Defense provides offensive spark as Flyers top Hurricanes

Defense provides offensive spark as Flyers top Hurricanes


RALEIGH, N.C. — When your penalty-kill units are ranked 26th among 30 teams, the last thing you would expect is to snap a two-game losing skid with a shorthanded goal.
Yet that’s what happened Sunday evening as Brandon Manning scored the Flyers' first shortie of the season to give them a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes at PNC Arena (see Instant Replay).
“Our penalty kill has been doing a good job lately, but we haven’t been getting bounces,” said Manning, who took a breakaway pass from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and beat 'Canes goalie Cam Ward near the circle.
“Belly did a great job winning a puck battle and their forwards were sagging low on our guys. I saw an opportunity.”

Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas and Claude Giroux added tallies for the Flyers.
Sunday's victory completed a stretch of six games in nine days (3-3 record) and came less than 24 hours after Saturday’s wrenching 5-4 loss to the Penguins.
“We wanted to build on the good habits and it’s three of four games where we’re working toward playing a full 60-minute game,” said Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol.
“We played a good hockey game in Montreal, a good game last night and we wanted to come in here and do that again. We knew how critical the two points were.”
It wasn't easy for the Flyers to get up for the 'Canes after an emotional loss to their hated rival from Western Pennsylvania.
“Back to backs are hard and there’s not much atmosphere down in Carolina,” Manning said. “They’re a little harder to get up for. Coming off last night, we had a bit of momentum and something to build off of.”
Michal Neuvirth, who relieved Steve Mason against the Penguins, picked up just his second win of the season. His last? The season opener in Los Angeles.
Neuvirth had a mixed-bag game with 26 saves. He was very sharp as the start, so-so in the second period and sharp again at the finish.
That the Flyers came into play with a 3.89 goals against (ranked 29th) tells you their goaltending has been poor.
“I don’t think I am playing any different but the bounces are not going your way,” Neuvirth said. “Stuff like that. You just have to believe in yourself and your game.
“I came into the game confident and wanted to build on my game last night. I thought I had a good first period. It wasn’t easy to give up three goals. But mentally, I battled hard. It’s a big win for me to grind it out like. I should feel better about myself.”
Neuvirth barely settled into net in the opening minute before having to make two outstanding glove saves – one on Sebastian Aho and the other on Jeff Skinner.
It was a strong opening period for the Flyers with 13 shots. Shayne Gostisbehere gave them a 1-0 lead late in the stanza on the power play with a shot from the left point through traffic that found its way past Ward. It was Ghost’s first power-play goal this season. He had eight during his rookie season.
“I was just trying to keep the puck in real quick,” he said. “They didn't pressure too hard, they went to Jake's (Voracek) side. I had a lane and was just focused on getting by the D, who was in front.”
The 'Canes tied it to open the second period when Neuvirth got distracted trying to push Lee Stempniak out of the paint just as Justin Faulk wristed one under the crossbar.
Radko Gudas gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead, but it didn’t last long as Skinner retied it on a delayed penalty. Then an Ivan Provorov turnover led to Viktor Stalberg’s breakaway goal that gave the 'Canes their first lead of the game at 3-2.
Just as the middle period was about to expire, however, Wayne Simmonds fed Claude Giroux for a blast in the slot to make it 3-3, tying Giroux with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid for the NHL points lead (12).
“I’m more worried about the minuses,” said Giroux, who is minus-7 for the season. “You want to be a good player and need to be responsible offensively and defensively. We got some work to do in there.”
He’s not alone. Twelve other Flyers are in the minus, as well, as they try to climb out of sixth place in the Metro Division.
“They came at us hard and playing back to back with a 5:00 p.m. game, I don’t think I’ve ever done that before,” Giroux said. “Maybe we didn’t have our legs tonight but we played the way we wanted to.”
Besides this being five games over seven days, it was also the Flyers third set of back-to-back games over 16 days. Guess what? They have another set coming up in mid-week - at home Wednesday vs. Detroit and Thursday in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders.
Of a possible 12 points among those back to backs, the Flyers have seven (3-2-1 record).
“It’s a lot of games,” Giroux said. “But it’s a good thing. We’re working on our game a lot. To do that early in the season is pretty good. It’s not the record we want right now but I really believe we are getting better as a team.”

Best of NHL: Penguins blow lead, rally to top Rangers in overtime

USA Today Images

Best of NHL: Penguins blow lead, rally to top Rangers in overtime

NEW YORK -- Sidney Crosby scored the tying goal with less than a minute remaining in regulation, Evgeni Malkin put in the winner 58 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the struggling New York Rangers 5-4 on Tuesday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel and ex-Ranger Carl Hagelin also scored for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who handed New York (1-5-1) its fourth straight loss.

Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh turned the puck over in overtime and Kessel set up Malkin for the game-winning goal. Just before that, the Rangers iced the puck, leading to a faceoff in their zone.

Michael Grabner put New York ahead 4-3 when he and David Desharnais completed a nifty give-and-go at the 8-minute mark of the third period.

Desharnais, Pavel Buchnevich and J.T. Miller scored in a span of 2:30 as the Rangers got three straight goals early in the second to take a 3-2 lead.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray and counterpart Henrik Lundqvist each made 28 saves in the first of four meetings this season between the division rivals (see full recap).

