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Flyers stave off playoff elimination, receive scare in shutout of Devils

Flyers stave off playoff elimination, receive scare in shutout of Devils

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One second he's crouched over in his crease looking at a neutral-zone faceoff and then the next second, he's flat on his back, fully outstretched on the ice.

A bizarre day of hockey ended Saturday night for the Flyers with a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils and their two goalies ill (see Instant Replay).

The Flyers are still six points out of the wild card, but Boston reduced the Flyers' tragic number for elimination to just two points with its win Saturday.

Several players and even general manager Ron Hextall acknowledged some colds and flu bugs have been going around in the locker room.

It could be why Michal Neuvirth collapsed about eight minutes into the game and why Mason became ill earlier in the day, resulting in the Flyers having to recall Anthony Stolarz from Lehigh Valley.
  
"You've seen things like that in a game," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "But in that particular instance, I don't know what another word than shocking at that time. I give credit to all the medical people. They were right on top of it and did an outstanding job."

Stolarz, who wasn't even on the bench at the start of the game, came in relief and finished with 26 saves, earning a shared shutout but didn't get the win because Neuvirth was the goalie of record, leading 1-0 at the time of his exit.
 
"There was a lot going on in this hockey game tonight," Hakstol said, "but I liked the way our guys handled everything and stayed with it."

Brayden Schenn's 17th power-play goal of the season -- tying him for the NHL lead -- at 7:28 of the opening period gave the Flyers a rare 1-0 lead.

Then came the neutral zone faceoff followed by Neuvirth collapsing on the ice (see story).

"It was definitely scary right off the bat there," said Jordan Weal, who was on the ice when the event occurred. "It's good to see he's feeling. There's a bug going through the team right now. It could have had something to do with that. Sometimes those colds dehydrate you."

Players were told as the game progressed that Neuvirth was OK.

"I think there is a flu around and has been here most of the season," Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said.
 
When play resumed with Stolarz in goal, the Flyers got a rush up the ice, culminating with Colin McDonald's first goal for the Flyers this season to make it, 2-0.
 
"The next three or four shifts were a little off," Bellemare said. "Then somehow we got back on track."

McDonald, who now has two career goals as a Flyer, was called up from the Phantoms on Saturday morning to replace Matt Read, who is done for the season with a broken right arm.
 
Stolarz faced some pretty good shots immediately, including during a Devils power play -- and finished with four saves that period.
 
You'd never have guessed he had no warmups here.
 
"I was on the bus to Wilkes-Barre -- I want to say around 4:15, so I had to wait for the bus to get to Wilkes-Barre, unpack my gear for the car to come down," Stolarz said. "I didn't get in until 6:55."
 
Stolarz could have only won the game had he given up a goal -- that's ironic, too.
 
"Going in, I kind of knew that," he said. "We had a scenario like that a few weeks ago with the Phantoms. I'm familiar with the rule. When it's all set and done, I'm fine with Neuvy getting the win."
 
Stolarz played well being very cold, too.
 
"You kind of get used to it as a goalie," Stolarz said. "You don't take too many warmup shots at the backup, anyway. Then you kind of sit around for a while. You kind of get cold so it didn't make too much of a difference."
 
The game disintegrated near the eight-minute mark of the second period when Devils defenseman Dalton Prout blind-sided Radko Gudas with a head shot. Gudas had to be taken off the ice while Wayne Simmonds fought Prout, who was ejected.
 
Gudas later returned in the second period but then did not return for the third period.
 
Following the timeout, Hakstol put Dale Weise on the ice. He went tearing up the right boards and threw a shoulder-high elbow into Kyle Palmieri after the puck was gone and after Jakub Voracek had already checked the Devils' forward. Palmieri struck the stanchion.
 
Naturally, Weise was thrown out of the game, too, for boarding. Both Prout and Weise are likely facing suspensions.
 
Before the period ended, Jordan Weal scored his fourth goal in as many games on the power play for a 3-0 Flyers lead.
 
With 25 seconds left, Hakstol attempted to insert his emergency backup, Eric Semborski, and he even got in the net before the officials made him leave the ice.

Why? He wasn't a roster player and was only available if Stolarz got hurt.
 
"I was thinking of using him around the two or three-minute mark," Hakstol said. "At that point, it was do it or don't. But we couldn’t do it. It turned out for the best we got him out of there before the drop of the puck."
 
The Flyers would have been penalized.
 
"I didn't check the rules," Hakstol said. "He got out on the ice for a second, anyway."
 
Hextall, watching from above, was amused at Hakstol even attempting such.
 
"I was shocked," Hextall said with a laugh.

Best of NHL: Red-hot Devils storm back to beat Senators in overtime

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Best of NHL: Red-hot Devils storm back to beat Senators in overtime

OTTAWA, Ontario -- John Moore scored 1:20 into overtime and the New Jersey Devils used three unanswered goals to beat the Ottawa Senators 5-4 in overtime Thursday night.

This year's No. 1 draft pick Nico Hischier scored twice for New Jersey. The Swiss center's opening goal was the first of his NHL career.

Kyle Palmieri and Marcus Johansson also scored for the Devils, who improved to 4-0-0 on the road and 6-1-0 overall. Cory Schneider allowed four goals on 24 shots before leaving with a lower-body injury. Keith Kinkaid started the third period and stopped nine shots. Taylor Hall chipped in with four assists.

