Nico Hischier

Bye week doesn't slow Couturier-led Flyers

Bye week doesn't slow Couturier-led Flyers

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — Sean Couturier has been the Flyers' goal-to guy all season. 

Saturday night was no different.

The Flyers' top-line center had his third straight two-goal game in a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils.

Couturier, who was left off the Metropolitan Division All-Star team announced Wednesday, was arguably the best player on the ice for both teams with a three-point night and a plus-2 rating.

Travis Konecny, Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl also scored for the Flyers, who have reeled off four straight wins while the Devils have dropped their last six.

The Flyers also snapped a three-game losing streak at the Prudential Center. Their last win there came on Feb. 16, 2016.

This was the first of four meetings between divisional rivals with all four games being played in a span of exactly one month. Their next matchup comes Jan. 20 in Philadelphia.

• The Devils struck first with the Nico Hischier line taking advantage of the Nolan Patrick line and the Flyers' third defensive pairing of Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas. Hischier connected with Jesper Bratt, who made it 1-0. The Flyers simply lost coverage, as the Devils gained time and space after crossing the blue line. Gudas made the situation worse by leaving his feet and with Sanheim misplaying the puck along the boards, the Flyers were completely lost defensively.

• With the Patrick line facing the Hischier line for their second shift, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol found a way to get Couturier out on the ice with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. It was Couturier who won a puck battle along the wall and then moved it out to the point, where the rebound came straight out to Couturier. He then outmuscled two Devils, including Hischier, to score his 24th goal of the season.

• With Patrick out there, I gave the Devils the clear advantage against the Hischier line. With Couturier against the Devils' top line, the Flyers had the edge with that matchup.

• On their fourth attempt, the Devils' power play finally answered. Jersey moved the puck around the umbrella before setting up Kyle Palmieri with a one-timer that he ripped past Brian Elliott for a 2-1 Devils lead. Elliott couldn't quite make it to the post to seal off the shot. Typically, Elliott has anticipated those one-timer shots, but this may have caught him by surprise.

• On their first power-play opportunity, the Flyers capitalized. They broke down the Devils' four-man box. It all started with Couturier drawing a pair of defenders around the goal line and then finding the open passing lane to Jakub Voracek in the slot, as he used the back of his skate to kick it to Claude Giroux for the one-timer.

Sure, Voracek makes a nice kick pass, but Couturier, coupled with a Simmonds screen and an eventual tip-in on Cory Schneider, set up the goal and a 2-2 game.

• The one guy unaffected by the bye week is Couturier, who scored a power-play goal as he worked his way into the soft spot in the Devils' slot. Couturier blasted a one-timer past Schneider. That’s now three straight two-goal games for Couturier, and a big 3-2 lead after two periods.

• Travis Konecny was patiently waiting for several seconds for the two-line pass to spring him for a breakaway, and it all started with Couturier doing the grunt work below the goal line, winning the puck battle, and working the puck to Ivan Provorov, who found Konecny at the Devils' blue line, and the 4-2 Flyers lead.

• Penalties were a real problem for the Flyers in this game, as they were whistled for the first five minors — all stick infractions. In fact, Patrick committed a pair of high-sticking penalties in a span of 47 seconds of ice time. Aside from the Palmieri goal, the Flyers' PK was very strong. On their fifth opportunity, they pressured the Devils, not allowing Jersey to even set up.

• The Flyers' blue line appeared to be completely out of sorts early on, especially Brandon Manning, who committed a penalty, lost an edge, got beaten on a play and then nearly put a puck in his own net off his skate. With Shayne Gostisbehere out of the lineup because of an illness, Hakstol had to reconfigure his pairings, and with a five-day layoff, the bottom two pairings weren’t in sync at all.

Nolan Patrick vs. Nico Hischier, Part I

Nolan Patrick vs. Nico Hischier, Part I

VOORHEES, N.J. — Saturday’s game between the Flyers and Devils marks the first NHL meeting between the top two picks from the 2017 entry draft.

