Flyers

Sweden beats Canada to win 2017 IIHF World Championships

Sweden beats Canada to win 2017 IIHF World Championships

COLOGNE, Germany -- Sweden won the ice hockey world championship with a 2-1 victory on penalties over two-time defending champion Canada on Sunday.

Sweden goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped three penalties and Ryan O'Reilly hit the post for Canada, as Nicklas Backstrom and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored shootout goals for the Swedes to win their first title since 2013.

The game ended 1-1 after overtime when both sides came close to ending the contest with a "sudden death" goal only to be denied by outstanding goalkeeping.

Lundqvist and Canada counterpart Calvin Pickard, who saved William Nylander's first penalty for Sweden, were named best players by their respective teams after a game in which the Canadians narrowly outshot their opponents 43-42.

"This is how close it should be when you get to the final game," Sweden head coach Rikard Gronborg said. "It's a huge win for Swedish hockey."

Lundqvist's twin brother Joel, who captained Sweden, claimed his third worlds gold, one of only two Swedes ever to do so after Sven Tumba in 1953, 1957 and 1962.

"They're both really good guys," Swedish forward Joakim Nordstrom said of the Lundqvist brothers. "On the ice, they really bring a lot to our team but off it too, their presence in the locker room, it's been huge for our team. Joel is a terrific captain."

Sweden claimed its first win over Canada in the final after defeats in 1997, 2003, and 2004.

"It feels like the curse is broken," said Marcus Kruger, who had lost worlds and Olympic finals with Sweden before.

The respect between the sides was evident from the off as defenses held firm in the opening two periods.

The breakthrough came against the odds, with Backstrom penalized for slashing, when Victor Hedman scored short-handed with 20.8 seconds left in the second period.

It was a strange goal from distance as the defenseman just lifted the puck and it somehow bounced in through Pickard's legs. Joel Lundqvist's presence may have distracted the Canadian goaltender.

"It was a fluke goal," Kruger said.

Canada had twice as many shots in the second period.

O'Reilly equalized when he scrambled the puck in off a rebound from Mitch Marner.

It was tense, and fans were left gasping as the action swung from end to end.

Nate MacKinnon missed a good chance to clinch the win for Canada on a power play before overtime when both goaltenders maintained their exceptional form.

Henrik Lundqvist, who was a late addition to Gronborg's roster after the New York Rangers' elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs, ultimately proved the hero.

"He's been great since he came in here. We know what his track record is like. He's a winner and he really showed that today, overall in the game and especially in the shootout, too," Kruger said.

MacKinnon, Brayden Point, O'Reilly and Mitch Marner all missed their shots.

Canada coach Jon Cooper, who said he was immensely proud of his team's effort, was gracious in defeat.

"I want to congratulate Sweden. They were an exceptional team, it was a lot of fun to play them," Cooper said.

"If we were going to lose to somebody, I'm glad those guys won."

Earlier, Nikita Kucherov sealed a 5-3 win for Russia in the bronze medal match against Finland.

"It's not the medal we wanted," Russia head coach Oleg Znarok said.

Ding dong, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is gone

Ding dong, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is gone

Michal Neuvirth stood by his locker Wednesday night dejected, like the rest of his teammates, after the Flyers’ latest blunder, an embarrassing 5-0 loss on home ice to the Penguins in Game 4.

The Flyers are on the brink of elimination to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, and Wednesday's defeat was the latest reminder of their current state of affairs.

"Definitely good to get in the mix," said Neuvirth, who replaced Brian Elliott in the second period for his first game action since March 28. "But tough outcome tonight. We lost it to a better team tonight."

With that, Neuvirth perfectly encapsulated exactly where the Flyers stand in this first-round playoff series with Pittsburgh. It's definitely good to be in the mix, and they lost to the better team.

We've heard that before and we'll hear it again, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. This Flyers team isn't quite there yet, to compete with the Penguins or in the playoffs.

There are encouraging signs. The postseason experience will pay off in the long run — it's better than not being there. Nolan Patrick, 19, has perhaps been the Flyers' most consistent forward in the series. He was the only player who competed Wednesday.

