Flyers-Islanders 10 observations: Obvious Hakstol trusts Neuvirth over Mason

Flyers-Islanders 10 observations: Obvious Hakstol trusts Neuvirth over Mason

The NHL schedule makers continued to pile onto the Flyers on Thursday night.
Dave Hakstol’s team completed its fourth set of back-to-back games in Brooklyn, New York, with a thrilling 3-2 shootout win over the Islanders.
This was the first time this season the Flyers won a set of back-to-backs, and they had to overcome a third-period deficit to do it.
There is no quit in Dave Hakstol’s club. They have become Philly’s latest “Comeback Kids,” a la the 1980 Phillies.
Here’s 10 thoughts on the game:
1. It’s obvious right now that Hakstol trusts Michal Neuvirth more than Steve Mason. Neuvirth was making a back-to-back start — his third straight game in net — in Brooklyn and was very sharp early despite facing just eight shots. Gotta like his two stops on Calvin de Haan and Nikolay Kulemin in the final two minutes of the first period to keep the game scoreless.
2. Not only does Barclays Center continue to look like a coffin — so dark that goalies have trouble picking up shots north/south — but the ice is terrible. There’s more snow build-up in 20 minutes there than your average storm in Philadelphia. Disgraceful ice and some player is going to get seriously injured there.
3. Is it me or has general manager Ron Hextall been “blessed” that every time he needs to make a roster or salary cap move, a player goes down injured and Hexy reaps the benefit of having the depth to fill in without biting nails over sending a player through waivers or having a salary cap issue that impedes the club moving forward? Obviously, Hexy has St. Jude on his side. You know, the patron saint of hopeless cases.
4. Coming into this game, Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas, who can be a dolt with his ill-advised checks, had 20 hits over his previous three games, plus several good defensive and offensive plays to help the Flyers in the goal department. He made a really good move on Isles captain John Tavares near the blue line to steal a puck and feed Travis Konecny for the game’s first goal in the second period. Used his brawn and his head, which he doesn’t always do.

It was Konecny’s first goal in five games and what I liked best about it was the rookie followed his own shot after Jaroslav Halak made the initial save. Gudas had two hits and two blocked shots in this game.
5. Neuvirth had two quality stops on Nick Leddy in the second period to keep the Islanders off the board before they scored on a 5-on-3 power play. That hooking call of Sean Couturier was very dubious. Neuvirth deserved to get out of the second period ahead 1-0 instead of tied with the Isles' power-play goal from Tavares.
6. The Flyers looked gassed by the third period. Again, this was their fourth back-to-back sequence in less than five weeks of play. Who could blame them? May be why young defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere had six missed shots. That happens when you're tired. 
7. Konecny made several very good plays with the puck to get it deep in the offensive zone and keep plays alive in this game. Hakstol said this week that he sees growth in Konecny every game.
8. Neuvirth was having such a strong game and then allowed a weak five-hole goal from ex-Flyer Dennis Seidenberg to break the 1-1 tie late in the third period. Gotta be genetics because Neuvirth and Steve Mason have been guilty of one really bad goal a game, even taking away the sloppy play at times in front of them. All that said, Neuvirth redeemed himself with a stop on Tavares in the shootout to clinch the victory for the Flyers, which shows me mental toughness.
9. Gotta like Matt Read and Jakub Voracek teaming up with a huge power-play goal in the final 58 seconds of regulation to tie the game at 2-2 and force overtime. That said, Voracek should have had a penalty shot in overtime for being held by Jason Chimera on a breakaway. Instead, the Flyers got a power play — had chances — but not a one-on-one situation which Voracek earned and didn’t get.
10. Credit team captain Claude Giroux for showing that as bad as the ice was, you can still make a deke move in the shootout and score a goal by keeping the puck tight to the stick and not trying to extend your elbows and reach.

Flyers' Muhammad Ali-type mentality behind season-high winning streak

Flyers' Muhammad Ali-type mentality behind season-high winning streak


The Flyers developed a Muhammad Ali-type mentality Saturday night.

It was hockey’s version of the rope-a-dope, where the Flyers took the Dallas Stars' best punches early on before going the distance, eventually wearing down an opponent that was playing their third game in four nights.

The end result was a 2-1 Flyers victory, extending their season-high winning streak to six games (see observations).

In fact, the Stars attempted to set the tone on the opening shift when Stars captain Jamie Benn tried to rattle the cage of Claude Giroux. They tangled on their way back to the bench with Benn extending his glove underneath Giroux’s chin.

“We knew they were going to have a good push at the start of the game,” Brian Elliott, who has started all six games of the winning streak, said. "We knew they wouldn't be able to keep it up playing a back-to-back. I thought our guys did a really good job of sticking to that game plan and staying patiently persistent."

The Flyers also knew the Stars would come out of the gates flying after a disappointing 5-2 loss at New Jersey the night before.

“We’ve been on the other side of it,” Giroux said. “Playing a back-to-back, it’s not easy, especially when you’re traveling and we really wanted to take advantage of that. Other teams took advantage of us before.”

