Flyers

Scott Laughton credits longtime skating coach Dawn Braid for NHL rebirth

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Scott Laughton credits longtime skating coach Dawn Braid for NHL rebirth

VOORHEES, N.J. — After spending nearly the entire 2016-17 campaign at Lehigh Valley, Flyers center Scott Laughton looks like a whole different player this season. But the demotion and time spent in the minor leagues aren’t the only reasons behind his NHL rebirth.

Laughton also became a far better skater.

Through eight games, Laughton has two goals and one assist with a plus-one rating — hardly the kind of numbers that typically garner a lot of attention. However, the former first-pick is centering a quality fourth line for the Flyers, a grouping that has been strong in its own end while also generating impressive offensive opportunities at the other. Laughton leads the club’s forwards in shorthanded time on ice as well, playing a huge role in a penalty-killing unit that’s managed to ward off all but one of the last 13 power plays it’s faced.

The difference is apparent, and Laughton knows it, too. Some of that comes with age and experience — he’s only 23, with 117 NHL games under his belt. Yet Laughton directs much of the credit for his growth on the ice to his longtime skating coach, Dawn Braid.

“Worked with the same skating coach I have been for the last six, seven years,” Laughton said Friday of his offseason regimen. “She actually just got hired with Arizona. She was a skating coach there.

“I've been working with her. I did a lot of tight edges, a lot of tight work, and I did a lot of crossovers to try and develop speed. I think everything kind of comes together though — your off-ice training combined with that — and just getting stronger as I get older. I'm getting older and coming into my body.”

A former figure skater, Braid was named the Coyotes' skating coach in August 2016, become the NHL’s first full-time female coach in the process. From the sound of things, the hiring was long overdue.

Braid had built a following around the league, and from players vastly more acclaimed than Laughton.

“She works with (Islanders center and four-time All-Star) John Tavares and helped him,” Laughton said. “She's got (Stars center Jason Spezza). She's got a bunch of guys. A lot of guys go to her. She's like Barb Underhill in Toronto. They were partners.

“I've been skating with her since I was in my first year of juniors, so I really like her.”

It sounds like Laughton is getting an education in more than how to be better on his skates. As Braid has worked with more NHL stars and teams, she begins teaching more than just being quicker and more fluid on the ice.

There are applicable hockey lessons and techniques involved in their training.

“I think she's really incorporated puck work,” Laughton said. “It used to be no pucks. She watches game film and things like that, and sees what's going on in the game and tries to help you that way.”

Whatever Laughton is doing, it appears to be working. A year ago, he couldn’t crack the Flyers’ main roster, managing to appear in just two games. He finished with 19 goals, 20 assists and a plus-17 rating in 60 games for the Phantoms in 2016-17, with an additional two goals and one assist in five playoff tilts. Despite finishing with a 39-33-10 record and missing the postseason, the big club never felt as though Laughton was needed.

It’s early into the 17-18 campaign, but it’s already difficult to imagine this Flyers squad without Laughton’s contributions — so, give the assist to Baird on this one.

Still quiet outside top line as Flyers give one away to Jets

Still quiet outside top line as Flyers give one away to Jets

BOX SCORE

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Now that the Flyers have seemingly rediscovered their scoring touch, they must next find a way to win a game again.

Mark Scheifele provided the game-tying goal with 49 seconds remaining in regulation Thursday after the Flyers had led for nearly 57 minutes before finally losing to the Jets, 3-2, in a shootout (see observations).

The defeat marks the Flyers' first three-game losing streak of the season.

“It’s something that hurts," Jakub Voracek said. "We were up 2-1 with a minute left. That’s a game you have to control and find a way to win. I think in overtime we were better. We had a lot of scoring chances, but again, it hurts."

Scheifele’s goal came after the Jets had pulled goaltender Connor Hellebuyck for the extra attacker. The Jets' No. 1 center worked a nice play with forward Blake Wheeler, as he sneaked his way between four Flyers and snapped a shot over the shoulder of Brian Elliott (see highlights).

“We had some tired coverage, and part of that is we had a couple of forwards that were tired on that coverage play and we had five D that played a lot of minutes through Periods 2 and 3,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s still no excuse. We don’t want to give that goal up obviously, but we played a pretty good road game tonight.”

Voracek gave the Flyers their initial lead just 2:27 into the game when he jumped on Sean Couturier’s rebound shot and wristed it past Hellebuyck for the 1-0 advantage. Voracek’s fifth of the season snapped the Flyers' scoreless drought at 158 minutes and 36 seconds. Less than three minutes later, Couturier answered with a rebound goal of his own.

“We knew we were going to score today," Voracek said. "It’s kind of a relief that after two games we scored two quick ones. We couldn’t close it. Too bad for us."

“For sure, it helps mentally,” Couturier said of the goals. “At the same time, we were prepared tonight to come out and it was behind us our last two games. We worked on it Wednesday trying to be more in front of the net, more in front of the goalie. I think we did a better job, for sure.”

