Matt Read snaps long goal drought, the unlikely hero in Flyers' win over Canadiens

Matt Read snaps long goal drought, the unlikely hero in Flyers' win over Canadiens

He began the season by scoring five goals in five games.
Matt Read was on fire.
Then he flamed out.
One goal over the next 33 games until Thursday night, when the 30-year-old winger became a most unlikely hero with a wicked shot from the circle — off the rush, no less — that beat Carey Price.
Yeah, Price.
It became the game-winner, as the Flyers won, 3-1 over the Canadiens (see game story).
No one knew Read could fire a puck that hard. So where has this shot been all season?
“I wish I knew,” Read said. “I just had an opportunity to shoot the puck, shot as hard as I could and I got lucky. The good man upstairs is looking out for me tonight.
“Right when I touched it, it came up on its edge and I looked up to see what was around. Then I put my head down and swung as hard as I can … when I looked up, it was coming out of the back of the net.”
It was Read’s first goal in 27 games. His teammates noticed.
“Really nice to see,” Wayne Simmonds said. “It was a heck of a shot, a game-winning goal and it was really good for him and the team as well. He beat him clean, top corner.”
Read’s line, centered by Sean Couturier with Nick Cousins at left wing, was outstanding defensively, holding Montreal’s top line to just three shots while scoring two goals.
Couturier chipped in with an empty-netter.
Read admits he’s been frustrated with his lack of offense this season.
“I try to show up every night to work hard,” he said. “I do as much as I can to help the team. When things don’t go your way, it is obviously frustrating.
“But you've got to have fun out here and help the team as much as you can. The most important point is getting a win, getting two points and keep climbing the standings.”
The victory allowed the Flyers to retain the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 58 points. Overall, it was a solid all-around defensive effort. Efforts like this win playoff games. Not offense — defense.
“The whole team was skating well and doing things with the puck and putting pucks in areas where we can get them back,” Read said. “I thought, if we play like that every night it’s going to be hard to beat us.”
The Flyers managed the puck well. They didn’t turn it over. They didn’t give the Habs anything cheap like they did at Carolina on Tuesday, and they held Montreal to 16 shots.
“You know, it’s all about consistency in this league as individuals and as a team,” Mark Streit said. “During that winning streak, 10 games, a lot of times, we played that way.
“We were patient, we played smart and we’re going to need that in the next few months in order to be successful because all the teams are going to grind. All the teams are going to play well defensively. You just can’t give up too many shots or too many opportunities.”

Why Nolan Patrick is such a power-play fit

Why Nolan Patrick is such a power-play fit

Replacing Wayne Simmonds on the power play may be one of the toughest assignments in the NHL.

After all, the guy is second to only Alex Ovechkin with 85 man-advantage goals since the 2011-12 season.

So when the predicament actually faced Dave Hakstol this week, the Flyers' head coach turned to … a 19-year-old rookie.

Why Nolan Patrick?

Three components of the decision stand out:

Intelligence factor
Leading up the NHL draft, the overwhelming strength of Patrick's scouting report was his hockey sense.

Those close to him, as well draft experts, lauded Patrick for comprehending plays before they even happen and being above the ice in understanding spacing.

Those characteristics are crucial when having an extra man.

Patrick has two goals over two games filling in for the injured Simmonds on the Flyers' top power-play unit. Patrick exhibited his IQ with Thursday's game-winner, where he quickly planted himself right in front of the net, had the presence of mind to find the puck and then bury it past Sergei Bobrovsky.

"We told him, just stand in front, if you see a puck, bring it home," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We tried to simplify it for him and he's going to take care of it himself, he's a great hockey player. It's paying off for him."

All about the touch
Patrick has excellent hands.

Put him around the net, and he'll know how to deflect pucks and find holes in a goalie. His vision, skill and finesse are why he's regarded as such an all-around playmaker.

In Tuesday's win, Patrick found immediate success with the first power-play group. Making his way to the middle, Patrick took a Claude Giroux pass and showed off that touch, adeptly going top shelf as Carey Price went low.

Studying Simmonds' net-front proficiency hasn't hurt, either.

"I watch him every game, he's unbelievable there and good at tipping pucks and making plays," Patrick said. "You learn from just watching every day."

Building up the kid
With time, Hakstol and the Flyers have allowed for Patrick to become comfortable instead of putting the world on his shoulders from the get-go.

That's part of Patrick's makeup.

"He almost always wants to be comfortable and then he really starts to exert himself," Patrick's uncle, James, said to NBC Sports Philadelphia last June

We're starting to see Patrick let loose.

As the Flyers have gradually upped his opportunity and responsibility, Patrick has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last 12 games after putting up six (two goals, four assists) over his previous 34.

Placing Patrick among the team's best talent on the man advantage will only help with his confidence moving forward, in all situations.

The Flyers' power play entered Friday with the NHL's sixth-best percentage at 21.6.

It'll need more of Patrick — but the Flyers couldn't have asked for a much better start to life without Simmonds over the next two to three weeks.

Streaking Penguins move atop Metro Division

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Streaking Penguins move atop Metro Division

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin each had two goals and an assist and the Pittsburgh Penguins routed the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1 on Friday night for their season-best sixth straight victory.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, Sidney Crosby scored a late goal and Olli Maatta also scored. The Penguins took control with three goals -- two by Kessel -- in a 7:39 span in the second period.

Matt Murray made 27 saves for Pittsburgh, which has won 11 of 13 to overtake idle Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Since the Penguins were shut out by Carolina on Jan. 4, they are 16-3-1.

They were just as busy off the ice, completing a mid-game trade in which they picked up center Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators. As part of the complicated three-team deal, they sent defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Teuvo Teravainen scored and Cam Ward stopped 33 shots for the short-handed Hurricanes, who have gone 0-3-1 during a four-game slide that's keeping them outside the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Wild dominate skidding Rangers for New York sweep
NEW YORK -- Mikael Granlund and Eric Staal each scored twice and Devan Dubnyk made 22 saves in the Minnesota Wild's 4-1 victory over the free-falling New York Rangers on Friday night.

The Wild completed a three-game sweep of New York-area teams after beating the Monday night and New Jersey on Thursday night.

The Rangers lost for the sixth straight time in regulation. New York is 6-17-0 since beating Buffalo in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 (see full recap).

Blackhawks’ Berube dominant in 1st Chicago start
CHICAGO -- Jean-Francois Berube made 42 saves in his first start for Chicago to help the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Friday night.

Defenseman Jan Rutta, activated from injured reserve Friday, and Nick Schmaltz scored, and Artem Anisimov added an empty-netter with 30.5 seconds left.

Anthony Duclair had two assists for the Blackhawks. They won their second straight and third in four games following an eight-game losing streak that dropped them to last place in the Central Division.

Berube lost a bid for this first NHL shutout when Timo Meier scored his 15th goal on a screened shot with 7:51 left in the third period.

Martin Jones stopped 33 shots for the Sharks, coming off a 7-1 loss at Nashville on Thursday night (see full recap).