Flyers

'Special play' by Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux highlights Flyers' 4th straight win

'Special play' by Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux highlights Flyers' 4th straight win

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The entire play was a thing of beauty.  

The only debate was which part was prettier: Claude Giroux’s pass or Sean Couturier’s shot?

“I don’t know," Couturier said. "Ask him and see what he thinks."

“It’s a pretty special play to be able to get that puck into open ice to let Coots skate onto it,” head coach Dave Hakstol said.

After Couturier won a faceoff in the defensive zone, the puck eventually swung towards the far boards in the neutral zone. Giroux delivered a backhand pass between his legs and the legs of Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev before Couturier chased it down and uncorked a perfectly placed shot that found the top-right portion of the net (see highlights).

“The puck was rolling so I just shot as hard as I could,” Couturier said. 

"I saw Coots had a foot race and usually he doesn’t beat the other guy, but he was able to beat him there,” Giroux said half-jokingly. “He’s been playing great hockey and it’s fun to be on his line.

“It’s that kind of play that you can’t really describe. I’ll put it somewhere where he might be able to get it."

Couturier’s game-winner with 2:55 remaining in regulation Tuesday was part of the Flyers' three-goal third-period outburst on the way to a 4-2 win (see observations). It was the team's fourth consecutive victory, making it the first time since February 2014 the Flyers have strung together four straight wins in regulation, improving their record to 12-11-7.

The Flyers also snapped a six-game winless streak at the Wells Fargo Center dating back to Nov. 9.

“The last three games before this one, we had the lead and everybody bought in on how we wanted to play to keep the lead, and now we had a different test,” Giroux said. “We’re down a goal and guys just have a feeling in the room that we’re going to come back. It’s a good feeling right now.”

The Couturier-Giroux combination got the Flyers on the board in the opening period when Couturier won the draw in the offensive zone after sliding the puck behind him and Giroux finished with a one-time blast that beat Frederik Andersen.

“We switch around and try different things offensively,” Couturier said. “Having him on the right side there, G is ready for a one-timer if I win it and lucky enough the puck ended up right on his tape.”

Not only did the Flyers have a pair of first-rounders on their top line, Hakstol also elected to pair fellow first-round picks Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny on the team’s fourth line. Together with Taylor Leier they brought an element of speed and energy that led to the Flyers' game-tying tally in the third period when Konecny’s shot grazed off two Maple Leafs for just his second goal in his last 20 games.

“It was definitely part of our game plan to outskate their D and get in there,” Konecny said. “As a unit of three, we know we can cheat a little bit and get in on the forecheck because we know we can get back and defend in the right spots, so yeah, we were on top of them.”

“You guys can label them whatever you want,” Hakstol said. “They’re just one of our lines. We thought that line combination made sense with the speed and pace that all three of those guys play at. It’s one small tweak to our lineup that we made coming off the road trip out west.”

The Maple Leafs came into the game a little short on star power with top center Auston Matthews day to day with an upper-body injury. However, it hadn’t affected the Leafs in previous games as Toronto had a 5-0 record in contests Matthews had missed. Head coach Mike Babcock believed Tuesday night’s game was more of a missed opportunity.

“To me, we gifted two goals,” Babcock said. “The one tough play the goalie touched the goal and then the play where they come in, we are above those. To me, you can’t do that.”

The Flyers took down the Maple Leafs for the second time this season. They’ll meet one more time on Jan. 18 at the Wells Fargo Center.

Seguin nets OT winner for Stars

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USA Today Images

Seguin nets OT winner for Stars

BOSTON — Tyler Seguin made a move at the left circle to get past one defender, then skated into the slot as the other two Bruins went to the ice.

He swooped wide to Anton Khudobin's glove side, inducing the goalie to leave his skates as well, and then flipped the puck into the net for the game-winner.

"I feel like everyone was just sliding at me, and the whole time I wanted to pass," Seguin said after his goal with a delayed penalty man-advantage gave the Dallas Stars a 3-2 victory over Boston on Monday.

"I was just kind of looking for the right play and just kept holding it," the former Bruins first-round draft pick said. "I just kind of shot it, and luckily, it went in."

Stephen Johns and Alexander Radulov also scored for Dallas, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 30 shots (see full recap).

Tavares' 2nd goal lifts Islanders past Canadiens in OT
MONTREAL — John Tavares scored his second goal of the game 1:51 into overtime to lift the New York Islanders to a 5-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

Mathew Barzal, coming off his second five-point game of the season, had a goal and two assists to keep up his scoring binge for New York. Anthony Beauvillier and Adam Pelech also scored to help the Islanders win their third straight after a season-high five-game losing streak, and Thomas Greiss finished with a career-high 52 saves.

Nicolas Deslauriers, Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin and Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal, which twice tied the scored after falling behind by two goals. Carey Price stopped 19 shots.