The problem with the Flyers' goal scoring is how it continues to be pumped out of the same well. The Flyers' top line has been counted on to score the team’s past five tallies with the last goal from someone not named Claude Giroux, Voracek or Couturier coming in a 5-4 loss to the Avalanche on Nov. 4. 

With the return of rookie Nolan Patrick, Hakstol switched up his second and third lines for a second straight game. Patrick was eased back into the Flyers' lineup and played just 7:32 after sitting out the previous nine games with suspected concussion-related symptoms, centering a line with Dale Weise and Wayne Simmonds.

“I thought his game was good,” Hakstol said. “He didn’t play on the power play, but he was limited in his minutes. I thought he was sharp. He was strong on the puck. For not being in the lineup and coming into a pretty heavy game, I thought he played a pretty good hockey game.”

The Flyers were also forced to play shorthanded with five defensemen after Radko Gudas was assessed a five-minute major for slashing Mathieu Perreault in the back of the head while he dropped to his knees on the ice (see video). Initially, referees Jon McIsaac and Gord Dwyer assessed matching minor penalties to Gudas and Perreault but reconvened shortly after the play was shown on the scoreboard and the crowd collectively gasped in horror over the hit.

Not long afterwards, Gudas was given the major/misconduct penalty and ejected from the game. 

“I’ll assume they didn’t look at video,” Hakstol said. “They have a process they go through. If they have something in question, they huddle up and they make their best judgement. I would absolutely assume they did not have video involved."

The Jets converted 3 of 4 shootout attempts with Scheifele, Patrick Laine and Bryan Little beating Elliott, who was superb once again, but it was Laine’s goal Elliott would like to have back.

“He does [that move] every time. I knew he was doing it and he still scored," Elliott said. "That’s on me. If you look at every tape he does, it’s every shootout. He does the same thing and he still put it in. I don’t know what happened. He hit my stick and it went in.” 

The Flyers picked up a point, but giving one back hurts even more. They’re now 2-4-3 in one-goal games, having dropped their last five by the slightest of margins.

Best of NHL: League-best Lightning spoil Ben Bishop's return

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Best of NHL: League-best Lightning spoil Ben Bishop's return

TAMPA, Fla. -- Steven Stamkos had two goals and two assists, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves to beat his mentor Ben Bishop, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 6-1 Thursday night.

Vasilevskiy was Bishop's backup in Tampa Bay for parts of three seasons until Bishop was dealt to Los Angeles last February. Bishop holds the Lightning career wins record with 131, while Vasilevskiy has gone 26-5-3 since taking over the starting role. This was Bishop's first game against Tampa Bay since the trade.

Stamkos has 10 goals and an NHL-best 35 points after missing most of last season with a lateral meniscus tear.

Mikhail Sergachev, Brayden Point, Jake Dotchin and Nikita Kucherov also scored for the Lightning, who have the NHL's best record at 15-2-2.

Dallas, which went 0-2-1 on a three-city, four-day trip, got a goal from Radek Faksa. Bishop stopped 22 shots (see full recap).
    
Wild use 4 late goals to rally past Predators
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jason Zucker scored with 2:55 left and the Minnesota Wild scored four goals in less than six minutes in the third period to beat the Nashville Predators 6-4 on Thursday night.

Jared Spurgeon scored twice and Eric Staal had a goal and two assists for Minnesota, which won its fourth straight.

On the winner, Mikko Koivu fought off a defenseman into the left corner and centered to Zucker in front. With two defenders nearby, Zucker sent a backhand shot past Pekka Rinne for his eighth goal in five games.

Spurgeon added an empty-net goal. Matt Dumba and Nino Niederreiter also scored.

Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk with a franchise-record shutout streak of 195 minutes, 5 seconds. That ended 49 seconds in when Ryan Johansen converted a pass from Filip Forsberg, the first goal allowed by Dubnyk on 108 shots. He finished with 26 saves.

Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Viktor Arvidsson also scored for Nashville, which lost for the first time in six games (see full recap).

Coyotes battle back for 1st regulation win
MONTREAL -- Derek Stepan and Christian Fischer scored power-play goals in the third period and the Arizona Coyotes rallied to beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 on Thursday night for their first regulation victory of the season.

Brad Richardson, Christian Dvorak and Tobias Rieder also scored for the Coyotes, and Antti Raanta made 33 saves. Arizona snapped a five-game losing streak to improve to 3-15-3.

Brendan Gallagher, Paul Byron, Joe Morrow and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, and Charlie Lindgren stopped 27 shots.

With the Coyotes down 4-3 in the third period, Stepan got Arizona level for the third time in the game with a wrist shot from the crease at 4:54 following a failed clearance by Jordie Benn. Gallagher was in the box for tripping.

Arizona scored again on the power play at 10:10, this time with Weber penalized for slashing, when Brendan Perlini's shot ricocheted off Fischer's stick and in.

Rieder made it 3-3 with 51 seconds left in the second, but Weber answered back 40 seconds later.

The Coyotes scored five goals for the first time this season. They had a combined five goals in their previous four games (see full recap).