Radko Gudas

Alex Lyon's 1st NHL start has devilish finish

Alex Lyon's 1st NHL start has devilish finish

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — The Flyers' pipes are in need of repair right now.

Making his first career NHL start, Alex Lyon was a little leaky in a 4-3 loss to the Devils Thursday night at the Prudential Center, as New Jersey connected for a pair of third-period goals, including Nico Hischier’s redirection through Lyon’s five-hole with 1:27 remaining in regulation (see observations).

“He just put it to the net and I thought I was in really good position, but I just opened up a little bit, and things happen fast enough in this league where you’re going to pay for that,” Lyon, who stopped 18 of 22 shots, said. “So I learned the hard way. I’m just going to try and learn from the mistakes and be sharper next time.”

Lyon’s first start also marked the first time this season the Flyers failed to pick up a point when leading after two periods with a record of 18-1-3. 

“It’s definitely tough to take a loss like that for sure,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “I think we more feel bad for Alex. We kind of let him down there, but it’s about getting back on the horse. There’s a lot of hockey left.”

One night after Michal Neuvirth admitted he wasn’t feeling quite 100 percent over a stomach bug, Lyon had to overcome some early butterflies of his own and another poor performance from the penalty kill, as the Devils scored two power-play goals on their first five shots of the game. 

“I wasn’t very sharp in the first period,” Lyon said. “I think my head was in the locker room. I just tried to battle and regroup. Unfortunately at the end there, that’s the main thing. You've got to find a way to get a point or two points at least. I’m disappointed.”

“I’m not surprised that he’s his own worst critic,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s the type of person that he is. I thought he gave us a good hockey game.”

New Jersey’s first goal came on a backdoor play as Kyle Palmieri was left wide open in the left circle, and the Devils converted again as Drew Stafford redirected a pass in front of Lyon that also slipped through his legs. In their season series, five of the eight goals the Devils have scored against the Flyers have come with the man advantage. 

“We allowed a seam play on the backdoor to Palmieri. There’s a couple of different ways ahead of that play to defend it a little bit better, and the tip play is a missed assignment at the net front,” Hakstol said. “When you give good players on the power play second and third opportunities, those are the ones that come back and get you. That’s something that we needed to be much better with the missed clears.”

Playing the Devils for the third time in 17 days, tensions started to rise after Radko Gudas collided with Palmieri late in the first period. As Gudas was attempting to skate back to his defensive position on the blue line, he jumped into Palmieri inadvertently. Gudas was assessed a two-minute minor for interference, but considering his history of cheap shots, the Devils rushed to Palmieri's defense.

Jakub Voracek and Taylor Hall were given matching roughing minors, and Brandon Manning and Damon Severson engaged in a brawl.

“I was getting out of the way of [Wayne Simmonds] when he showed up,” Gudas said. “I didn’t see him at all. I was just trying to get back to my position. It was unlucky. I shot it, and it was unfortunate.”

“Maybe it’s not avoidable, but there are ways you can maybe soften that blow,” Devils forward Travis Zajac said. “I don’t think you have to jump at the guy.” 

On Gudas’ next shift, Zajac came straight at Gudas as both players dropped the gloves in retaliation for the previous hit.

“I didn’t expect that from him, but it was OK," Gudas said. "It was a pretty good fight."

Still, the dogfight within the Metropolitan Division continues. Just 10 points separate the eight teams all jockeying for playoff position, and unquestionably, every single point matters as the Flyers let one, and quite possibly two, slip away Thursday night, marking consecutive losses with Brian Elliott (lower body) on the shelf.

And if “Ells” doesn’t return sometime soon, those other “L's” may continue to pile up in the standings.

Alex Lyon lets 1st start literally slip right through his grasp

Alex Lyon lets 1st start literally slip right through his grasp

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — Alex Lyon’s first NHL start was a memorable one, although right now it’s one he’d rather forget.

Devils rookie Nico Hischier scored the game-winner with 1:27 remaining in regulation to give the Devils a 4-3 victory over the Flyers on Thursday. Hischier redirected a pass that seeped through Lyon’s five-hole and across the line.

Lyon finished the night with 18 saves on 22 shots, as the Flyers failed to pick up a point when leading after two periods for the first time this season.

