot the puck, I’d have 500 shots at the end of the season.”

However, Voracek shot the puck when it mattered most. With the Flyers trailing, 2-1, Dave Hakstol pulled goaltender Alex Lyon for the extra attacker Voracek, who took a shot from the top of the right circle that deflected off the stick of Max Pacioretty and past Price for the game-tying goal, and then buried the game-winner 1:26 into overtime (see highlights).

When asked if he caught Price by surprise on the equalizer, Voracek responded: “Me shooting? 100 percent. I just tried to hide behind the D and I got lucky and it went in.”

“It’s one of those nights when you had a lot of really good scoring opportunities and we weren’t able to cash in on them,” Hakstol said. “It’s nice to get a bounce like that with a minute and a half to go to tie it up.”

For the game, the Flyers had 79 shot attempts to Montreal’s 55. Thankfully for the Flyers, No. 79 was Voracek’s game-winner, which came at the end of his 56-second shift. Had he missed the net and been forced to play defense at the other end of the ice, there may not have been much left in the tank.     

“I was pretty tired,” Voracek said. “I’d rather have it like that. If I had missed the net, I’d have to stay on the ice and try to backcheck after, so I got lucky.”

Voracek became the second player in franchise history to score a game-tying goal in the final two minutes of regulation, and then follow it up with an overtime game-winner. Moving forward, the Flyers may need Voracek to shoot and score more with the recent injury to Wayne Simmonds, who will miss the next two to three weeks with an upper-body injury (see story).

To make matters worse, Flyers top-line winger Travis Konecny may have suffered a foot injury after taking a shot off his skate in the opening period (see video). Konecny never left the game but labored playing short, limited shifts, and wasn’t on the ice with Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov to begin the overtime session.

“He obviously got hit with the puck there, but he finished the game and that’s part of the game,” Hakstol said. “He was obviously sore through the rest of the game, but I give him credit, he continued to battle through to do everything that he could.”

Less than 24 hours after the Flyers acquired Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings to solidify the goaltending position, Alex Lyon turned in another solid effort with 25 saves on 27 shots, beating perennial All-Stars Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price in back-to-back victories.

“Yeah, it’s cool obviously to play against those guys,” Lyon said. “You watch them and you try to model your game after them. Obviously, they’re fantastic. In the same breath, you've got to go out there and say, ‘I’m coming out here to be better than you today.’”  

“It’s always nice to have some clarity,” Hakstol said. “I think Alex said it best after the game in New York the other day — it’s an ever-changing business. You just have to be ready and prepared for what the next day brings. He pretty much lived by his words.”

Notables
• Simmonds' streak of 223 consecutive games played ended Tuesday night. It marked the first game Simmonds has missed dating back to April 11, 2015.

• For the third straight game, the Flyers weren’t forced to utilize their penalty kill at any point, becoming the second team in NHL history to go three games without allowing a power-play opportunity.

• Forward Oskar Lindblom made his NHL debut Tuesday night, replacing the injured Simmonds in the Flyers' lineup. Lindblom finished the game with 15:11 of ice time and one shot on net.  

Blue Jackets snap skid on rare Harrington goal

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Blue Jackets snap skid on rare Harrington goal

NEWARK, N.J. -- Defenseman Scott Harrington broke a second-period tie with his second goal of the season, and the slumping Columbus Blue Jackets snapped a three-game losing streak and ended the New Jersey Devils' four-game winning streak with a 2-1 decision on Tuesday night.

Boone Jenner also scored as the Blue Jackets moved into the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference with 65 points, one ahead of Carolina and the Islanders. Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves in helping the Blue Jackets win for the fifth time in 15 games (5-9-2).

Taylor Hall scored for the Devils to extend his point-scoring streak to 12 games, tying David Pastrnak of the Bruins for the league-high this season. He also pushed his personal point-scoring streak to 19 games. He missed three games with a thumb injury, so the league does not consider that to be part of his current streak.

Keith Kinkaid had 17 saves for New Jersey, which holds the first wild-card spot in the conference (see full recap).

Point helps Lightning beat Capitals in showdown
WASHINGTON -- Brayden Point scored two first-period goals, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots to earn his NHL-leading 35th victory and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 Tuesday night in a matchup between division leaders.

Chris Kunitz also scored in the opening period, which ended with Tampa Bay up 3-0. That was enough of a cushion for Vasilevskiy, an All-Star who came in with a 2.34 goals-against average.

After Alex Ovechkin notched his NHL-high 36th goal for Washington to make it 3-2 at 11:02 of the third period, Nikita Kucherov clinched it with a breakaway goal with 7:02 remaining.

The victory improved Tampa Bay's NHL-best record to 40-17-3 and kept the Lightning ahead of surging Boston in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.

Lars Eller scored a power-play goal for the Capitals, who lead Pittsburgh by one point in the Metropolitan Division (see full recap).

Andersen makes 40 saves in Maple Leafs’ shutout
TORONTO -- Frederik Andersen made 40 saves and James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal as the surging Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Florida Panthers 1-0 on Tuesday night.

The shutout was Andersen's career-best fifth of the season. The 28-year-old goalie has reached 30 wins for the third time.

Toronto (37-20-5) has won 11 of 12 and improved to 14-4-2 since Jan. 4.

The Panthers (26-25-6) have dropped back-to-back games after opening their five-game road trip with three straight wins. Florida entered the night six points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Florida threatened in the third with goaltender Roberto Luongo pulled for an extra attacker, but Andersen managed to thwart the Panthers' best chance -- a point shot from Keith Yandle with 23 seconds remaining.

Luongo stopped 30 shots in the loss (see full recap).