Flyers

Flyers explode for 6 even-strength goals in crucial win over Sabres

Flyers explode for 6 even-strength goals in crucial win over Sabres

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Power plays have propelled the Flyers to most of their victories this season. On Tuesday night, they flexed their even-strength muscle.

The Flyers scored all of their goals in 5-on-5 situations in a 6-3 victory over the Sabres (see Instant Replay). It was the third six-goal game of the season for the Flyers, and the first time they scored that many goals at even strength.

Entering Tuesday night, the Flyers had been outscored 127-91 in 5-on-5 situations and had scored 69 percent of their goals at even strength, the lowest rate in the NHL.

What did the Flyers do differently against the Sabres?

"I wouldn't be able to put my finger on it," captain Claude Giroux said. "I think we've been playing well 5-on-5. We're not changing anything. We're playing the same. We're just getting the results now. The pucks are going in and we are getting traffic and our goals are around the net."

"Tonight shows what we're capable of 5-on-5," said rookie Travis Konecny, who had a goal and an assist in the third period in his second game back after missing nine with knee and ankle injuries. "We moved the puck well and we just stuck to our game."

In dominating at even strength, the Flyers made up for a lackluster special teams performance. They went scoreless on three early power plays and are now 0 for 13 with the man advantage over the past three games. Meanwhile, the Sabres needed only 18 seconds of power-play time to score their first two goals.

But after successfully killing a penalty midway through the second period, the Flyers took control of the game, scoring four goals over the next 15 minutes (see feature highlight).

"We won a lot of battles and cycled the puck down low hard," said Sean Couturier, who tallied two assists. "We kind of beat guys down low and brought the puck to the net hard after so it's a little different and it paid off tonight."

Defensemen Radko Gudas and Michael Del Zotto were on the ice for five of the Flyers' six goals. Gudas had a goal and two assists for his first three-point night of the season and first multi-point game since Nov. 17. Del Zotto assisted on two goals for his first multi-point game of the season. Both had season-high plus-five ratings.

"These nights don't come for me very often," Gudas said. "If I can contribute for the team, it's very fun for me and it makes the game extra special."

Giroux scored for the first time in 13 games when he knocked in a rebound of Del Zotto's shot from the point late in the second period to give the Flyers a 4-2 lead.

"It's good to see him score, but I think he could have buried one the last couple of games," Gudas said. "The bounces just didn't go his way."

Matt Read, Jordan Weal and Chris VandeVelde also scored for the Flyers. Ten different players had points.

"It's a boost for the confidence," Couturier said. "Everyone contributing, we've got all four lines rolling and that's what we need the rest of the year if we want to make the playoffs."

The Flyers have now earned seven points over their last four games. With 70 points on the season, they remain three behind the Islanders for the final wild-card spot. They are one point behind Toronto, which they visit on Thursday.

"This week is definitely the biggest week of the year to date," Konecny said. "I'm sure there will be more of these as we go through the end of the season here. It's important and it's big that we're getting wins like that and we're starting to play our game."

Sean Couturier pulls a Chris Pronger as Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins

Sean Couturier pulls a Chris Pronger as Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins

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PITTSBURGH — Whatever qualifies as the writing on the wall should probably be ignored when it comes to Flyers hockey.

A team that was humiliated and booed off home ice after it was outscored 10-1 in Games 3 and 4 had just about everything working against it during Friday night’s elimination game in Pittsburgh.

The eulogy had been drafted and all it needed was Sidney Crosby’s finishing touches in front of a sellout crowd of screaming, yellow towel-waving fans. The Penguins were ready to bury the bodies and move on to the next round.

“There’s a lot of commotions,” Sean Couturier said. “When s--- hits the fan and things start not going our way, you've got to kind of focus and stick together.”

Couturier was the catalyst in Friday’s 4-2 Game 5 victory (see observations). The Flyers' center knew not long after the morning skate, that regardless of his health, he was determined to play. Claude Giroux even conjured up the memory of an old teammate as additional incentive.

“I told him the story of (Chris) Pronger in Game 6 in Buffalo (2011), and he surprised us at 3:30 after our naps that he was going to be in,” Giroux said. “Before he went on the ice, I said, ‘You gonna pull a Prongs or what?’ And I told him the story and he texted me right after the morning skate and said, ‘I’m pulling a Prongs.’ So it was pretty funny.” 

Despite playing seven and a half minutes below his playoff average, Couturier gutted out nearly 17 minutes of ice time (nearly seven minutes on the penalty kill alone) and scored the game-winning goal with 1:15 remaining in regulation.

