chicago blackhawks

Flyers' top line delivers statement in win over Blackhawks

Flyers' top line delivers statement in win over Blackhawks

BOX SCORE

The Blackhawks want what the Flyers have right now.

A dominant No. 1 line.

The Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek trio scored all three of the Flyers' goals Thursday, dominating the Blackhawks' top line in the first 25 minutes of a 3-1 victory (see observations).

“When you get a chance to play against one of the top lines in the league, you get excited about it,” Claude Giroux said. “Coach told us that we were going to play most of the game against them. I think when you play with the same guys for a good amount of games, you feel more comfortable and the chemistry is more there.”

Giroux scored his ninth goal of the season 4:58 into the game on a perfect one-time feed from Voracek. A little more than seven minutes later, Shayne Gostisbehere teed up a similar pass for Voracek, who ripped home his fourth goal in his last seven games (see highlights)

Three goals, four assists and a plus-9 rating compared to Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane that finished with a minus-5 and no points. The Flyers' "Big Three" has combined for 60 points in the Flyers' first 16 games of the season. 

“It was a big matchup and a big challenge for us,” Couturier said. “We’re willing to go against anyone. We feel really confident about our game right now. We can outscore any line or any pairing. We've just got to keep going.”

“You’re talking about competitive people,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s three good players on that line and they’re all different, they play the game differently, they have different elements, different strengths, but the three of them together, big credit to them — it has worked well for our hockey team to this point.”

Hakstol assembled the Flyers' top line by transitioning Giroux from center to left wing during the second week of training camp, and the Flyers' head coach has yet to deviate from that trio this season. On the other hand, the Blackhawks are desperate to try anything. 

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville shook up his lines again, this time pairing Toews and Kane together with Sharp in an attempt to rekindle some magic from the glory days of their Stanley Cup seasons. The Flyers proved the experiment to be an utter disaster as it barely lasted 20 minutes before Quenneville pulled the plug and switched Sharp with the speedier Brandon Saad.

Hard to believe this was the same Chicago team that put up 10 goals on the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins just a month ago. 

“[Ivan Provorov] and [Robert Hagg] did a great job against their top line and frustrating them," Gostisbehere said. "When you’re frustrating their top line, it’s kind of like cutting the head off a snake. The rest of the team will fold. I think we did a lot of good things out there of limiting time and space because they’re a skilled team."

Gostisbehere became the quickest defenseman to score 100 points in a Flyers uniform, reaching the milestone in 155 games

“Yeah, it’s awesome, a tremendous honor to do it but do it with my teammates and my coaches, they put me in those situations to go out there and get those points,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s huge. It’s a nice group effort — family support, everyone.”

After the Flyers jumped out to a 3-0 lead, they appeared to shift into cruise control and were outplayed over the final 35 minutes. Brian Elliott, who lost, 3-0, to the same Blackhawks just eight days earlier, bailed out the Flyers on more than one occasion with perhaps his best all-around game since joining the Flyers.

Elliott turned aside 38 shots and was vital in helping the Flyers kill off Chicago’s two-man advantage for 1:44 near the end of the second period.   

“It was huge," Elliott said. "They could have tied it up there at the end of the period and we would have been tied going in. Killing that off was big for our guys. We did a really great job. They didn’t do much on it. You keep things to the outside on that and they didn’t cross box us, so that’s good.”

When asked which save stood out the most, Elliott pointed to a pass he disrupted as the one play that was fresh in his mind.

“Taking away that pass from Kane in the 5-on-3 with my stick," Elliott said. "I was happy with that one because that’s an open net at the backdoor.”

“It’s big, to be able to get that at that time of the game and that situation," Hakstol said. "[Elliott] did a good job, made some saves for us. PK battled hard, big part of the game.”

The Flyers' win also marked the 14th consecutive regular-season win over the Blackhawks at the Wells Fargo Center, dating back to Nov. 9, 1996.

Quenneville might consider reuniting Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull on a top line if he thought it might bring the Blackhawks a win in Philadelphia. 

Flyers-Blackhawks observations: Home streak vs. Chicago continues

Flyers-Blackhawks observations: Home streak vs. Chicago continues

BOX SCORE

The streak lives on.

The Flyers continued their dominance over the Blackhawks by beating Chicago, 3-1, at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night. The victory was their 14th consecutive regular-season home win in the series. The Blackhawks' last non-playoff win in Philadelphia came exactly 21 years ago to the day: Nov. 9, 1996.

The Flyers’ top line did the damage with Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier all scoring goals.

Brian Elliott won for the sixth time in 10 starts as he stopped 38 of 39 shots.

• Much of the final 35 minutes were played in the Flyers’ end following the 3-0 lead. The ‘Hawks outshot the Flyers, 26-15, while applying constant pressure. Chicago just couldn’t rattle Elliott, who turned in a similar effort to Corey Crawford when these two teams played in Chicago eight days ago. 

• The Flyers were forced to kill off 1:44 of a 5-on-3 when Radko Gudas went off for tripping and then Ivan Provorov lofted the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. The Flyers successfully killed off the two-man advantage with Chicago’s best scoring chance coming on a Duncan Keith wrist shot between the circles when Keith shot over the net. The Blackhawks were able to manage just one shot on net during that stretch. 

• Impressively, defenseman Robert Hagg was on the ice for 1:40 of that penalty kill. I couldn’t care less what Hagg’s Corsi numbers look like, he’s been an invaluable part of this defense.