The Flyers started to turn up the heat in the opening minutes of the second period when they controlled play with extended shifts in the Stars' end of the ice, coupled with a pair of breakaway opportunities from Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek.

“That (second) period was the one for me where we pushed the game in our direction,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It was during the second period we were able to use everybody. Everybody was going and that allowed us to raise the pace of play a little bit.”

The Flyers were also propelled by their power play that finished the game 2 for 6 and a whopping 12 shots on net. After scoring on a rebound that deflected off the backboards, Shayne Gostisbehere landed the knockout blow with 1:10 remaining in overtime when "Ghost" blasted an overtime slapper during the 4-on-3 man advantage.

“A lot of that power play was going rover," Gostisbehere, who scored his fifth career overtime winner, said, "but you could tell we were feeding off each other, finding lanes and we were just relentless and a goal at the end just showed we weren't giving up there."

Stars coach and former Flyers bench boss Ken Hitchcock was attempting, for the second time, to become the third coach in NHL history to win 800 career games. Much of the reason he didn’t achieve the milestone was the careless penalties of forward Alexander Radulov, which led to both of the Flyers' power-play goals.

“It’s not team discipline, it’s individual,” Hitchcock said. “It’s disappointing to fight like we fought and battle. Come off, playing hard like this off a back-to-back, it’s really disappointing to take those two penalties at the end of the game.”

The Flyers also snapped a seven-game losing streak in contests that extended after regulation. The Flyers had dropped five of those in overtime and another two in the shootout.

“I thought we had a really positive attitude,” Elliott said. “I think everyone thought we would go out there for overtime and win. I didn’t think anybody had any doubts or anything. That’s all you can ask for going into those situations.” 

“I liked the way we approached overtime,” Hakstol said. “I didn’t think we pressed or pushed anything. We weren’t taking any long shifts, no high risk plays. I thought guys just went out and did their job and did it the right way.”

Right now, it’s a Flyers team that may not be floating like a butterfly, but they can certainly sting like a bee.

Craig Anderson leads Senators to 4th-ever outdoor shutout

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Craig Anderson leads Senators to 4th-ever outdoor shutout

OTTAWA, Ontario — Craig Anderson stopped 28 shots for his 40th career shutout, leading the Ottawa Senators to a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night in the NHL 100 Classic outdoor game.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Bobby Ryan and Nate Thompson scored for the Senators, who have consecutive wins for the first time in more than a month.

Carey Price was kept busy as he stopped 35 shots for the Canadiens, but didn't get any offensive support.

The temperature at puck drop was about 12 degrees. Despite the frigid temperatures 33,959 fans filled the stands at TD Place for the first outdoor game for the current Ottawa franchise. The game was part of the NHL's 100th anniversary celebration (see full recap).

Hutton saves 48 shots, outduels Mason in battle of former Flyers 
ST. LOUIS — Carter Hutton made a career-high 48 saves to earn his ninth career shutout as the St. Louis Blues beat the Winnipeg Jets 2-0 Saturday night.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Vince Dunn scored for St. Louis, which snapped a two-game skid.

Hutton improved to 5-2-0 a day after being activated from injured reserve after sustaining a lower body injury. He was tested early and often as Winnipeg peppered him with 15 shots in the first period and 21 more in the second.

Steve Mason, making his first appearance since Nov. 25, stopped 28 shots as Winnipeg lost for the fifth time in six games.

Tarasenko opened the scoring on a power play 9:16 into the first period when he buried a pass from Alexander Steen. That goal was Tarasenko's 15th of the season and third in his last 12 games. It snapped a streak of four games for St. Louis without a power-play goal (see full recap).

Ovechkin's goal gives Capitals OT win over Ducks
WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin scored on a slap shot at 1:58 of overtime, and the Washington Capitals rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 Saturday night for their sixth straight win at home.

Ovechkin's 23rd goal of the season came on a blast from the top of the right circle that beat Anaheim's John Gibson.

Washington took only 15 shots over the first 40 minutes and trailed 2-0 before Nicklas Backstrom knocked in the rebound of a shot by Ovechkin at 3:05 of the third period.

Evgeny Kuznetsov tied it just over four minutes later, beating Gibson on the stick side with a shot from the left circle.

Braden Holtby had 28 saves for the Capitals, who have won in a row and 10 of 12 (see full recap).

​Eberle's OT goal lifts Islanders past Kings
NEW YORK — Jordan Eberle scored 1:54 into overtime to lift the New York Islanders to a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.

John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee also scored to give the Islanders the lead after they trailed 2-0. Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots to help New York win for just the second time in seven games (2-4-1) and improve to 10-2-2 at home.

Oscar Fantenberg, Tyler Toffoli and Anze Kopitar scored for the Kings, who have lost three straight after an eight-game winning streak. Darcy Kuemper finished with 29 saves.

Kopitar tied the score 3-3 with 13 seconds remaining in regulation when he knocked the puck past Greiss after a scramble in the crease. Kopitar's team-leading 17th goal came after Lee had given New York a 3-2 lead with 3:16 left (see full recap).