But goaltending remains an eyesore and rookie mistakes are consistently being made by veterans, and some appear immune to accountability. Game 4 was as ugly as it gets (see story), and that's counting a series that included a 7-0 loss in Game 1.

The Flyers were never really in Wednesday's game outside of about a two-minute stretch in the first period, when they were buzzing in the Pittsburgh zone until a Scott Laughton centering pass turned into a Penguins odd-man rush.

Bang, 2-0 Pittsburgh. Ballgame.

"From our standpoint," Dave Hakstol said, "we have to look from within. There's going to be momentum swings, there are going to be pushes, but we haven't been able to reestablish our game quick enough to give ourselves an opportunity."

Wednesday served as another grim reminder. This Flyers-Penguins rivalry, well, isn't much of a rivalry and hasn't been one in quite some time now.

Coming into this series, we heard the old storylines, about how much these two teams hate each other, how close games are, but the hate hasn't been there for a while and the games, they haven't been close, either.

The Penguins have dominated the Flyers, this season especially. With the 5-0 win Wednesday, the Pens have outscored the Flyers, 38-17, in eight total games and 20-4 in games played at the Wells Fargo Center.

The hype machine was on full blast and we all bought into it. It's the playoffs, different animal, but some things never change no matter the environment.

At some point, it's time to bury the hatchet.

It was fun while it lasted, but for now, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is no more.

Another home nightmare has Flyers walking the plank

Another home nightmare has Flyers walking the plank

BOX SCORE

After watching what transpired over the last two games, there’s a strong feeling the Flyers played their final game on South Broad Street this season.

And for those who forked over postseason prices for Stanley Cup Playoff hockey, those fans certainly didn’t receive face value for what they paid.

For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Flyers dropped Games 3 and 4 on home ice, and neither game was even remotely competitive. After the Flyers lost, 5-1, in Game 3, the Penguins dimmed the lights at the Wells Fargo Center and shut off any electricity the crowd was hoping to generate in Game 4 with a 5-0 shutout (see observations).

Simply put, the Flyers looked deflated and dejected knowing they would be forced to play without Sean Couturier, who was a game-time decision but officially ruled out 40 minutes before the opening faceoff.

“They came out hard,” Andrew MacDonald said. “We kind of looked a bit flustered and I don’t know if it was attributed to the lines or what, but it certainly wasn’t a great start for us.”

Whatever rivalry existed between the Flyers and Penguins coming into this season was hardly recognizable in the four games played in Philadelphia (two regular season, two playoff), where the home team was outscored 20-4 (see story).

Just the mere presence of the Penguins in this building is expected to bring out the best in the Flyers. Instead, we saw them at their worst, and nothing irks Flyers fans more than watching Sidney Crosby walk out of the City of Brotherly Love with six points and two victories in a pair of playoff games. 

“It’s disappointing,” Dave Hakstol said. “You take that upon yourself. Bluntly, we’re not happy about it. It wasn’t good enough.”

The Flyers may have fed off the home crowd for one period on Sunday afternoon, but even as they barraged the Penguins with constant pressure, they still found themselves down 1-0 after the opening 20 minutes. After a slew of penalties in the second period, the Flyers were never the same.

Disapproval poured down Wednesday when the Flyers flopped on their power play, which finished 0 for 10 in the two games on home ice, and the crowd of 19,644 booed unmercifully as the horn sounded after each period.

With the Wells Fargo Center half empty midway through the third period, the postseason frenzy felt more like a preseason yawner. 

“Fire Hakstol” chants could be heard from the upper deck — the first time that phrase echoed throughout the building since the 10-game winless streak in November.

Prior to this week, the lasting memory of a playoff series against Pittsburgh was Claude Giroux decking Crosby on the opening shift of Game 6 in 2012 and then proceeding to score the first goal as the Flyers eliminated their cross-state rival.

For whatever reason, the Flyers never evolved into a dominant team on home ice this season. The Flyers' 22 wins were the fewest of the 16 teams to reach the postseason and even three non-playoff teams finished with better records at home.  

At times, the Flyers played too cute or tried to execute too perfectly in their building, but in this series, it was just too ugly.

“Earn Tomorrow” was the Flyers' playoff slogan coming into this series.

After what the Wells Fargo Center witnessed this week, a chance at tomorrow may be too much to bear.