Flyers-Capitals 5 things: All cards stacked heavily against Flyers

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: All cards stacked heavily against Flyers

Flyers (30-26-7) at Capitals (43-13-7)
7:30 p.m. on CSN, and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 7

The Flyers take their two-game winning streak to the nation's capital where they face the NHL-leading Washington Capitals on Saturday night at the Verizon Center.

Here are five things to know for the game.

1. Scene of the crime
The Flyers return to the arena where they were embarrassed before their NHL mandated bye week.

Back on Jan. 15, the Capitals bombarded the Flyers with four goals in five minutes of the third period to turn a competitive 1-0 game into a 5-0 laugher.

It sent the Flyers off into the break with a nasty taste in their mouths.

And they still have it.

"When a team beats you up like that, it doesn't matter who it is, it's in the back of your mind," Brandon Manning said Friday. "It even goes back to last year in the playoffs."

2. Added ammunition
As if the Capitals weren't loaded enough, they went out and acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the Blues at the trade deadline.

The 2015 All-Star joins the league's stoutest defense and brings 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) to the table, tied for the fifth most among NHL blueliners.

So, yes, Washington just got better.

The Capitals are 23-4-2 since New Year's Eve, a stretch in which they've scored 117 markers and yielded 58, a goal differential of plus-59.

Oh, and they're also riding a franchise-record 14-game home winning streak.

3. Net gain?
Steve Mason said there were no contract talks with the Flyers leading up to the deadline. The team then went out and re-signed Michal Neuvirth to a multi-year extension.

Both were set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Neuvirth no longer is, while his goalie partner looks destined for the market.

Maybe this was the motivation Mason needed for the remainder of the 2016-17 season. A day after the deadline passed, the 28-year-old delivered 39 saves in a 2-1 shootout win over the Panthers.

Mason, who is 2-0-0 with 72 saves on 73 shots his last two games, will receive his third straight start on Saturday.

"I didn't really plan on negotiating until the summer," Mason said Friday. "And this summer, I'll be a free agent. I'm not sure I'm in their plans here.

"For me, my job is to get this team in the playoffs and that's my sole focus right now. If I can finish strong here, summertime will take care of itself."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Valtteri Filppula had a very positive and impactful Flyers debut. He worked well with Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn. Let's see if he can be a difference-maker against high-powered Washington.

Capitals: Alex Ovechkin is pointless over his past four games, tied for his longest skid of the season. You know that won't continue through Saturday on home ice, so expect a bang from the big Russian.

5. This and that
• Mason is 9-6-2 with a 2.82 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 18 career games against the Capitals.

• Washington goalie Braden Holtby is 33-8-5 with a 1.91 goals-against average and eight shutouts -- both best in the NHL.

Travis Konecny will return to the lineup after missing nine games with an ankle and knee injury.

• Capitals forward T.J. Oshie will be back in the lineup after missing four games with an upper-body injury.

Stars score 7 goals in win over Sabres

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


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.


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.