Flyers' improved defensive effort pays off in win over Canadiens

Flyers' improved defensive effort pays off in win over Canadiens


A couple days after getting their doors blown off by the Hurricanes in Carolina, the Flyers settled into something that usually gets teams right back to winning hockey.
A tight-checking, strong defensive game all-around where the stat of the night isn’t how many turnovers cost you goals but how many goals you prevented by limiting shots.
The Flyers held the Montreal Canadiens to a season-low 16 shots — and fewest allowed by the Flyers, as well — during a 3-1 victory at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday that kickstarted a crucial five-game homestand (see Instant Replay).
“We did a good job for 60 minutes just playing some tight hockey, a solid two-way game where we didn’t give up a whole lot,” Sean Couturier said. “We limited turnovers and had pressure in their end. It’s the type of game we want to do on Saturday [against Los Angeles].”
Couturier’s checking unit with Nick Cousins and Matt Read set the example by holding the Habs' top line to just three shots — two from Max Pacioretty, none from Phillip Danault and one from Alexander Radulov.
They also scored two goals, making their task even sweeter. Read had the game-winner with  a canon shot from the right circle that surely fooled goalie Carey Price. It was his first goal in 27 games and it broke a 1-1 tie at 3:32 of the final period.
Where has that shot been all season?
“All the way around, it was a pretty good play, a speed play,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Reader can shoot the puck.
“Sometimes when the puck is not going in the net, you have a tendency to shoot it less, even. Hopefully, one going in for him and he’s going to get that shooter’s instinct back.”
Also impressive was goalie Michal Neuvirth, who has looked strong in his last two starts.
Nothing Neuvirth could have done on Nikita Nesterov’s point-shot goal 4:51 into the period, as he was completely screened.
What made that play work was Habs defenseman Andrei Markov sealing off Jakub Voracek along the boards, so Alex Galchenyuk could whip the puck across the blue line to Nesterov. Little things like that tend to mean a lot.
Overall, it was a pretty dull, uneventful period for the Flyers, which was an improvement over being outskated and outplayed, which occurred in Carolina on Tuesday.
“This was what we needed because it’s what the back half of the year is going to be like,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We played our worst game of the year in Carolina and needed to atone. Tonight was a good start. 
“We got back to playing the way we were before the [All-Star] break and have to continue to play this way.”
Things get tight this time of year, as teams prep for the playoffs.
“It’s going to go down to the wire, so it’s going to kind of be playoff hockey,” Mark Streit said. “We just need to keep it simple and play north, get pucks in and go to work.
“Once we’re in their end, we can grind them out and create and we had some really good offensive zone time, especially in the second. It tires the other team out if you don’t have to defend. You play in their end and you are so much fresher in the end.”
Neuvirth kept it 1-0 as he made a glove stop on Jacob De La Rose’s breakaway in the second period, and then had a clutch save on Paul Byron in the third and then sealed the post on his follow-up to keep it that way.
“That’s a pretty good team over there,” Neuvirth said. “We didn’t give them much. It felt like we were playing playoff hockey. We played great defensively and waited for our chances.”
His save on De La Rose was critical because the Flyers tied it up late with a power-play goal from Claude Giroux. His shot deflected off Markov’s stick, then off Price’s glove at 17:50 to make it 1-1.
“We went back to playing the way we know we can, we did a good job of battling tonight and playing as a team,” Giroux said.  
“It was a real team win. One of those games where things were clicking, guys were focused and we were sharp.”
In the final period, Read fired a shot that, most times, Price handles easily but not this night.
“Yeah, he got it on a little bit of a knuckler,” Price said. “He put it in a good spot, right in the top corner, it was a really good shot.”

Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

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Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

RALEIGH, N.C. — Taylor Hall scored on a rebound with 22 seconds left in overtime, giving the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

The goal extended Hall's league-best streak of games with a point to 18.

New Jersey had won the first of the teams' four meetings this season on Thursday night to start the Hurricanes' three-game losing streak.

Keith Kinkaid stopped 40 shots for the Devils.

The Devils led 1-0 after a first period in which the Hurricanes outshot them 13-9.

Nico Hischier scored New Jersey's first goal on a power play midway through the first, assisted by Sami Vatanen and Kinkaid (see full recap).

Matthews scores in final minute to give Maple Leafs win over Red Wings
DETROIT — To Jeff Blashill, the outcome came down to one simple fact.

"They made one more play than us," the Detroit coach Blashill said.

To Toronto center Auston Matthews, it came down to persistence.

"We've got a lot of chances the last couple of games," Matthews said. "We had some pretty good chances tonight, the puck just wouldn't go in.

"It was nice to finally finish it off there with a half a minute left."

Matthews scored with 30.2 seconds left to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings on Sunday night.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner also scored for Toronto, and Curtis McElhinney made 27 saves (see full recap).

McDavid notches 3rd hat trick of season in Oilers' victory vs. Avalanche
DENVER — Late in the second period, with his team outplaying Colorado, Edmonton coach Todd McLellan couldn't believe his Oilers were trailing 2-1.

"Jay Woodcroft and I looked at each other and said, `How are we losing this game?'" McLellan said.

They didn't, thanks to another big game by Connor McDavid.

McDavid had his third hat trick of the season and fourth of his career, and the Oilers beat the Avalanche 4-2 on Sunday to snap a six-game losing streak.

