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.

Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

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Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

WASHINGTON — T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen scored as the Washington Capitals swept a home-and-home set against the skidding New York Islanders with a 6-3 win on Friday night.

Alex Chiasson had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, who hammered the Islanders 7-3 in New York on Thursday. Jakub Vrana's goal gave Washington a 5-1 lead with 9:04 remaining. Lars Eller added an empty-netter, and Braden Holtby made 22 saves.

Washington broke a tie with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals' four-game winning streak is their longest since taking five in a row from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington's second-leading scorer, left in the second period and did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury, according to the team.

Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who have lost 10 of 11 (see full recap).

Hoffman lifts Senators over Stars in OT
OTTAWA, Ontario — Mike Hoffman scored at 3:26 of overtime and the Ottawa Senators beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night to win their third game in a row for just the second time this season.

Ottawa won on home ice for the first time since Feb. 17.

Marian Gaborik and Matt Duchene also scored for the Senators (26-33-11), and Craig Anderson made 23 saves.

Tyler Seguin and Tyler Pitlick had the goals for the Stars (38-26-8). Ben Bishop, who stopped 22 shots, made his first start since missing five games with a knee injury sustained March 5 against the Senators. Bishop has a 9-0-4 career record against Ottawa.

Dallas has lost four straight, its longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Predators rally past Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Nashville Predators keep rolling toward the best regular season in franchise history.

Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris each had a goal and assist in the third period, leading Nashville to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. Ryan Ellis also scored to help the Western Conference-leading Predators get their 21st road win of the season and improve to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games overall. Pekka Rinne finished with 32 saves.

Nashville, which reached the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after earning the second wild card in the West, has 102 points through 70 games, and needs nine more in its final 12 games to set a new franchise record (see full recap).

Alex Lyon can save the Flyers' season

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Alex Lyon can save the Flyers' season

Lost amid the Flyers’ 5-3 defeat at the hands Blue Jackets on Thursday was yet another stellar relief appearance in goal from Alex Lyon.

Lyon was sensational after replacing Petr Mrazek between the pipes early in the second period, stopping all 18 shots that came his way. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol praised the rookie netminder for giving his team an opportunity to come from behind.

“He’s a battler, and that’s what we asked from him last night going into that situation,” Hakstol said following Friday’s practice.

“You need to have a mindset of going in there and absolutely slamming the door to give your team a chance to win. In order to do that, you have to have a real battling mentality, and I thought he had that right from when he stepped in the net.”

Success in a sort of stopper role has become increasingly commonplace for Lyon since joining the Flyers.

Lyon came off the bench to make five saves during the final eight minutes of a 5-3 loss to the Capitals in his January debut. The 25-year-old later earned his first NHL win against the Rangers in February, blocking 25 of 26 shots over the second and third periods to help procure a 7-4 victory.

His play has been on the rise ever since. Lyon appears to be improving with experience, posting a 2-1-0 record with a .939 save percentage in his last four games.

“I don’t know if I’d say confidence so much as comfortability,” Lyon said of his growth. “I think I always had the confidence in myself that I could do it. It’s just you have to get comfortable enough to kind of believe that.”

He shined as a substitute goaltender all along. Including his performance against the Blue Jackets, Lyon has amassed a .980 save percentage in three relief appearances — a number emblematic of his season.

Lyon began 2017-18 as the emergency-goalie-in-waiting at Lehigh Valley. He earned the call-up to the Flyers’ main roster after the injury to Brian Elliott, then saw an uptick in ice time due to Michal Neuvirth’s subsequent maladies.

The club traded for Petr Mrazek after Neuvirth went down, but Lyon still finds himself in the mix. He’s expected to start against the Hurricanes on Saturday — a pivotal contest for the Flyers’ bid to make the playoffs.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Lyon said. “This is what you think about when you’re a little kid.

“It’s not quite the same, but down in Allentown we were in a pretty hot playoff race last year and always at the top of the standings, so I’m going to draw on my past experiences.”

Elliott returned to the ice this week and could be back in uniform soon, at which time Lyon will be sent back to the minor leagues. But if the Flyers do manage to reach the postseason, his fill-in contributions will have played a big part.

Perhaps Lyon will even warrant a closer look for a full-time spot on the Flyers’ roster next season.