Pelech gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead 2:37 into the second period as he pounced on a loose puck after Barzal's shot was blocked and swept it in fromt eh slot for his first of the season (see full recap).

MacKinnon helps Avs beat Ducks for 7th straight win
DENVER — The save by Jonathan Bernier that sticks out the most was the one where he simply stuck out his stick.

Out of sheer desperation, no less. To thwart what looked to be a sure goal, too. It's just another sign of how well things have been going for the Colorado Avalanche in recent weeks.

Nathan MacKinnon kept up his torrid home scoring with a goal, Bernier turned back 33 shots and the Avalanche beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 on Monday for their seventh straight win.

Matt Nieto and Colin Wilson also scored for the Avs, who are outscoring opponents 29-10 during their longest win streak since the 2005-06 season (see full recap).

Old wounds have healed for Eric Lindros

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AP Images

Old wounds have healed for Eric Lindros

You could say the life of “88” has completed a lifelong figure 8, where you ultimately come back to the point where it all started.  

That starting point for Eric Lindros was sometime at an early age when life was simple, friendships were forming and the game of hockey wasn’t tugging him in a hundred different directions. Not that Lindros feels like a kid now, but clearly he views life rather buoyantly.

He smiles, he laughs, he tells stories and enjoys living essentially burden-free. 

“I’m seeing things from a different perspective,” said Lindros during my visit with him at his new home in the Toronto suburbs. “I think when you’re playing, and for good reason, you’re focused on your game. You live, eat, breathe the sport and the game. You have the blinders on. You might not be aware of what’s going on politically. You might not be aware of what’s going on with some of your friends back home.

“Now, I have no blinders. I’m not restricted. If I choose to look left or choose to look right, I can. It’s a different mindset. It’s a different way of going about it. It’s a whole new world.”

Lindros left Philadelphia unceremoniously sitting out an entire season before he was eventually traded to the New York Rangers in August 2001, and even after he stopped playing six years later, a lot of those old wounds still hadn’t healed and the relationship between himself and the organization was scarred. A once tight relationship with former Flyers GM Bobby Clarke was seemingly frayed beyond repair.

The 2012 Winter Classic alumni game at Citizens Bank Park was the first step in the rehabilitation between a stubbornly proud organization and its franchise center the city once cherished. Then came Lindros’ induction into the Flyers Wall of Fame in 2014, his 2016 induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame and now, the latest culmination is the retirement of his legendary No. 88 along with other events surrounding the former superstar. 

There’s now a renewed sense that Philadelphia will always be Lindros’ hockey home.  

“Listen, hockey was great for a long time and where I could give the most was in Philly. From start to finish, I never played as well anywhere else. I really enjoyed it. There’s ups and downs with everything that you do, but overall I truly enjoyed playing there,” Lindros said.

“Eric doesn’t have a home,” Clarke told me in 2011 prior to the Winter Classic alumni game. “Eric needs a home and the Flyers are his home.”
 
Of course, it’s not exactly a home surrounded by a white picket fence, but rather one that had a fence that needed to be mended. Retirement for Lindros and Clarke, who both coincidentally stepped down as player and executive in 2007, helped gain perspective and patch some damaged feelings. 

“We see each other at all these events and Bob’s been very nice," Lindros said. “We can joke around. What’s happened, happened. Let’s move forward and go on.”

Eric has done that while also discovering why the present should be cherished so much more than what has transpired in the past. Whenever Lindros spends time at alumni functions, he’s easily immersed in the aura surrounding Bernie Parent and how it can easily rub off on him. 
   
“What a fun-loving spirit. He gets it,” Lindros said of Parent. “You know where some people have that vibe and you want to be in the room with him. He’s got a gift. Bernie’s a terrific, terrific man. He’s got to get me out on the boat.” 

After Thursday's ceremony prior to the Flyers' game against Lindros' hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, Lindros and Parent can hang together all they want, at least, in the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center.

However, Lindros doesn’t need those types of reminders. Nowhere in his brand-new home will you find any connection between himself and his playing days — no photos on the wall, no replica of the Hart Trophy he won in 1995 and no sign of his Olympic gold medal. Nor does Lindros believe his career was any more distinguishable from that of his wife Kina Lamarche, who was a very successful businesswoman.  

As you enter the basement, there’s a painting of Jackie Robinson sliding into home plate. Turn the corner and down the hall you’ll find a newly-installed locker room and a synthetic ice surface that currently serves as a playroom for his three kids: Carl Pierre, Sophie and Ryan. This is Eric Lindros now, a man with a greater purpose in life.   

“Same way my dad was with me,” Lindros said. “My dad took a lot of heat for looking out for me and representing me and my brother. People would be lucky to have my dad as a representative. I’m very lucky to come from where I did. I got big shoes to fill. I’m around the house quite a bit now. I got lucky. I really did. I don’t think it could have worked out better.”