• Elliott doesn’t usually make the highlight-reel save, but he was locked in against the Blackhawks. Elliott made a series of blocker saves in the opening period, and then had a gem when he robbed Brandon Saad with the glove. In the third, he denied Patrick Kane from close range and Saad once again. Elliott cut down just about every angle and his positioning was square to nearly every puck.  

• Matching top line against top line, the Flyers just abused the Blackhawks’ trio of Saad, Jonathan Toews and Kane — a line coach Joel Quenneville assembled prior to this game. The Flyers’ No. 1 line extended the lead to 3-0 on a beautiful tic-tac-toe play as Voracek found Giroux, who sent a backhand pass to Couturier as he came down the slot. The score was Couturier’s 10th of the season, which he’s never done before Jan. 1.

• Brandon Manning had a very solid opening 40 minutes to start this game. Manning tied up Saad to break up a Blackhawks’ opportunity down low. He was very active all over the ice. He separated his man from the puck and was the high man for the Flyers with 14:49 of ice time after two periods.

• Early in the second period, Travis Sanheim displayed his offensive awareness when he threaded another solid pass. This one went to Dale Weise, who clanked his shot off the post. Sanheim very easily could have had a pair of assists in this game.

• The Flyers looked very much like a team coming off a four-day layoff in the first four minutes of the game. Their breakouts were out of sync and coupled with some atrocious passing that forced them to regroup in their own end on a couple of occasions. 

• The Flyers jumped on the board first when Voracek and Couturier drew four Blackhawks defenders to the right side of the ice. Voracek fired a perfect pass to Giroux, who ripped off his patented one-timer from just outside the right circle that beat Crawford. Giroux was left wide open as Kane couldn’t make it on the backcheck.

• The Flyers had the Blackhawks’ defense completely spread out on their second goal. Giroux grabbed the puck out of the air and then fed Shayne Gostisbehere, who skated down low and had a four-lane highway of a passing lane. He fed Voracek, who blasted a one-timer of his own as the Flyers became just the second team this season to score two goals on Crawford in the opening period. 

• For “Ghost,” he became the fastest Flyers defenseman to score 100 points as he reached the mark in his first 155 career games. 

“It’s awesome, but of course I couldn’t do this without my teammates,” Gostisbehere said during the first intermission. “Just to do it with an organization like Philadelphia, it’s unbelievable. It’s a team with a lot of history, and again, I can’t thank my teammates and support staff enough.”

• Gostisbehere also had a terrific lead pass to Travis Konecny, who skated in behind the Blackhawks’ defense and deked Crawford for a wide-open net, but his backhand shot went wide.

• Early on, Gostisbehere held onto the puck a little too long, which produced a turnover and an early chance for Lance Bouma. That’s the second straight game when “Ghost” has committed a turnover in his own end. He had a similar play against the Avalanche when Gostisbehere had it stripped to lead to a Nail Yakupov third-period goal.

• Sanheim played a solid 6:21 in the first period with one memorable shift that showcased his potential. Sanheim broke up a potential pass at the defensive end in front of Elliott and then pushed the rush. Sanheim threaded a perfectly-timed pass to Valtteri Filppula just to the left of Crawford that could have been put in for a score.

Lines, pairings and scratches

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forward Matt Read (healthy) and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).

Best of NHL: Islanders' Mathew Barzal with franchise-rookie record 5 assists

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Best of NHL: Islanders' Mathew Barzal with franchise-rookie record 5 assists

NEW YORK — Mathew Barzal put on a passing clinic for the New York Islanders.

Barzal had a franchise-rookie record five assists in the Islanders' 6-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night.

"It's pretty cool I didn't know," Barzal said about the record. "Actually (Jordan Eberle) was saying maybe six would be a record, but we were just joking around. I had no idea, so that's a pretty cool thing to do."

Barzal becoming just the sixth player in Islanders' history with five assists in a game, joining Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Stefan Persson, Brent Sutter and Pat LaFontaine (see full recap).

Lindgren leads Canadiens to victory over Blackhawks
CHICAGO — Charlie Lindgren made 38 saves in his first career shutout, helping the Montreal Canadiens beat Corey Crawford and the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 on Sunday night.

Lindgren and Crawford were locked up in a scoreless duel before Jonathan Drouin skated through the slot and shot the puck into the left side of the net at 1:54 of the third. Drouin's third goal of the season stopped Crawford's scoreless streak at 173 minutes, 9 seconds.

Defenseman Joe Morrow added his third career goal at 7:45, helping Montreal to its fourth win in five games. Morrow blasted a slap shot by a screened Crawford for his first goal since Oct. 27, 2015, for Boston against Arizona.

Coming off consecutive shutouts against Philadelphia and Minnesota, Crawford finished with 33 stops in his first career regulation loss against his hometown team. He was 8-0-2 with a 1.49 goals-against average in 10 career games against Montreal (see full recap).

Petr Mrazek makes 36 saves, Red Wings beat Oilers
EDMONTON, Alberta — Backup goalie Petr Mrazek and Detroit Red Wings pushed aside the Edmonton Oilers.

Mrazek made 36 saves and Martin Frk and Anthony Mantha each had a goal and an assist to help the Red Wings beat the Oilers 4-0 on Sunday.

Mrazek had his 11th NHL shutout.

"I thought he was excellent," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. "He made some point-blank saves on Connor McDavid. We all know how good he is. Petr has put in tons of work in, both in the summer and in the moments he hasn't been playing for the last bit. He's put tons of work in, he's improved his technique, he was totally ready for this opportunity and that's great for Pete."

Frans Nielsen and Gustav Nyquist also scored. The Red Wings have won three of four to reach 7-7-1 (see full recap).