NHL

Best of NHL: Golden Knights roll in emotional Las Vegas home opener

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Best of NHL: Golden Knights roll in emotional Las Vegas home opener

LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights' debut on the Strip was a poignant smash.

James Neal scored twice during a thrilling four-goal first period, and the Golden Knights remained unbeaten three games into their inaugural season with a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes in their home opener on Tuesday night.

Tomas Nosek scored the first home goal in franchise history just 2:31 into the first period, and Deryk Engelland added his first goal for his adopted hometown's new team moments later.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves for the Golden Knights, who became the first team in NHL history to begin their debut season with three straight wins.

Just nine days after the Las Vegas Strip shooting massacre, the Golden Knights reverently honored the victims and heroes before the long-awaited home debut of the city's first major professional sports franchise.

The Knights held a pregame ceremony during which the names of the shooting victims were projected in gold onto the ice during 58 seconds of silence. Engelland spoke eloquently to the fans, vowing that the Golden Knights "will do everything we can to help you and our city heal. We are Vegas Strong."

After that emotional outpouring, the Golden Knights charged into their home opener with some inspired hockey (see full recap).

Milano, Blue Jackets top Hurricanes in overtime
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Sonny Milano scored two goals, including the game-winner on a breakaway with 22 seconds left in overtime to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

Milano scored midway through the third period before Jeff Skinner tied it late in regulation with Carolina's net empty. Sergei Bobrovsky, last season's Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goalie, made 37 saves for Columbus.

Scott Darling, obtained in an offseason trade with Chicago, stopped 25 shots for the Hurricanes.

Milano scored on a ricochet off Darling's backside at 10:01 of the third, assisted by Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nick Foligno. Milano became the first Columbus player to score in the first three games of a season.

Skinner tied it with an unassisted goal at 18:35 after the Hurricanes had pulled Darling.

Columbus is 15-3-0-3 in the all-time series and 8-7-0-2 in Raleigh (see full recap).

Senators edge Canucks in shootout for 1st win
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Mark Stone scored in the fifth round of the shootout as the Ottawa Senators picked up their first win of a season with a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.

Kyle Turris kept Ottawa alive in the third round of the shootout after Markus Granlund gave Vancouver the early lead.

Cody Ceci and Ryan Dzingel scored in regulation for Ottawa (1-0-2), which got 26 saves from Craig Anderson.

Christopher Tanev and Thomas Vanek scored in regulation for Vancouver (1-0-1), while Henrik Sedin added two assists. Jacob Markstrom made 40 saves.

Tanev hit the post 28 seconds into overtime, before Sven Baertschi was stopped on a breakaway as Vancouver came close a couple of times in the extra period. Ottawa lost its first two games of the season in a shootout (see full recap).

Questionable calls, challenge lead to Flyers' 'frustrating' loss to Predators

Questionable calls, challenge lead to Flyers' 'frustrating' loss to Predators

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bags tossed. Doors slammed. Players cursing. A frustration this team hasn’t experienced in a long, long time. 

Without question, Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to the Nashville Predators was a game the Flyers felt wasn’t lost but simply taken away from them (see observations).

Or perhaps not.

“Oh, we gave it away. I don’t think anybody took it,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “That’s why it’s frustrating.”

Some Flyers were still searching for answers.

“Honestly, it feels like we won. It’s weird right now,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “I’m not sure if that’s ever happened to me in my life — that type of game like that.”

Considering the implementation of rule 78.7 (b), approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors just a week before the start of the season, a game like this has never happened in the history of the league, and probably nowhere ever in the game of hockey.

The rule stems from a coach’s challenge on an offside play and states, “If the result of the challenge is that the play was ‘on-side,’ the goal shall count and the team that issued the challenge shall be assessed a minor penalty for delaying the game.”

After former Flyer Scott Hartnell took advantage of a 5-on-3 chance and tied an already wild game at 5-5 with 1:17 remaining, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol elected to challenge the zone entry of the play. Replays showed that Filip Forsberg was able to get one skate over the blue line before the puck cleared. However, replays were inconclusive whether Hartnell’s skates were completely over the line as the linesman appeared to be staring down at Forsberg and was paying no attention to Hartnell, who was right there next to him (see video).

