Flyers

Hagg nets 1st goal as Flyers hone killer instinct

Hagg nets 1st goal as Flyers hone killer instinct

BOX SCORE

He’s been hitting anything that moves all season. However, for the first time Wednesday night, Robert Hagg finally struck the most elusive target on his hit list.

The back of the net.

Coming into the Flyers’ game with the Red Wings, Hagg had attempted 79 shots - 37 of those were saved and the other 42 hit the opponent’s body or just missed everything altogether.

“It’s fun, especially with a win,” Hagg said following the Flyers’ 4-3 victory over the Red Wings (see observations). “I was just closing my eyes and hoping for the best. When I looked up and saw the puck go in, there was a lot of emotion coming out. I had few chances earlier this season, so to see that one go in feels pretty damn good.”

While Hagg may have wondered when that first goal would eventually go his way, goaltender Brian Elliott started to sense something different in the practices leading up to this game.

“Actually, the last couple of days I’ve noticed his shot has had a little more zip on it,” Elliott said. “It doesn’t go unnoticed on my end, but that was awesome.

“You saw up and down on the bench the guys celebrating really hard for that one. When a guy with his kind of grit brings it every night and takes the cream in the corner, it’s awesome to see those type of guys get goals.”

Hagg’s second-period, game-tying goal came just two minutes after the Red Wings had taken a 3-2 lead. The marker allowed the Flyers to make a strong third-period push against a Detroit team that had played the night before.

“It’s kinda funny,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He had to answer a bunch of questions about not scoring goals over the past couple of days. I wished you guys would have asked him about it a month or two ago, but his game has been the same as its been over the last month, month and a half.”

Hagg has been a defensive staple since earning his roster spot straight out of training camp. He hasn’t missed a game or a chance to nail an opponent. Hagg’s 117 hits rank second in the NHL, while he’s also helped stabilize the Flyers’ second defense pairing in his tandem with Shayne Gostisbehere.

Perhaps what made the night complete for Hagg was his late-game assignment with the Flyers clinging to a third-period lead. Throughout the final period, Hagg was matched up against fellow Swede and Red Wings captain, Henrik Zetterberg, who Hagg admired while learning the game of hockey in Uppsala, Sweden.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Hagg said. “When I grew up, he was a big star over here. To get a chance to play against him was pretty awesome.”  

“That’s a matchup we changed as we went through the game,” Hakstol said. “That wasn’t our initial matchup on the back end, but those two (Hagg and Gostisbehere), as we went into the middle part of the game we made that change.”

Hagg and the Flyers were able to offset another sluggish, inconsistent first period with a tightly-played, defensive-minded third period when they limited the Red Wings to just four shots on net. Locking down leads over the past few weeks has contributed to the Flyers’ turnaround, which has allowed the team to go from dropping 10 straight to now having won seven of the last eight games.

“You saw the guys putting their bodies on the line,” Elliott said. “Gudy (Radko Gudas) probably had more stops than I did tonight. Provy (Ivan Provorov) took one in the second period that looked like it took him down a little bit. Putting their bodies on the line, and we know that these points are big. Every little play means a lot, especially when you’re trying to close out games in the third period.”

Stars score 7 goals in win over Sabres

ap-dallas-stars-celebration.jpg
AP Images

Stars score 7 goals in win over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn caught one of his teammates reaching for an extra chicken wing in the locker room after Saturday's game.

"Easy," Benn said. "We're only on game 48."

The Stars continued their midseason push into playoff positioning by closing out a four-game road trip with a 7-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

Mattias Janmark had two goals and an assist, Esa Lindell added a goal and two assists, Jamie Benn and Radek Faksa each had a goal and an assist, and Remi Elle also scored for the Stars, who return home after going 3-0-1 on the road.

"It's a battle every game and every day in this league," said Benn, who extended his point streak to seven games. "It seems we've been playing pretty good hockey as of late and I think we are still only seventh in the conference."

The Stars regrouped from a 2-1 shootout loss in Columbus on Thursday night to match their season-high scoring total (see full recap).

Jets snap Flames' 7-game winning streak with shootout win
CALGARY, Alberta — Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler scored in the shootout and the Winnipeg Jets beat Calgary 2-1 Saturday, snapping the Flames' seven-game winning streak.

Little opened the shootout with a wrist shot inside the post and past Mike Smith. After Mark Jankowski and Sean Monahan were stopped by Connor Hellebuyck and Smith stopped Patrik Laine, Wheeler clinched it on a deke to his forehand.

Mathieu Perreault scored in regulation for Winnipeg, which improved to 7-2-1 in its last 10. TJ Brodie scored for Calgary.

Hellebuyck had 30 saves for the Jets and Smith stopped 33 shots in defeat (see full recap).

Pastrnak scores twices as Bruins continue dominance over Habs
MONTREAL  — David Pastrnak scored twice and set up another goal to help the Boston Bruins beat Montreal 4-1 on Saturday night, their third win in eight days against the Canadiens.