The Flyers and Devils combined for four power-play goals in the first period alone. Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds connected for the Flyers, while Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford found the back of the net for New Jersey.

Shayne Gostisbehere hit double digits with his 10th goal that gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead.

This was the third matchup between the Metropolitan Division rivals in a span of just 17 days.

• Let’s start with the Radko Gudas interference call. If you watched him all the way down the ice, Gudas skated hard into the Devils’ zone and fired a shot on goal. Afterward, he was simply looking to get back to his right side spot on defense. I don’t think there was intent to plow over Palmieri. I believe Gudas saw him at the last second and made a last-ditch effort to protect himself. However, by leaving his feet, it certainly didn’t look good. Two minutes for interference was the right call.

• For Gudas, that was his first penalty of any kind dating all the way back to Nov. 16 when he was tossed from the game in Winnipeg for his vicious slash on Mathieu Perreault. If the league looks at this and hands down a suspension, it’s only because of reputation.

• Gudas also had a horrendous turnover in the defensive zone right on the stick of Blake Coleman in the second period. Considering the play of Brandon Manning in the game against the Capitals, I’m a little surprised Dave Hakstol elected to stick with this pairing again.

• The Flyers’ penalty kill has been the best tonic for any struggling power play. The Devils’ PP came into this game scoreless in its last 11 tries. However, it must feel like its clicking now after scoring on the first two attempts. The first goal was really bothersome for a couple of reasons: Why is Jori Lehtera still killing penalties? Lehtera was out there for the Devils’ first PP goal with Valtteri Filppula as they gave New Jersey all sorts of room to operate in the offensive zone. Lyon simply couldn’t move to the near post and reposition himself for Palmieri's shot. Outside of Sean Couturier and Michael Raffl, the Flyers are running out of dependable forwards on the PK.

• The second power-play goal was a shot Brian Elliott is so good at reading and stopping and probably one Lyon wishes he could have had back. Stafford was manning the high slot area when he was able to redirect the pass that slid through Lyon’s five-hole. Of course, the Flyers could have done a better job at defending the pass as well.

• Four first-period power-play goals. Giroux scored his 15th goal on a 5-on-3, an easy tap-in from the left side circle. Then Simmonds netted the game-tying goal later in the period. Simmonds did a solid job of knocking a New Jersey penalty killer off the puck from behind the net and keeping the play alive in the zone. That was a key as the Flyers worked around to Jakub Voracek, who created a low-angled shot that set up Simmonds’ rebound goal. I’m still not sure how he was able to switch over and wrist a backhand sandwiched between two defenders.

• Gostisbehere had a very silent night offensively in Washington as he failed to register a shot on net in over 24 minutes of ice time. “Ghost” more than made up for it against the Devils. He has had six shots on net and jumped in the play with the fourth line to score the go-ahead goal. New Jersey’s Coleman made no effort to play effective defense on this play.

• The Devils tied it up at 3-3 with nine minutes remaining in regulation on a play that started with the puck tied up along the boards. Once the Devils’ Pavel Zacha broke out of the pack with the puck, the Flyers were in scramble mode and lost coverage. Defenseman Damon Severson pinched in from his right defense position and Travis Konecny simply failed to pick him up in time.

• It was a rough opening 20 minutes for Lyon in his first NHL start, but he certainly wasn’t helped out by the guys in front of him. It was important for Lyon to come out in the second period and make some big saves early on. I liked how he skated to the top of his crease and cut down the angle on Mirco Mueller. Then midway through the second, Lyon challenged Jesper Bratt and cut down the angle. I thought it was important how the two power-play goals didn’t deter his confidence.

• There was a working man’s shift from the Nolan Patrick line that kept the puck in the Devils’ zone in the neighborhood of 45 to 50 seconds. That spread out the Devils’ defense and allowed firing from just about every angle. Hakstol looked smart for putting Patrick, Simmonds and Voracek together as the rookie is playing with more confidence. All three forwards are really strong on pucks.

