'Such a relief' as Flyers put 10-game skid to bed with win over Flames

'Such a relief' as Flyers put 10-game skid to bed with win over Flames


CALGARY, Alberta — Jakub Voracek called it the biggest win of his career dating back to the 2010 IIHF World Championships when the Czech Republic won the gold medal.

“It was such a relief,” Voracek said. “You have no idea. It’s crazy.”

No medals were handed out, but a tremendous weight was lifted off the Flyers' shoulders after snapping a 10-game winless streak, their first victory in nearly a month, by beating the Calgary Flames, 5-2, Monday night at Scotiabank Saddledome (see observations).

“That’s a big streak to end,” goalie Brian Elliott, whose last win came on Nov. 9, said. “In doing it the way we did tonight with punctuation was really good for our group. We've got to take that and harness that and take that to the next game. We've got to enjoy this. We’ve waited a little too long for it.”

The biggest change coming into this game was Dave Hakstol’s decision to move Voracek off the team’s top line and match him with Valtteri Filppula and Michael Raffl. That proved to be a lethal combination as the trio combined for two goals, five assists and a plus-8 rating (see highlights).

“It’s a group that makes sense together, and I think you can credit all three of those guys,” Hakstol said. “I thought they were all very good tonight. Fil played a lot of minutes tonight and he played a real strong game with those two guys on his wing. They seemed to click right away, and they played a real strong game through the 60 minutes.”

Raffl and Voracek connected on a nifty give-and-go goal in the second period to hand the Flyers a 3-1 lead.

“I always like to play with Jake. What’s not to like about it? We’ve been on the same team for five, six years now,” Raffl said. “I’ve played with him for a couple of years so I know what he wants me to do. We talked about it and it was a good start.”

Voracek contributed three assists but was more impressed there was nothing attached to Johnny Gaudreau’s name, as the South Jersey native finished with just two shots, no points and a minus-1 rating.

“For half the game we matched up against the Gaudreau line, and I think we played them pretty well," Voracek said. "When you score on that line and don’t get scored on, it’s always a success. I think we played a real smart hockey game today and it showed.” 

Elliott had been relatively solid through the 10-game winless skid, but coming to Calgary was extra special after his last game at the Saddledome was a terrible memory of losing in a first-round four-game sweep to the Anaheim Ducks. Elliott was pulled in the first period of the series-clinching game.

In his return, Elliott made 43 saves and earned the game’s No. 1 star.

“It was pretty good,” Elliott said. “I got a lot of friends over there but when the puck drops, there’s no friends, and I really wanted that one tonight.”

While the Flames outshot the Flyers by a whopping 45-21 margin, the two teams were actually even with nine chances in the high-danger zone of the ice. A product of that was creating turnovers behind the Flames' net.  

Hakstol not only switched up his lines, but he also altered his system as he employed a 1-2-2 zone for this game that created opportunitistic turnovers for the Flyers.

“It was just a different look for us,” Hakstol said. “We made a couple of slight adjustments tonight. Those things just kind of help you refocus a little bit, but it comes back to what the players have done.”

“We needed to change something up obviously,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “Some little adjustments here and there and I think it worked for us. I think a little more passive works for us and it makes them make plays and we avoid our mistakes.”

The Flyers will now travel to Edmonton, where they take on Connor McDavid and the Oilers, looking to start just their second winning streak of the season after opening up their first homestand with back-to-back wins over the Capitals and Panthers. 

“It’s one game,” Voracek said. “We fully expect to win on Wednesday. We have to play the same way. We have to be ready. It’s another tough matchup again.”

Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

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Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 33 shots for his fifth shutout of the season, Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist, and the Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Florida Panthers 4-0 on Thursday night for their 10th straight win.

Pierre-Luc Dubois had two assists for the Blue Jackets, who improved to 42-28-5 and joined Philadelphia (1984-86) and Pittsburgh (2010-13) as the only NHL franchises to record 10-game win streaks in consecutive seasons.

The shutout was the 24th of Bobrovsky's career and his seventh straight win. Sonny Milano, Seth Jones and Thomas Vanek -- into an empty net -- also scored for Columbus, which moved into a second-place tie in the Metropolitan Division with idle Pittsburgh, each with 89 points.

Florida dropped to 37-28-7. With 10 games left in the season, the Panthers remained a point behind the idle New Jersey Devils for a playoff spot (see full recap).