McDavid now has 11 goals in the last nine games and two hat tricks. His first two goals tied the game, and his last one was into an empty net with 1:26 remaining (see full recap).

Sheahan scores twice in Penguins' win over Blue Jackets 
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Riley Sheahan scored two goals in the first period, rookie Tristan Jarry had 35 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Sunday night.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, and Brian Dumoulin and Zach Aston-Reese also scored for the Penguins. They have won five straight and 10 of their last 12. The win in front of a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena moved them past Washington into first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The 22-year-old Jarry played well standing in for starter Matt Murray, who got a rest as Pittsburgh played the second leg of a back-to-back and its third game in four days. It was Jarry's first NHL action in a month after going 3-0 in three starts for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL.

Artemi Panarin and Alexander Wennberg scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots for the Blue Jackets. They have lost two straight and seven of the last nine. In what is becoming the norm lately, Columbus outshot its opponent (37-23) but couldn't score enough to win. The Blue Jackets lead the NHL in shots per game but are lingering near the bottom of the division (see full recap)

Alex Lyon unfazed by the moment in massive relief effort

Alex Lyon unfazed by the moment in massive relief effort


NEW YORK — Entering a game cold to start the second period following a wild six-goal first period while staring down at future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist at the other end of the rink may have intimidated most rookies, but Alex Lyon simply wasn’t phased. Not this time. 

Perhaps Lyon didn’t have a moment to absorb the magnitude of the moment, and even better, playing on the grand stage of Madison Square Garden didn’t overwhelm him at all. After all, for Lyon, the best way to earn that first NHL victory was in a building where he had never lost. Lyon is now a perfect 4-0 in games at the Garden, dating back to his days with Yale and their battles with Ivy League rival Harvard.

“I actually did take a comfort in that,” Lyon said. “I’ve been here, I’ve won here. You know the surroundings here a bit, so it’s good. When you’re in college and you look at the building and say, ‘Oh my God, it’s huge’, but now that I’ve seen a lot of NHL and AHL rinks it calms things down a little bit.” 

Sunday, Lyon came off the bench in relief of Michal Neuvirth to stop 25 of 26 Rangers shots in leading the Flyers to a 7-4 win over their Metropolitan Division rivals (see observations)

“It really does make a difference when you get that first win, especially after my first start against New Jersey where I felt like I could have uplifted the team there and we lost late. I’m just happy I could contribute,” Lyon said. 

The Flyers announced after the first period that Neuvirth would not return to the game after suffering a lower-body injury. Neuvirth was slow getting to his skates on a Rangers 2-on-1 goal where he was forced to fully extend himself moving post-to-post. 

“You never want to see injuries happen and you never want to see them in key areas, but it is part of the game,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “With Neuvy and (Brian Elliott) being down, it’s a challenge. Alex stepped in today and did the job. And that’s what our guys will rally behind going forward.”

On the 50th anniversary of the very first game at the current Madison Square Garden, which coincidentally was played between the Flyers and Rangers, the two bitter rivals had no problem turning back the clock to a time when fighting went hand-in-hand with scoring goals. Shayne Gostisbehere dropped the gloves for the first time in his NHL career with Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich, who laid out Travis Konecny with a hard hit on the opening shift of the game.

“I’d never done that before, but the boys were happy I did it,” Gostisbehere said. “I just heard the loud noise and I saw him on the ground. I thought he got smoked and I passed it to him so, I don’t know, I dropped the gloves.”

“It was cool. It was a fun game. It’s not how we drew it up. 3-3 after the first. As a team, our coach said we didn’t really have it tonight, but we found ways. I think the boys stood up for one another and we went out there and got the job done.”

Most impressively after a dismal defensive effort in the opening 25 minutes and facing the adversity of losing another goaltender, the Flyers still found a way to earn a victory during a time of the season when earning points are vitally important. The Flyers have now collected at least a point in their last eight games with a 6-0-2 record dating back to Feb. 3.

“Sometimes you have those nights,” Hakstol said. “Guys were ready to go. There were three scraps in the early parts of the game. It was one of those nights playing against a good offensive team. We weren’t sharp enough and we weren’t quite hard enough with or without the puck, but we recovered enough to get the two points.”

Fortunately, the Flyers were still able to dismantle a fragile Rangers team that has plummeted to last place in the Metropolitan Division by racking up seven goals against Lundqvist for the first time in 56 career games against the Orange and Black.

“Obviously, there were a lot of mistakes,” Lundqvist said. “They’re getting deflections in our net, odd-man rushes. I just have to start with myself, somehow find energy and confidence to play your game, but it’s hard when you give up so many goals to stay confident.” 

“You got to get to the net. There were some flash screens and just a good job of getting pucks to the net and winning net-front battles and it kinda went both ways,” said MacDonald.

Notable stats
• The Flyers are digging the day games, now 7-1-3 in afternoon starts.

• The top line dominated once again with seven points and a plus-five rating. Konecny registered his first career three-point game and Claude Giroux scored his 200th career goal.

• The Flyers scored seven goals on the Rangers for the first time since November 11, 1992, at the Spectrum.

• The Flyers have not allowed a power play in back-to-back games, which has not happened since the NHL began tracking those number through box scores dating back to 1977.