Devils top Lightning in shootout
NEWARK, N.J. -- Kyle Palmieri scored the lone goal in a shootout, lifting the New Jersey Devils to a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

Drew Stafford scored twice in regulation as New Jersey improved to 5-1-0. Palmieri and Brian Gibbons each had a goal in the first period, and Cory Schneider made 33 saves.

Vladimir Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos scored for Tampa Bay, which had its four-game winning streak snapped and fell to 5-1-1.

Kucherov's goal was his eighth in seven games. He has scored at least once in every game this season, and the 24-year-old right wing became the sixth player in modern NHL history to score at least one goal in the first seven games of a season.

Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Ken Hodge and Tony Tanti are the others. Lemieux holds the record with at least one goal in the first 12 games of the 1992-93 season.

Peter Budaj made his first start of the season for the Lightning and had 30 saves (see full recap).

Anderson helps Maple Leafs blank Capitals
WASHINGTON -- Connor Brown scored the game-winning goal in the third period and Frederik Andersen stopped all 30 shots he faced for the shutout as the Toronto Maple Leafs continued their tremendous start by beating the Washington Capitals 2-0 on Tuesday night.

Toronto has won five of its first six games. Washington has now lost two in a row since top defenseman Matt Niskanen went out with a long-term upper-body injury.

After getting a promotion to the third line, Brown picked up his second goal of the season and broke a 0-0 tie with 14:07 left in the third. Brown corralled a rebound of Morgan Rielly's point shot and poked the puck between Braden Holtby's legs.

Holtby made 28 saves but couldn't help as the Capitals' offense couldn't cash in on limited high-quality chances. Nazem Kadri scored an empty-net goal in the final minute (see full recap).

Michal Neuvirth earns his Ric Flair robe as Flyers roll again at home

Michal Neuvirth earns his Ric Flair robe as Flyers roll again at home


Every season the Flyers come up with a unique prop handed down from one player of the game to the next following each home victory.

Tuesday night, it was goaltender Michal Neuvirth who was rewarded with the Ric Flair black and silver feathered robe, made popular by the WWE superstar. Neuvirth’s 40-save performance helped pave the way for the Flyers' 5-1 victory over the Panthers (see observations).

“I think Neuvy gave us some confidence,” Claude Giroux said. “He made some big saves for us. He was solid. We’re happy for him that he played a great game. We were hoping to give him a shutout in the end there. He stood on his head tonight.”   

The robe, hand-tailored by the daughter of Flyers head equipment manager Derek Settlemyre, seems rather appropriate in the manner in which the Flyers have body-slammed their opponents in their first two games at the Wells Fargo Center, outscoring Washington and Florida by a combined score of 13-3.

“I think we have a lot of depth. We can roll all four lines,” said Sean Couturier, one of 10 Flyers to register a point. “Our depth has been really good and we've got to keep it that way.”

“It’s fun when you’re winning and making plays. That’s the biggest thing,” said Shayne Gostisbehere, who scored his first goal of the season on a give-and-go with Wayne Simmonds. “As a team, we’re making a lot of plays and Coach is giving us the leeway to do that, and like you said, it’s fun hockey out there.”

The Panthers could have seized some of the Flyers' early momentum. With roughly 6:45 remaining in the second period, Gostisbehere broke up a potential 2-on-1, which led to Valtteri Filppula’s long stretch pass to Giroux, who was all alone at the Panthers' blue line. Giroux skated in and snapped a shot through Roberto Luongo’s five-hole to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead, when just seconds earlier the Panthers had a chance to cut the Flyers' lead to a single goal.

“It was up-and-down hockey,” Giroux said. “It was fun hockey to play and after we got that first goal, we kind of relaxed and started playing.”

Playing for the first time in 12 days, Neuvirth certainly needed a goal to relax. Not only was he fighting the puck early on, but also a few butterflies.

“When you don’t start for awhile, you start questioning yourself,” Neuvirth said. “I was a little bit more nervous than what I was used to before the game, but I handled it well.” 

Tuesday’s game may not have been predetermined WWE style, but the Flyers certainly followed Dave Hakstol’s script, as they had the Panthers pinned to the ice leading, 4-0, after two periods — scoring three of those goals off the rush (see highlights). Coming into Tuesday’s game, Florida led the NHL averaging 42 shots on net.

“I said it this morning, they’re a dangerous team,” Hakstol said. “They make a lot of plays. They put a lot of pucks to the net. Sometimes a shot chart isn’t everything. If you can defend and get a save when you need it, and then turn around in transition and get after them at the other end of the rink, you can generate some chances and we did that tonight.” 

As Neuvirth walked away for the night, he left the gimmicky robe hanging from his locker room stall.

It’s not exactly a look that would inspire confidence, especially with the words “Nature Boy” written across the back shoulder.

Simmonds update
Simmonds left Tuesday’s game for precautionary reasons with approximately eight minutes remaining in the third period because of a lower-body injury. He’ll be evaluated further over the next day or two.

Simmonds has missed just one game since the beginning of the 2015-16 season.

A point is a point
Defenseman Robert Hagg collected his first NHL point by simply getting in the way. Hagg collected the secondary assist after he blocked Mark Pysyk’s shot that led to a Flyers rush and Gostisbehere’s eventual goal.

“I mean, yeah, I’ll take it,” Hagg said. “It’s not going to say in the newspaper how I made it, so I’ll take it.”

With Hagg's assist, 16 of the Flyers' 19 skaters have recorded at least a point this season. Only Michael Raffl, Radko Gudas and Travis Sanheim have yet to crack the scoresheet.