“That’s my call,” Hakstol said on the decision to challenge. "Absolutely it’s worth it, but it wasn’t overturned, so it wasn’t the right call. I don’t want to get into the details of it."

Hakstol said he was surprised it wasn't overturned, but also knew if he lost the challenge that the Flyers would be faced with killing another 5-on-3 power play for 1:22. 

That is precisely what happened when Hartnell’s goal stood. The Flyers killed off the remainder of the two-man advantage only to have Filip Forsberg score the game-winner just five seconds into the coach’s challenge penalty, which was a 5-on-4 (see highlights).

“It happens so quick. You’re getting the feeds on the bench when you’re getting them, and 15, 20 seconds to make a decision,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “I give him credit. He’s trying to help his team any way he can. You’re going to get caught in those situations. We all are. Everybody’s going to get caught in them. 

“To be honest, I didn’t get a good look at it. We actually talked about it in the coach’s office. Those decisions are tough, and a lot of people said they would go for it. You’ve got to live by the sword and die by the sword.”

Prior to that, one can seriously debate the series of events that led to Nashville’s initial 5-on-3 power play as the Flyers were whistled for a pair of minor penalties with 2:41 remaining in the game leading, 5-4.

First, left winger Dale Weise was whistled for holding as he attempted to chase down the puck in the offensive zone. Then, as the Flyers gained possession of the puck, defenseman Andrew MacDonald was called for tripping.

“The last 10 minutes it seems they were putting the whistles away and letting the boys play,” Weise said. “I don’t know about make-up calls, but on my penalty I’m trying to swim past my guy. That happens 20 times a game and you don’t call a penalty on that. It’s just really frustrating.”

“The guy coming in on me, he crossed over and I put my stick over and he stepped on it and they called me too,” MacDonald said.

Until those two-minute minor penalties, the Flyers had played a very disciplined game. Their only penalty kill came early in the first period when Craig Smith scored Nashville's first goal. 

There was an awareness among the Flyers that calls would likely not go their way at some point in the third period.  

“Obviously, we were aware. It’s tough when you get two in one shot like that, that late in the game,” MacDonald said. “It happened and it was unfortunate. It’s something that we would have liked to kill and have gotten a big character win here, but unfortunately it was out of our hands.”

The series of unfortunate circumstances for the Flyers and the bogus new rule change, which I wrote about during the preseason, negated what could have been a tremendous comeback.

After going down, 3-0, the Flyers scored five unanswered goals, including three in a second-period span of 4:46. Valtteri Filppula scored his second goal of the game with 13:12 remaining in regulation to give the Flyers a 5-3 lead at the time.

“There’s a ton of character in that room,” Hakstol said. “We got down 3-0, but we were playing well. I didn’t feel like other than the first five minutes we weren’t back on our heels. We knew there would be a big push to start this hockey game with the energy they had in the building.”

"It says a lot about our group, how we did come back,” Gostisbehere said. "Going down 3-0 in a building like this, coming back to 5-3. It’s an unfortunate series of events there. There’s a lot of positives we can take away from this game.”

All of which had the lyrical makings of a country song straight out of Nashville’s Music Row. Now it’s up to the Flyers to change their tune in time for Saturday’s home opener against the Washington Capitals.

Flyers-Predators observations: Late collapse to end road trip

Flyers-Predators observations: Late collapse to end road trip

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — What looked like a dream comeback turned into a nightmare finish.

Nursing a 5-4 lead with 2:41 remaining in regulation Tuesday, the Flyers committed a pair of penalties to put the Predators on a 5-on-3 power play.

It was the start of the meltdown.

Nashville twice capitalized on the man advantage in the final 1:17 to deal the Flyers a frustrating 6-5 loss at Bridgestone Center.

This came after the Flyers wiped out a 3-0 deficit in the second period with three goals over a 4:46 span. They then snared the lead in the first seven minutes of the third with goals from Travis Konecny and Valtteri Filppula (see highlights).