Torey Krug had a goal and two assists and Riley Nash added an empty-netter for Boston, which is 12-0-4 in its past 16 games.

Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal, which ended a stretch of five games in eight days since their midseason break at 1-2-2. The Canadiens were coming off a 3-1 win Friday night in Washington.

Pacioretty got his seventh goal in seven games 11:29 into the second period. Paul Byron lost the puck, stripped it back from Charlie McAvoy from behind and then slipped a backhand pass to Pacioretty on a 2-on-1 (see full recap).

Avalance beat Rangers for 9th straight win
DENVER — The Colorado Avalanche have gone from pushover to powerhouse in less than a season, and their recent streak is evoking memories of past glory.

Nathan MacKinnon, Erik Johnson and Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist each, Jonathan Bernier made 27 saves and the streaking Avalanche beat the New York Rangers 3-1 on Saturday for their ninth straight win.

The Avalanche have won eight straight at home and haven't lost since Arizona beat them on Dec. 27. Colorado has outscored opponents 37-15 in the last nine games and has not trailed during the winning streak, which has moved the team into playoff position in the Western Conference.

"We can't get comfortable," MacKinnon said. "That is why we are fighting every night because we need these points. It's so tight, the division is so tight." (see full recap).

Provorov, Gostisbehere, oh my for Flyers' opponents

Provorov, Gostisbehere, oh my for Flyers' opponents

BOX SCORE

Ivan Provorov's hockey intelligence is off the charts for a guy who just turned 21 years old a week ago.

When he talks the game, he resembles a player with mounds of NHL experience.

In actuality, he's only 128 games into his professional career.

But it doesn't take Provorov's precociousness to understand what makes him click with Shayne Gostisbehere and how both can be a grueling pain in the opposition's side.

"If we play on offense, they can't score," Provorov said simply.

Bingo.

In a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils, Provorov and Gostisbehere were a two-headed monster, a blue-line duo that can terrorize the competition when it's performing the way it did Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

"We look toward the challenge," Gostisbehere said. "Obviously we're playing against the other teams' top lines and it's a challenge every game, it's the teams' best players. I think as a pair, we just need to keep it simple, pick our spots and it's working."

It more than worked against the Devils.

Provorov scored a goal, played 23:13, was a plus-2 and led the Flyers with six shots on goal and nine total shot attempts. Gostisbehere opened the scoring with a doozy of a primary assist, played 20:09, was a plus-2 and strong in his own zone.

Most ideally, though, when Provorov and Gostisbehere are wreaking havoc in the opposition's zone by keeping their team on the offensive, the Flyers can be awfully tough to beat. 

Saturday was case in point as the Flyers seized a commanding 3-0 lead in the first period to eventually win for the sixth time in the last seven games, creeping to within a point of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.

"Doing the little things and taking care of the puck," Provorov said of the fast start, which has often eluded the Flyers through 46 games thus far. "If we take care of the puck and move it forward, we don't have to play defense and that helps us to create offense and create energy."

It can also limit the counterpart's best unit. In this case, it was the Devils' first line of Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt, New Jersey's top three scorers. The trio was held in check with just a goal and an assist, while each player finished a minus-2.

"It's not just the D-pairing, I think it's a combination of the group of forwards that spent most of the time against that line," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "They did a good job. It's a big challenge, those are good players that have been generating a lot. I thought Provy and Ghost did a good job along with the majority of the time with [Sean Couturier's] line."

When asked about neutralizing the Devils' big boys, Provorov showed that hockey intelligence of his, which belies his age.

"Just take away time and space," he said. "When guys can skate that fast, just try to limit their time, angle them and don't give them time to pick up their head — just be on them hard.

"That whole line is pretty fast, but our main focus was to try and limit their chances and play on offense."

Provorov and Gostisbehere are tied for second among NHL defensemen with nine goals apiece, while Gostisbehere's 33 points are tied for fourth. He recorded his 33rd point off a sparkling play in which he took the puck from his own blue line, skated around Hischier, darted toward the middle and hit a wide-open Travis Konecny for a 1-0 lead 3:29 into the game.

"Honestly, I just knew if I was skating, he was going to find that lane," Konecny said. "Sure enough, I didn't have to move, it just came right to me."

Konecny registered two more points Saturday, giving him nine in his last 10 games, as the Flyers' youth answered the bell against a divisional opponent. And when Provorov and Gostisbehere are driving play, the Flyers are a different animal for a variety of reasons.

"It's good, it's fun to watch, they're both really good with the puck, make good plays and both can score," Valtteri Filppula, who netted the Flyers' other goal, said. "It's definitely fun to see them out there and they get a lot of minutes, too, which is nice."

Goalie Michal Neuvirth, who won his second straight start, quipped: "They don't feel young to me."

They're not looking it.

"I think we understand the game in a similar way," Provorov said. "We move the puck, we understand where we are on the ice all the time, which helps us get out of our zone quick, get through the neutral zone real fast and create something on offense."

Which creates trouble for whomever the Flyers see down the stretch.