Connor McDavid

Pressure-free Flyers win 2nd straight behind secondary scoring

Pressure-free Flyers win 2nd straight behind secondary scoring

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EDMONTON, Alberta — The last time the Flyers won back-to-back road games came nearly a full calendar year ago last season in New York.

Now, they’ve strung together consecutive victories in Western Canada — which has been the perfect getaway following a 10-game winless streak — by playing simple, basic road hockey.

“Yeah, we talked about that. These aren’t our fans out here. We don’t have to entertain them,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “We've just got to come away with the two points. We’re playing that good road-style hockey when you have nothing, you've got to get it in deep and live to fight another day, and I think our guys are really buying into that right now.”

The Flyers on Wednesday night completed a season sweep of the Oilers, winning, 4-2, at Rogers Place, and they finally received some secondary scoring from some unlikely contributors (see observations).

“This is a real solid road win,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought from start to finish, this was a real good way to follow up a good win in Calgary. I just thought all parts of our game were pretty good tonight.”

Jordan Weal chipped in with a power-play goal on a perfectly executed tic-tac-toe play that started with Claude Giroux’s slap pass to Sean Couturier, who then found Weal stationed in front of the crease for the tap-in goal. Weal had taken Wayne Simmonds' spot momentarily with the other members on the top power-play unit.

“It’s been a long time coming," Weal, who scored his first goal in his last 13 games, said. “I think Simmonds had something with his skate. I just jumped out. It’s nice when you can get out with special players like that. Coots made a helluva play to get it to me.” 

Dale Weise scored his first goal in a month taking a feed from Claude Giroux, who outraced the defense to a loose puck in setting up Weise (see highlights).

“It definitely feels good,” Weise said. “I’ve really liked the way we’ve played the last two games. We made some adjustments throughout our neutral zone and really clogging teams up. They’re not coming with as much speed and we’re getting out of the zone a little cleaner.”

More importantly, Weal’s goal came about five minutes after the Oilers jumped on the board first with a shorthanded tally when Connor McDavid stripped Couturier of the puck and led a 2-on-1 the other way, resulting in Leon Draisaitl’s goal that gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead.

Outside of McDavid’s assist, the Flyers executed textbook defense against the Oilers' superstar, much like they did in the game in Philadelphia, holding him to just one shot which came late in the third period.

“That’s what he does — he builds up that speed and catches you flat-footed," Elliott said. “Our guys did a [good] job to limit him and keep him to the outside there. He didn’t really get a grade-A shot off. Hats off to the guys in front of me, for sure.”

“Our forecheck was really good tonight in the neutral zone,” Weal said. “We were a five-man group. We were all connected. If you beat one guy, there’s a couple other guys there to support. Whenever their skill guys tried to cut to the middle, I thought we had good back pressure and they weren’t able to make plays they wanted to.”

Jakub Voracek and Simmonds accounted for 16 of the Flyers' 33 shots on goal, and it was Simmonds' last shot on an empty net that sealed the game in the final minute.

Elliott stopped 24 shots and he’s expected to play on back-to-back nights after Michal Neuvirth was placed on injured reserve Wednesday morning (see story).

Best of NHL: Connor McDavid scores quickly in OT, Oilers beat Islanders

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Best of NHL: Connor McDavid scores quickly in OT, Oilers beat Islanders

NEW YORK — Connor McDavid stormed down the ice with Leon Draisaitl trailing a step behind. Two slick passes and a one-timer later, and the game was over.

McDavid scored 38 seconds into overtime to lead the Edmonton Oilers over the New York Islanders 2-1 on Tuesday night.

McDavid intercepted an off-target pass by John Tavares to start a 2-on-1. McDavid carried the puck into the New York end of the ice dropping the puck to Draisaitl, who flipped a behind-the-back pass to McDavid at the circle to set up a one-timer.

The goal was the sixth of the year for McDavid.

"Our two big guns took it down the ice and got us a win," said Cam Talbot, who made 36 saves. "That's what we look to them for in situations like that, and we got it tonight" (see full recap).

Penguins spoil Tocchet's return in victory over Coyotes
PITTSBURGH — Penguins coach Mike Sullivan understands the risk/reward when he pairs Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.

When fully engaged and focused on the finer points of the game, they are as dynamic as any second-line duo in the NHL. When they're not, things can get sloppy. Really sloppy. So Sullivan will occasionally split them up, as he did with Pittsburgh's offense languishing at the end of a road trip out West.

Yet Sullivan almost always puts them back together, confident the good will outweigh whatever baggage might come along with it. The evidence was on display during a workmanlike 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night. Malkin and Kessel both had a goal and two assists as the Penguins put together a clinical performance to take some of the sting out of an uneven five-game swing through Western Canada (see full recap)

Tarasenko, Schwartz score in 1:35 span, Blues beat Devils
NEWARK, N.J. — The St. Louis Blues got back in the game against the New Jersey Devils with a lucky bounce, and then their talent took over.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz scored in a 1:35 span bridging the second and third periods and the Blues beat New Jersey 3-1 on Tuesday night, sending the Devils to their season-high third straight loss.

The big goal was Tarasenko's eighth of the season. With the Blues trailing 1-0 late in the second period, his shot from high in the slot hit off the shin of Devils defenseman Mirco Mueller and tied it with 63 seconds left in the period.

"I think that was big for us," said Blues goaltender Jake Allen, who made 21 saves. "It could have been a different game if we didn't get that goal in the second there, and I thought we played well in the third. We didn't give them anything" (see full recap).