• The Flyers took over a five-minute stretch late in the second period, as they outshot the Devils, 8-0, until they were forced to kill Konecny’s penalty. The penalty kill made a few adjustments after the first period to confuse the Devils with a 1-3 formation in the neutral zone and didn’t allow New Jersey to skate freely into the offensive zone with the puck.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Alex Lyon
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forwards Dale Weise (healthy) and Tyrell Goulbourne (healthy), and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).

Flyers use a sick day in return from All-Star break

Flyers use a sick day in return from All-Star break

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — Michal Neuvirth wasn’t quite himself. 

Then again, Neuvirth hasn’t been quite right for the past several days. Fighting a stomach bug over the All-Star break, Neuvirth started feeling uneasy once again after a solid opening period in Washington.

“I was trying to hydrate myself as [best] I could,” Neuvirth said. “I felt energy in the first and then I sat down after 20 minutes and I was just getting tired every minute. I haven’t really eaten much lately, so I was drinking a lot of water. I had one practice before the pregame skate. It is what it is.”

Head coach Dave Hakstol was not aware of his goaltender’s condition and elected to make a change after the Capitals scored five unanswered goals on their way to a 5-3 victory Wednesday (see observations).

“I’m not going to make too many comments on that,” Hakstol said. “I’ll talk to Neuvy first and that’s where it will stay. It’s the start that changed the complexion of the hockey game, the start of that [second] period. Obviously, the first goal against, that’s a tough bounce for us.”

Not just a tough bounce, but Neuvirth appeared to be completely shocked that a shot would be angled in his direction as he clearly wasn’t prepared to make a save. He was able to keep the initial shot out of the net, but wasn’t quick to react to Chandler Stephenson, who raced in and pushed the puck across the goal line at the 2:14 mark of the second period.

“I got surprised. It was a bad goal,” Neuvirth said. “It gave them life and the rest is history.” 

Neuvirth’s admission of feeling light-headed conjured up flashbacks from a game last April 1 against the Devils when he suddenly collapsed on the ice, left the game on a stretcher and was hospitalized for precautionary reasons. 

Without a healthy Brian Elliott, who has provided stability throughout the first half of the season, this Flyers team may be staring at a goaltending dilemma. For just the second time this season, it allowed at least five regulation goals in back-to-back games — both losses to the first-place Lightning and first-place Capitals.

Alex Lyon made his NHL debut with 10 minutes and 54 seconds remaining in the third period and stopped all five shots he faced.

“It was a good day,” the 25-year-old rookie said. “I got a little stain on my suit this morning. I was pretty pissed about that, but other than that, it turned out to be a pretty good day. I’m sure on the train up to Jersey tonight I’ll take a moment and be happy.”   

With Neuvirth not feeling quite right, all signs are now pointing to Lyon making his first NHL start Thursday night against the Devils at the Prudential Center.

“I think it will really help. I’ve been taking the same approach every day,” Lyon said.

“He went in and battled as we thought he would,” Hakstol said. “He’s got a very good demeanor about him and he’s got a nice confidence to him, and he’s very comfortable in and around our players. I wasn’t too worried about what that might do down the road.”

The Flyers’ problems extended well beyond goaltending. The team’s third defense pairing of Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas was burned for a breakaway just 47 seconds after the Capitals scored their first goal. Manning then allowed Andre Burakovsky to gain position for an easy redirected power play that allowed the Capitals to take their first lead of the game. 

“The second goal, you can’t let that happen,” Hakstol said. “That’s a sleepy play for us, a quick transition play that gets in behind our defensemen.”

“They’re two warriors for us,” Hakstol said of Manning and Gudas. “And they’ve been that for our team. I’m not going to start nitpicking on the one goal tonight. We’ll talk about it behind closed doors as we always do. We need them to be at the top of their game.”

Wednesday’s defeat was also the Flyers’ first regulation loss in which they held a lead after the first period. The Flyers raced out to an early advantage when rookie Nolan Patrick, on a newly-formed line with Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, scored a beautiful backhand goal just 78 seconds into the game (see highlights). Patrick added an assist for his first multi-point game of his career. 

“I might have put that puck over the net two months ago,” Patrick said about his goal. “Yeah, I’m feeling confident and I feel better every game. It’s a great opportunity for me to play with both guys.”

Now comes Round 3 against Devils rookie Nico Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft.

The Flyers just need a steady presence in net.