Mike Vecchione 'couldn't be happier' to join Flyers

Mike Vecchione 'couldn't be happier' to join Flyers

Mike Vecchione attended last July's Flyers development camp.
Forgetting for a moment what his former Union College teammate Shayne Gostisbehere had told him about the organization, Vecchione went into the camp with eyes wide open.
He liked what he saw. He remembered what he saw. And that was added reasoning for signing with the Flyers on Friday morning (see story).
"In my heart, I felt I had the best opportunity in Philly and I couldn't be happier with how everything turned out," Vecchione said during a conference call.
"With the whole Philly organization, I got to meet everyone when I went to development camp, the coaches, Mr. Hextall, the rest of the front office guys, a lot of the players. I just had that experience being around everybody, learning from their systems and learning from guys.
"I talked to Ghost. He obviously wanted me to go there, but at the same time, it's what's best for me and my future and it's ultimately my decision."
Vecchione is the first top-three finalist from Union College up for the Hobey Baker Award as the top collegian in the country. Gostisbehere was a top-10 finalist only.
This is a major step going right from the college ranks to the NHL -- not even "Ghost" was able to bypass the AHL.
"Obviously it's a huge jump," Gostisbehere said of his newest teammate. "You can't say it's not. It's totally different. I went right [into] the American League and I thought that was a bit of a jump for me coming right from college.
"But Veccs is a different player. He's 24 years old and I think his game's way too mature for the college level. It's going to be cool to see it translate to the professional level."
Vecchione made it clear he prefers to play center.
"We talked about that a little bit," Vecchione said. "Obviously, I'm a centerman. Four good years at Union and that's where my comfort zone is. When you're in the middle you have a lot more room to make some plays, but obviously, at center, comes a lot more responsibility in the D-zone. Just being responsible in all three zones, actually."

Hextall said he needed to see how things "shake out" during training camp next fall but he is leaning toward center as well, which means Pierre-Edouard Bellemare would move to the wing.
Then again, Vecchione didn't totally rule out wing either.
"We did talk about my flexibility to play wing," he said. "I played wing a lot in high school and junior hockey and then converted to center as a college guy. I'm really happy that they're gonna put me in at center.
"It's that comfort level to stick with what I know best there. I feel like my game is at center, providing offense there and obviously being strong defensively is something that we talked about, so if I'm not providing offense, I can be a good asset defensively and vice versa."
Hextall said Vecchione needs at least one practice with the team before playing. It wasn't certain whether he would make Saturday's morning skate.
The earliest Vecchione could play would be Sunday night's game in New York against the Rangers, one of the teams who wanted his services.
"They want me to come in and play some games," he said. "That wasn't a deciding factor whether I'd get into some games this year or try out and get in some games next year.
"I definitely want to get some experience in at the end of this year, get my feet wet, get my feel for everything, figure out the systems that Philly runs and get acclimated to the whole organization and how they operate over there. Hopefully, I can get into some games soon."

Pleasant surprises in a first for Flyers

Pleasant surprises in a first for Flyers


When asked what he thought about the current Flyers team prior to his retirement ceremony, Eric Lindros admitted he really didn’t know all that much regarding this year’s team. 

After Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Lindros’ hometown Maple Leafs (see observations), "Big E" and a sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd learned something about the Flyers that no one in Philadelphia had been privy to.

The Flyers capped off their first win this season when trailing by two or more goals entering the third period. Interestingly, the only other third-period comeback that led to a victory was when they trailed this same Toronto team, 2-1, on Dec. 12. Prior to this game, the Flyers were 1-12-2 this season when trailing after two periods.

Certainly, the Flyers needed goal scoring, but more importantly, they also received a handful of momentum saves from goaltender Michal Neuvirth.

“Huge," Neuvirth said regarding his 29-save performance. “When we tied it, it was like, 'OK, here we go. You gotta be at your best right now.' So I was just focusing on the next shot. Just happy the way the guys responded in the third.”

Neuvirth had little, if any, margin of error after the Leafs scored twice in a 28-second span to grab a 2-0 advantage, but the Flyers' backup netminder provided a handful of momentum saves that allowed the Flyers to win in overtime.

• A minute after Wayne Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with a shorthanded goal, Neuvirth stopped Auston Matthews and Connor Brown on back-to-back shots, including an impressive blocker save on Brown from up close.

• With 2:48 remaining in regulation, Neuvirth made the save of the game with the Leafs coming down on a 2-on-1. Neuvirth expected Nazem Kadri to shoot. Instead, he passed it to his left, forcing Neuvirth to make a full extension on Patrick Marleau, turning aside the shot with the tip of his right pad (see highlights).