Jarnkrok, Rinne power Predators past Blue Jackets​
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Nashville Predators finished off a successful early-season trip with a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Predators won a couple in California before beating Columbus 3-1, with the only loss coming in the first game of the swing at San Jose on Nov. 1.

"We did what we had to do on the road here, so it was good," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "(We) walk away with six points out of eight on a road trip this early. For me, it's good to be in the spot we're in."

Calle Jarnkrok scored in the third period and Pekka Rinne stopped 35 shots for the Predators, who dealt Columbus its third straight loss (see full recap).

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Connor McDavid comes to town; Matt Read to play?

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Connor McDavid comes to town; Matt Read to play?

VOORHEES, N.J. — Believe it or not, the Flyers are aware of 20-year-old Oilers phenom Connor McDavid. That doesn't make preparing for the 2017 Art Ross Trophy (most points in NHL) winner any easier, let alone slow him down.

“You have to be understated a little bit and say you're going to be aware when he's on the ice, but obviously there's more to it," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said Friday. "He's a heck of a player and a guy that can make something happen at any time.”

McDavid has picked up right where he left off last season when he led the NHL with 100 points and 70 assists. Six games into the 2017-18 campaign, the third-year centerman already has three goals and five assists, and he's doing it in style. His two helpers helped lift Edmonton over the Blackhawks on Thursday, one of which led to the game-winner in overtime, the other — a no-look, behind-the-back pass — making highlight reels everywhere.

So, yeah, the Flyers are well aware of McDavid and what he's capable of. That doesn't mean he'll be easy to stop.

"We just have to take time and space away from him," defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. "That's the biggest thing. You just can't give him space out there. He's going to wind it up and wheel.

“We're aware of it. We're going to stick to our game plan, nothing special, but obviously be aware when he's on the ice.”

The Flyers knew all about McDavid last season, too. He still managed to find the back of the net twice and rack up three assists in those two meetings.

McDavid has also experienced success against both of the Flyers netminders. As a member of the Flames, probable starter Brian Elliott posted an 0-3-1 record with a .870 save percentage in four appearances against the Oilers in 2016-17. Michal Neuvirth was 0-1 and allowed six goals in his only meeting.

It seems all the Flyers can do is be aware of the challenges McDavid presents.

"Probably everywhere they go, they have reporters asking the other team what their plan is against him," Elliott said.

“He's just a unique talent that you have to be aware of at all times. He's able to make plays that a lot of other guys aren't. You just have to be on your toes. You have to respect him, but you have to play your game and make sure you're tough no matter who it is out there.”

Laughton confident
Brandon Manning isn't the only member of the Flyers who has experience with McDavid. Scott Laughton has been up close and personal with the budding superstar, having played against him in junior and in some camps.

With Laughton centering the Flyers' fourth line, he should have some opportunities to put his familiarity of McDavid to the test. The Flyers are going to need any advantage they can get — no matter how small or insignificant it might seem.

"I went to a pro camp with McDavid in Toronto in the summer, and he's special," Laughton said. "He's got the best hands I've seen. He's a world-class talent.

“At the same time, tomorrow I'm going to try to limit his space, get in his face and make it hard for him to get going and get speed. I think I can try to keep up with him once I get my speed going.”

Laughton seemed confident about potentially matching up against McDavid. At least he has a plan, anyway.

“There's not much you can do," Laughton said. "You just have to be hard to play against, be in his face all night and kind of get him off his game that way.”

Injury report
Flyers forwards Wayne Simmonds and Taylor Leier both missed Friday's skate with what the club termed as maintenance days.

Simmonds was already dealing with a lower-body injury before he was clipped in the face by a stick during Thursday's 1-0 loss to the Predators. It doesn't sound like anything that should prevent the 10-year veteran from suiting up against the Oilers, but clearly, he's banged up right now.

Leier's absence was a bit more of a mystery, and given the 23-year-old rookie's inexperience, missing practice would seem to point to an injury of some kind.

In a bit of good news on the injury front, Jordan Weal returned to practice for the Flyers. However, he refused to let on as to whether he'll be on the ice Saturday.

“Just got out there, went for a twirl," Weal said. "It's day to day right now, so just taking it day by day.”

Matt Read replaced Simmonds during the skate and could be preparing to make his regular-season debut. Read joined Weal and Valtteri Filppula on Simmonds' unit, while Jori Lehtera took Leier's place on the fourth line.

Don't read too much into those combinations, however, as the availability of Simmonds, Weal and Leier will no doubt play a role.

Sanheim sticks in the lineup
Following his strong showing against Nashville on Thursday, it appears rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim will suit up for his second game in a row.

Sanheim was a healthy scratch for the Flyers' previous two contests but drew rave reviews for his performance against the Predators. He was paired with Radko Gudas at practice, while Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg continued their partnership.

Manning may be the odd man out Saturday, despite his history with McDavid. Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald remained a unit at practice, with Manning getting some work in MacDonald's spot.

Manning was hopeful he would be in uniform. Hakstol, on the other hand, downplayed Manning's personal rivalry with McDavid as it pertains to any decision about which defensemen will skate.

“It's a situation for us every game where we have that tough decision," Hakstol said. "Regardless of whether it's one particular team, we'll look at it situationally and consider all of those factors as to who the six are that dress tomorrow. There's a lot of different factors involved."