Nico Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick by the Devils, and Nolan Patrick, taken second by the Flyers, are the only two players from the most recent draft class to stay with their respective teams all season.

The two rookies have played against each other only once in the CHL/NHL top prospects game in Quebec last January, but they spent an extensive amount of time together at the NHL draft combine in Buffalo, New York, back in late May, and from there a friendship was formed.

“Yeah, I know him pretty good. I actually talked with him today,” Patrick said Friday, adding that he chats up Hischier on the phone about once a month. “He’s a really good guy and a good player. It was really cool to meet a lot of those guys through that experience.”

Hischier, who turned 19 last week, has a more defined offensive role with the Devils and his numbers reflect that. Currently centering the top line with Taylor Hall and Jesper Bratt, Hischier has scored eight goals along with 18 assists for 26 points in all 41 of the Devils' games. He’s also averaging 16:21 of ice time.

"Don't judge Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier," Devils general manager Fred Shero said, via NHL.com's Tom Gulitti. "They're kids, and they're going to be good players. For us, we're real happy with Nico. We were real fortunate to win the lottery. It gave us other options, and Nico's been fantastic. Having said that, I know Nolan Patrick will be a real good player."

Patrick, unlike Hischier, hasn’t been relied upon nearly as much offensively. The 19-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba, has two goals and six assists in 33 games while missing nearly a month dealing with concussion symptoms.

“I think my skating is getting better. I’m getting my skating legs back. That’s probably the main things I’ve actually noticed,” Patrick said. “I’m a little more confident in my game now, and just trying to play fast.”

Top pick Hischier heats up for streaking Devils

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USA Today Images

Top pick Hischier heats up for streaking Devils

NEWARK, N.J. -- Top overall draft pick Nico Hischier scored two goals in the first period and the New Jersey Devils extended their season-high winning streak to five games with a 3-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.

Taylor Hall had two assists, Cory Schneider made 31 saves and the Devils killed off all five Red Wings' power plays in extending Detroit's losing streak to three games. Sami Vatanen scored into an empty net with 23 seconds to play for the final margin.

Justin Abdelkader scored for Detroit, which outshot New Jersey 25-19 in the final two periods. Jimmy Howard made 29 saves.

The two-goal game was the second of the season for the 18-year-old Swiss center and it gave him seven for the season (see full recap).

Crosby, Malkin help give Penguins SO victory
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin scored in the shootout, and the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied past the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 on Wednesday night.

Crosby and Malkin both beat Sergei Bobrovsky between the legs in the shootout. Matt Murray stopped Pierre-Luc Dubois and then Artemi Panarin to clinch the win.

Crosby thought he had scored the game-winner 23 seconds into overtime, but the goal was overturned because of goaltender interference by Brian Dumoulin.

Four of the last five regular-season meetings between the Penguins and Blue Jackets have gone to overtime. Pittsburgh needed a big third-period rally in this one.

Malkin and Phil Kessel both scored third-period power-play goals for Pittsburgh, while Jake Guentzel netted the equalizer with 1:40 left in regulation. Conor Sheary also scored his 10th for the Penguins, who rallied from three two-goal deficits, including two in the third period. Murray made 29 saves in regulation (see full recap).

Rangers shut down Capitals for 1-0 SO win
NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad scored in the shootout to lift the New York Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.

Ondrej Pavelec stopped all 30 shots he faced through overtime and both Washington skaters in the tiebreaker. His first shutout of the season and the 18th of his career helped the Rangers improve to 4-1-1 in their last six games.

Philipp Grubauer had 37 saves for the Capitals, who have lost three straight (0-1-2) since winning 11 of 13.

After neither team could get anything past the backup goalies through 65 minutes, Zuccarello finally put one past Grubauer on the first shootout attempt as he skated in, moved to the right and beat the Washington goalie with a backhand. Pavelec then stopped T.J. Oshie and, after Zibanejad also beat Grubauer from the right side, the Rangers' goalie denied Alex Ovechkin to secure the win (see full recap).