However, it went for naught when the Flyers unraveled with a Dale Weise holding penalty, an Andrew MacDonald tripping penalty, and a failed coach’s challenge (no offside call), resulting in a third costly infraction (see story).

With the loss, the Flyers finished their season-opening road trip 2-2-0 and return for their home opener Saturday night against the Capitals.

• Dave Hakstol's challenge lost was on Scott Hartnell's game-tying goal at 5-on-3 with 1:17 remaining. No offside was confirmed and put the Flyers back on a two-man disadvantage. Hakstol's decision was risky because of the new NHL rule penalizing a failed challenge.

Forty-one seconds later, Filip Forsberg scored the game-winner for the Predators. Earlier in the final stanza, Forsberg started Nashville's comeback with his first of the game, trimming the Flyers' lead to 5-4.

• The holding call on Weise was questionable as he became tied up with two Nashville skaters while pursuing the puck in open ice. MacDonald's tripping came not long after with the Flyers trying to force the play dead.

• The Flyers quickly erased a three-goal, second-period deficit by scoring three unanswered goals. They roared back by scoring their first two goals just 16 seconds apart. MacDonald initially stopped the bleeding and got the Flyers on the board with a slap shot from just inside the blue line that beat Pekka Rinne. 

To his credit, MacDonald did a nice job of wheeling out of trouble in the neutral zone and allowing the Flyers to gain a clean entry into the Predators’ zone.

On the next shift, Weise burned the Predators with a tenacious forecheck to force a takeaway behind Nashville’s net. He then fed Nolan Patrick, who found the soft area in the low slot that pulled the Flyers within a goal.

Weise looked slow in the first three games, but that shift was a textbook forecheck to set up the rookie’s first NHL goal.

“Obviously, it’s really exciting. It was an unbelievable play by Weiser to jump right off the draw, get [past] their D and throw it in front for a pretty easy goal for me,” Patrick said. “It was a great play by him.”

• Hartnell, who went out to dinner with some of his former Flyers teammates Monday night, ripped a slap shot off a rebound that Brian Elliott was slow to react to in the second period. Hartnell’s shot hit off Elliott’s pad and went in to give Nashville a 2-0 lead. 

• Nashville’s big free-agent signing, Nick Bonino, extended the Predators’ lead to 3-0 after defenseman Mattias Ekholm wheeled around Claude Giroux and put a shot on Elliott that created Bonino’s rebound goal during 4-on-4 play. Giroux failed to negate Ekholm’s speed and cut down his angle to the net. 

• Predators coach Peter Laviolette said pregame his team needed to play with more speed. The Predators nearly used that to their advantage when speedy winger Viktor Arvidsson raced past Ivan Provorov and MacDonald for a breakaway that Elliott denied with his left pad in the opening minute of the game.

• After an 0-for-5 performance in Pittsburgh, the Predators spent a majority of Monday’s practice working on their power play and puck movement. The work paid off on their first opportunity as Craig Smith worked his way into the high slot and fired a shot that beat Elliott blocker side.

• Despite the goal, Elliott was the Flyers’ best player in the opening 20 minutes as he battled through screens and traffic to stop 8 of 9 shots and keep the Flyers’ deficit to 1-0.

• Quebec born Samuel Girard made his NHL debut for the Predators as he replaced Roman Josi on the team’s top pairing. Nashville wasted no time rushing the defenseman, who is just 19 years and 151 days old, to the NHL. Girard displayed an impressive skill set reminiscent of what we’ve seen from teammate P.K. Subban over the years with some nifty skating and puck skills. 

• Predators general manager David Poile is a genius at finding, drafting and developing young defensemen. Among those that have come through the Predators’ system include Kimmo Timonen, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Dan Hamhuis, Marek Zidlicky and Josi.

• When the Flyers host the Capitals Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, that will leave the Wild as the only team in the league that has yet to play on home ice. They’re scheduled to host the Blue Jackets that same night.

Lines, pairing and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds    
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny                
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl                

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald    
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg                    
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas                        

Goalies
Brian Elliott                                
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Sam Morin, Jori Lehtera, Brandon Manning

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jordan Hall contributed to this report.