• Neuvirth denied Matthews from in tight with another pad save just 10 seconds into overtime. That save created a 2-on-1 scoring chance resulting in Sean Couturier’s game-winning score. 

“At least three 10-bell saves by Neuvy. He was tremendous,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We generated a lot in the third period, but when you give up those chances against, Neuvy stole the show in my opinion and you need those saves sometimes to win games. For me, he was first star.”

Neuvirth and the rest of the Flyers needed an initial spark and 19-year-old rookie Nolan Patrick was surprisingly the one to provide it. After taking a shot that hit the side of the net and caromed behind it, Patrick chased down Mitch Marner, stole the puck and fired a quick shot on goaltender Frederik Andersen for his first goal in his last 25 games.

“I tried to forget how many games it was in a row without a goal and just keep playing,” Patrick said. “I thought I was playing some good hockey lately and I knew it would come.”

A minute and 52 seconds later, Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with the Flyers' second shorthanded goal of the season, extending his point streak to six games.

Struggling to find the right overtime combinations, Hakstol elected to go with the trio of Couturier, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov to start the extra session. Couturier continued his magical run and now has 11 goals in his last 12 games, while also providing five game-winning goals in the Flyers' last 10 victories. 

“He’s hot. We keep calling him ‘Rocket,’" Simmonds said, referring to Hall of Famer Maurice “Rocket” Richard. “You just keep giving him the puck and he’s going to find the back of the net. When you’re hot, you want to keep giving it to a guy like that. Hopefully, he’s going to continue to score for us.”

More Couturier goals and more game-changing saves, and the Flyers will find themselves rocketing up the standings.

Golden Knights make statement in clash of conference leaders

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Golden Knights make statement in clash of conference leaders

TAMPA, Fla. -- Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves, David Perron had a goal and an assist, and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 Thursday night in a matchup of conference leaders.

James Neal, Nate Schmidt and William Karlsson also scored for the Golden Knights, who swept the two-game season series with the NHL-leading Lightning.

Tampa Bay, coming off its bye week, got a goal from Ondrej Palat, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 26 shots. Vasilevskiy, an All-Star this season, has allowed 19 goals over his last four games.

Fleury made a number of impressive stops, including a left-circle shot by Steven Stamkos and in-close chance from Nikita Kucherov during the second period. The goalie, who spent most of career with Pittsburgh, is 19-11-4 against the Lightning.

Neal opened the scoring with a nifty deflection 56 seconds into the first, and Schmidt made it 2-0 with 3:57 left in the period. Deryk Engelland got his 100th NHL assist on Neal's goal.

Vegas is 19-1-0 when scoring first, with the lone loss coming Oct. 30 to the New York Islanders (see full recap).

Devils beat Caps in OT on Hall’s goal
NEWARK, N.J. -- Taylor Hall scored on a breakaway 34 seconds into overtime and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Thursday night.

Sami Vatanen collected his third assist of the game on the winning goal, a shot over the shoulder of goaltender Braden Holtby.

Drew Stafford, Andy Greene and Miles Wood also scored for the Devils, who have won two straight after breaking a six-game winless streak (0-3-3). Keith Kinkaid had 16 saves and the Devils killed off all five Washington power plays.

Brett Connolly scored twice and Dmitry Orlov had a goal for the Capitals, who lost for only the second time in eight games. The Capitals, however, extended their streak of getting a point against New Jersey to 14 games (12-0-2).

Holtby made 28 saves, but gave up three breakaway goals (see full recap).

Panarin puts Stars over the top in shootout
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Artemi Panarin scored in the second round of a shootout, and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 on Thursday night.

Joonas Korpisalo had 35 saves for Columbus (26-18-3), which returned from its five-day break after losing both ends of a back-to-back last week. Jordan Schroeder scored his first goal of the season in the first period.

Korpisalo blocked a shootout try by Jason Spezza before Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin came up empty. Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop blocked Jussi Jokinen's shootout attempt before Panarin beat him.

Korpisalo got the start ahead of Vezina Trophy-winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who struggled in the recent losses. The 23-year-old Finn got his first win in nearly a month in his ninth game this season.

Dan Hamhuis scored for Dallas with 2:15 left in regulation. Bishop had 25 stops, including a terrific glove save on Alexander Wennberg with 30 seconds left in the third.

Dallas (26-17-4) had won two in a row (see full recap).