“Coots, what he did, he’s a warrior tonight and obviously our MVP,” Shayne Gostisbehere said. “Just him being out there, it’s huge for us. I think the penalty kill was phenomenal. I think they’re the real reason why he won that game.”

Valtteri Filppula’s shorthanded goal was arguably the turning point with the Penguins threatening to take a two-goal lead late in the second period. While one was left wondering about the Flyers' line combinations, head coach Dave Hakstol trusted Filppula enough to center the top line with Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

It was the 34-year-old center, not Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Giroux, who stepped up offensively in Game 5 with his most productive game as a Flyer, posting a goal and two assists.

“I don’t want to start ranking games and stuff like that, but Fil was good,” Hakstol said. “You've got to do that, especially at playoff time, when injuries are part of it. When your roll changes a little bit, you've got to step forward.”

And before the opening puck drop, it was Michal Neuvirth, not Brian Elliott, who led the team onto the ice. Neuvirth’s last start came in Colorado on March 28 and he hadn’t played a game in net from start to finish in over two months.

His glove save on Crosby inside the final minute sealed the Penguins' fate. 

“He looked great and looked really comfortable in there,” Couturier said. “He had to fight hard for a lot of pucks, and he made some big saves at the end and you can’t ask more from a goalie in the playoffs.”

The Flyers are now 60 minutes (and possibly more) away from forcing a winner-take-all Game 7. 

Two days ago, that was a scenario nobody could draw up.

Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins on Sean Couturier's late goal

Flyers force Game 6 with Penguins on Sean Couturier's late goal

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PITTSBURGH — After sitting out the previous game with a right leg injury, Sean Couturier scored the game-winning goal Friday with 1:15 remaining in regulation during the Flyers’ 4-2 Game 5 victory over the Penguins. The Flyers kept their postseason hopes alive as they cut the series deficit to 3-2.

Making his first start of the series, Michal Neuvirth came up with the save of the game when he robbed Sidney Crosby on a point-blank glove stop with 50 seconds left in the third period. 

Neuvirth denied 30 shots in the game.

Claude Giroux opened the scoring with his first goal of the playoff series and his first postseason goal since 2014, which gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead in the first period.

Playing on the top line with Giroux and Couturier for the first time this season, Valtteri Filppula scored his first goal in his last 16 playoff games that tied the game at 2-2 late in the second. Filppula had a three-point night with a goal and two assists.

Matt Read sealed the win with an empty-netter. 

Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust added goals for the Penguins.

Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday in Philadelphia (3 p.m./NBC).

• Despite suiting up and providing a gutsy effort, Couturier appeared to labor early while dealing with his leg injury. Early on, he didn’t have much power behind his shot and didn’t have much of a skating burst as he relied more on solid positional play. However, he seemed to get better as the game moved along. 

Apparently Couturier wasn’t healthy enough to play on the top line or on the No. 1 power-play unit, but he did receive his typical workload on the penalty kill.

• After the Flyers bottled up the Penguins in the first period, Pittsburgh adjusted its attack in the second. That led to easier offensive zone entries and a longer sustained attack in the Flyers’ zone. 

The Pens’ third line capitalized against the Flyers’ fourth line as Rust broke loose from Read and no one picked him up on the backside wraparound.

The Flyers were also held without a shot over 11½ of the second period. Offensive zone time was 4:10 for Pittsburgh to 45 seconds for the Flyers in the second period.

• Neuvirth appeared to have the post covered, but apparently Rust was still able to pop it up and over the goalie’s blade. Regardless, a bad goal. 

Later in the second period, Neuvirth allowed another goal that he should have stopped as Guentzel snapped a shot that slipped between his legs. 

Overall, Neuvirth made some key saves early and on the Penguins’ power play to offset the goals.

• Regardless of the outcome, the Flyers gave Pittsburgh their most physical effort in this seres. They battled for loose pucks and made some of the Pens’ most skilled players, primarily Evgeni Malkin, fight for their possessions. 

Brandon Manning got in Malkin’s face and Radko Gudas came to the defense of Giroux when he fought Jamie Oleksiak after his incidental contact.    

• Despite some concerns that Filppula couldn’t handle the responsibilities as a top-line center, No. 51 was arguably one of the Flyers’ best forwards. Filppula scored shorthanded, played a near perfect first period and provided solid defensive play. He also led the Flyers with four shots on goal.