Maple Leafs top Predators in Matthews’ return
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Auston Matthews had a goal in his return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 10 games and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Thursday night.

The Predators had been 14-0-1 since their previous regulation loss on Feb. 17.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitchell Marner each had a goal and an assist, and William Nylander and Jake Gardiner also scored for Toronto, which has won five of six.

Morgan Rielly had three assists for the Maple Leafs, and Tyler Bozak had two. Frederik Andersen stopped 23 shots.

Viktor Arvidsson and Scott Hartnell scored for Nashville. Pekka Rinne had 23 saves (see full recap).

Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings
DETROIT -- Philipp Grubauer made 39 saves for his third shutout of the season, and Brett Connolly scored the game's only goal on a third-period breakaway to lift the Washington Capitals to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

The Capitals have won six of seven and lead Pittsburgh and Columbus by four points atop the Metropolitan Division as the regular season winds down. Washington has turned increasingly to Grubauer of late after Braden Holtby struggled in February and at the beginning of March. Holtby wasn't available Thursday because of an injury coach Barry Trotz described as a tweak.

The Capitals took the lead with 13:19 remaining in the game after Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet couldn't control the puck near Washington's blue line. Connolly and teammate Jakub Vrana went the other way on a two-man breakaway, and Connolly beat Jimmy Howard with a wrist shot to the glove side. It was his 15th goal of the season.

The Red Wings had a goal called back for goalie interference in the first period -- replays showed Tyler Bertuzzi appearing to make contact with Grubauer in front of the net. Detroit squandered a great opportunity in the second when the Red Wings had a two-man advantage for the full 2:00.

Andreas Athanasiou had a breakaway in the third, but couldn't beat Grubauer. Athanasiou had another chance in the final minutes, but his shot deflected wide as Grubauer tried unsuccessfully to grab it with his glove.

Detroit has lost 11 of 12 (see full recap).

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers


Who can I trust?

That’s the underlying question Dave Hakstol is attempting to answer almost nightly as the Flyers inch their way toward a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was no different in the Flyers' frantic 4-3 win over the Rangers Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

“We were sporadic. The first three or four minutes of the game, we weren’t sharp or crisp,” Hakstol said. “Honestly, we got back on our heels in the last part of the third period. There are things that we obviously have to clean up.”

The cleanup crew Hakstol is looking for must possess a trustworthiness factor that makes each player dependable during crunch time. Against the Rangers, the Flyers' coach was forced to lean heavily on a handful of guys who weren’t even on Hakstol’s roster during the first half of the season.

Matt Read replaced Travis Konecny (who scored two goals) on the top line, and was counted on defensively where Konecny came up short in the previous two periods. Read played 13:52 to Konecny’s 12:29.

“He wasn’t taking care of the puck very well,” Hakstol said of Konecny. “Individuals have got to be better at this time of year and how we manage the puck and the mentality that we’re going to do things with.”

“It’s just part of buying in and doing things for the team” Konecny said. “I have no problem with it. It’s a matter of getting the two points. If that’s the way we’ve got to win, then we’ve got to do that every time.”

The 21-year-old Oskar Lindblom scored the eventual game-winning goal on the opening shift of the third period, and the second-line winger was consistently shifted until the final four minutes of regulation.  

“Everybody’s different. It depends on the player,” Hakstol said. “Oskar is a guy that has come in and fit into the structural part of our game very well if you watch Oskar’s game. He’s just very intelligent in terms of playing within a system. He always finds a way to be on the right side of the puck.”

And then there’s goaltender Alex Lyon, who stepped up following his strong performance in relief of Petr Mrazek Tuesday night in Detroit. 

When the defense in front of him broke down, Lyon answered the call and preserved the Flyers' lead throughout times in the second period and even during a spotty third period.

“I was actually thinking about it before the game today,” Lyon said. “Every game is so different, and you feel different. Circumstances are different, the team is different every day, so I think the best guys are those who can adjust to that, so I try and take a page out of their book.”

And with his 33-save performance, Lyon has put himself in position to start Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.

If there’s a doghouse for those who perform poorly, then consider this to be Hakstol’s safe house. They may not be the Flyers' best guys, but as of now, they’re the reliable ones.

Or as Hakstol is looking for — those who play on the right side of the puck.