Kyle Turris, Derick Brassard, Alex Burrows and Tom Pyatt scored for the Senators, and Craig Anderson made 41 saves (see full recap).

Bergeron sparks Bruins’ win over Canucks
BOSTON -- Patrice Bergeron had a goal and three assists in his season debut, moving up to seventh on Boston's career scoring list as the Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks 6-3 on Thursday night.

Anders Bjork scored twice for Boston, Brad Marchand had a goal and two assists and David Pastrnak added a goal and an assist for the Bruins, who scored five straight goals after falling behind 1-0 early in the first period.

Anton Khudobin made 26 saves for Boston while starting in place of Tuukka Rask, who is out indefinitely with a concussion he suffered in practice Wednesday.

Derek Dorsett, Bo Horvat and Thomas Vanek scored for the Canucks, and Michael Del Zotto had two assists (see full recap).

Sergachev, Vasilevskiy help Lightning blank Blue Jackets
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Mikhail Sergachev scored his first two NHL goals and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 43 saves for his fifth career shutout in the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.

Nikita Kucherov assisted on both goals to push his NHL-leading points total to 14. His goals streak was stopped at seven games.

The Lightning took advantage of the few openings offered by Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped 19 shots for the Blue Jackets and lost for the first time this season. Columbus had won four straight.

The Lightning, coming off an overtime loss to New Jersey on Tuesday night, improved to 6-1-1 for their best start opening 7-0-1 in their Stanley Cup-winning 2003-04 season.

Columbus dropped to 5-2-0, hurt by uncharacteristic sloppy passing and continued power-play problems in its first shutout loss of the season (see full recap).

Flyers fail to get revenge as offense quiet in loss to Predators

Flyers fail to get revenge as offense quiet in loss to Predators

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No questionable penalty calls. No need to use a challenge. No last-minute heartbreak this time.

A furious nature was replaced with frustration after the Predators scored the lone goal at the Wells Fargo Center to beat the Flyers, 1-0, Thursday night (see observations).

Predators third-line center Colton Sissons, who missed the first meeting between the two teams nine days ago, connected on the only goal of the game 3:49 into the third period as he blasted a shot that beat Michal Neuvirth to the far post (see highlights).

“I’ve got to watch the replay to see if I was on the right angle, but it’s a tough play 2-on-1,” Neuvirth said. “Usually when it’s a tight game like that, it’s about one mistake and you've got to move on.”

The Flyers appeared to have the play covered. However, when Kevin Fiala took control of the loose puck, Wayne Simmonds reached for it and that kick-started the Predators’ rush for what ultimately proved to be the game-winning goal.

“It’s a tough play,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “You see the puck and you want to go get that loose puck. It’s a 0-0 game. It was a real good play on the cycle, and there’s scrum on the hash marks there. It’s a tough play and, unfortunately, the puck got past Simmer and now it’s a race back up ice and they got a pretty good quality shot away.”

For a high-octane offensive team ranked second in goals scored, the Flyers are still looking to prove they can win the tight-checking, low-scoring games.

Overall, it was also a tough night for the Flyers' leading scorer Simmonds. He was dealing with a lower-body injury, and at times, appeared to be laboring on the ice. Simmonds also took a stick to his lip that required stitches, which essentially excused him from making any postgame comments.

The 1-0 loss marked the second time in the first seven games the Flyers have been shut out this season, and on both occasions Neuvirth has been the victim of the lack of offense.

“It’s tough to say,” Neuvirth said. “We had really good chances, but we couldn’t get one behind him. It was frustrating to see that, but we've got to move on and we've got another big game on Saturday.”

Once again, the Flyers could have been bailed out by their power play. However, the two units collectively finished 0 for 5 for the third time this season. That’s because 6-foot-5 Pekka Rinne, who’s mobile for his size with one of the best glove hands in the league, stopped all 28 shots.

“That was a lot of battle,” Rinne said. “I was able to see the puck for the most part and make the first save always and a lot of times guys were bailing me out, too.”

Outside the Wells Fargo Center earlier on Thursday, the Flyers organization unveiled a nine-foot statue of founder and chairman Ed Snider prior to faceoff with almost every member of the team’s Hall of Fame in attendance (see story).

Unfortunately for the club, it was the only moment worth celebrating.

Notes, quotes and tidbits
• Filling in for the injured Jordan Weal (upper body), forward Jori Lehtera saw his first action of the season. He played on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Simmonds. Lehtera played 12:06 and finished the game without a shot on net. If Weal is unable to go Saturday afternoon, it will be interesting to see if Hakstol goes back to Lehtera or gives the quicker Matt Read a shot against a speedy Oilers team.

“Lehts did a good job,” Hakstol said. “To step in in game No. 7, not having played, I thought Lehts went out and played a real rock solid game. Lehts has been here. Lehts has done the work. You guys don’t see behind the scenes the kind of effort and what that takes as a teammate every day to stay ready.”

• The 1-0 loss comes exactly 50 years to the day the Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 1-0, in their first-ever home game at The Spectrum. The last time the Flyers were shut out 1-0 on home ice was March 31, 2011, by the Atlanta Thrashers.

• Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere played a career-high 25:23. Not only has he regained his offensive form from his rookie season, but he’s also refined his defensive game by using more body and less stick to gain position on his man.