Nolan Patrick

Pleasant surprises in a first for Flyers

Pleasant surprises in a first for Flyers

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When asked what he thought about the current Flyers team prior to his retirement ceremony, Eric Lindros admitted he really didn’t know all that much regarding this year’s team. 

After Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Lindros’ hometown Maple Leafs (see observations), "Big E" and a sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd learned something about the Flyers that no one in Philadelphia had been privy to.

The Flyers capped off their first win this season when trailing by two or more goals entering the third period. Interestingly, the only other third-period comeback that led to a victory was when they trailed this same Toronto team, 2-1, on Dec. 12. Prior to this game, the Flyers were 1-12-2 this season when trailing after two periods.

Certainly, the Flyers needed goal scoring, but more importantly, they also received a handful of momentum saves from goaltender Michal Neuvirth.

“Huge," Neuvirth said regarding his 29-save performance. “When we tied it, it was like, 'OK, here we go. You gotta be at your best right now.' So I was just focusing on the next shot. Just happy the way the guys responded in the third.”

Neuvirth had little, if any, margin of error after the Leafs scored twice in a 28-second span to grab a 2-0 advantage, but the Flyers' backup netminder provided a handful of momentum saves that allowed the Flyers to win in overtime.

• A minute after Wayne Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with a shorthanded goal, Neuvirth stopped Auston Matthews and Connor Brown on back-to-back shots, including an impressive blocker save on Brown from up close.

• With 2:48 remaining in regulation, Neuvirth made the save of the game with the Leafs coming down on a 2-on-1. Neuvirth expected Nazem Kadri to shoot. Instead, he passed it to his left, forcing Neuvirth to make a full extension on Patrick Marleau, turning aside the shot with the tip of his right pad (see highlights).

• Neuvirth denied Matthews from in tight with another pad save just 10 seconds into overtime. That save created a 2-on-1 scoring chance resulting in Sean Couturier’s game-winning score. 

“At least three 10-bell saves by Neuvy. He was tremendous,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We generated a lot in the third period, but when you give up those chances against, Neuvy stole the show in my opinion and you need those saves sometimes to win games. For me, he was first star.”

Neuvirth and the rest of the Flyers needed an initial spark and 19-year-old rookie Nolan Patrick was surprisingly the one to provide it. After taking a shot that hit the side of the net and caromed behind it, Patrick chased down Mitch Marner, stole the puck and fired a quick shot on goaltender Frederik Andersen for his first goal in his last 25 games.

“I tried to forget how many games it was in a row without a goal and just keep playing,” Patrick said. “I thought I was playing some good hockey lately and I knew it would come.”

A minute and 52 seconds later, Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with the Flyers' second shorthanded goal of the season, extending his point streak to six games.

Struggling to find the right overtime combinations, Hakstol elected to go with the trio of Couturier, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov to start the extra session. Couturier continued his magical run and now has 11 goals in his last 12 games, while also providing five game-winning goals in the Flyers' last 10 victories. 

“He’s hot. We keep calling him ‘Rocket,’" Simmonds said, referring to Hall of Famer Maurice “Rocket” Richard. “You just keep giving him the puck and he’s going to find the back of the net. When you’re hot, you want to keep giving it to a guy like that. Hopefully, he’s going to continue to score for us.”

More Couturier goals and more game-changing saves, and the Flyers will find themselves rocketing up the standings.

Flyers go from running on E to comeback for 'Big E'

Flyers go from running on E to comeback for 'Big E'

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On a night when a sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd celebrated “Big E,” the Flyers responded with an equally big ‘W’ by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, in overtime to sweep the three-game regular-season series. 

Sean Couturier scored his 26th goal just 18 seconds into the extra session on a feed from Travis Konecny.

The Flyers trailed, 2-0, after the first two periods, but erased that deficit in the first 3:25 of the third period.

Nolan Patrick opened the scoring in the third with his third goal of the season. 

Wayne Simmonds scored his 16th goal of the season and the second shorthanded goal for the Flyers this season, which tied the game at 2-2. Simmonds now has a point in six straight games (four goals, two assists).

Michal Neuvirth stopped 29 of 31 shots as the Flyers’ backup netminder has now won his last two starts.
    
• The Leafs snapped a scoreless tie in the second period when Shayne Gostisbehere attempted to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Gostisbehere missed it completely, and with Ivan Provorov already pinching, only Couturier was back at the blue line. Couturier couldn’t catch Connor Brown, who broke in all alone on Neuvirth and beat him through the five-hole for a 1-0 Toronto lead. “Ghost” has to make sure that puck doesn’t squirt past him. 

• Just 28 seconds later, the Flyers surrendered another goal on a fluky play as Jake Gardiner harmlessly shot the puck on net from the left circle. Neuvirth made the initial stop, but the puck popped up straight in the air. Unfortunately for the Flyers, Robert Hagg couldn’t prevent Frederik Gauthier from getting a shot off. Neuvirth either lost track of it or the puck was tipped on the way to the net, but it put the Flyers down 2-0.

• The Flyers finally came to life when Patrick scored perhaps his most impressive goal of the season. After his initial shot from a sharp angle was turned aside and bounced behind the net, Patrick tenaciously chased down Mitch Marner, stripped the puck and turned to fire a shot that caught Frederik Andersen by surprise. Patrick continues to improve his play and show more jump in the offensive zone. He had a strong first period and followed it up with a goal.

• Neuvirth made the save of the game off a 2-on-1 when Patrick Marleau had a wide-open net. Neuvirth went post to post and was able to extend his right pad just enough to kick away Marleau’s shot.

• The Jori Lehtera interference penalty was absolutely ridiculous. The referees allowed both teams to play without much officiating and then whistled Lehtera for a penalty they had no business calling. 

• It was a tight-checking game in the opening five minutes. The only sustained pressure came from the Leafs’ top line of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Zach Hyman. The Flyers had a good look when Claude Giroux was able to feed Provorov, who came into the high slot untouched. However, Provorov’s one-timer hit Andersen in the chest.

• There was a great save from Neuvirth that started after Jakub Voracek was caught stick handling too much just inside the Leafs’ blue line. That led to a 2-on-1 rush with James van Riemsdyk leading the rush up the left side. Neuvirth did a fantastic job of anticipating the pass to Tyler Bozak, who was cutting down the middle of the ice.

• The Flyers worked a power play in the final two minutes of the opening period as Hyman tripped up Gostisbehere unnecessarily. “Ghost” unleashed a slap shot early that handcuffed Simmonds, who was looking for a shot where he could extend his hands a little bit more. Gostisbehere also had a prime opportunity as he broke in underneath the Leafs’ coverage for a quality scoring chance. 

• The Flyers continued to play with fire as they gave Toronto a shorthanded opportunity. Overall, it was a pretty good first period for the Flyers, who have struggled to score in the first 20 minutes with just five goals over their last 11 games. 

• Interestingly, Dave Hakstol had Lehtera as one of his penalty-killers. Lehtera, who’s not exactly fleet of foot, had a chance to jump on a loose puck and clear the zone, but simply couldn’t get there quick enough. Overall, the Flyers’ PK did a solid job of pressuring the Leafs from the top of the circle to the blue line, not allowing them to setup and ultimately no shots on goal.   

• If you enjoy the defensive part of the game, then you would have loved watching Couturier battle with Matthews. Couturier refused to give Matthews any room to maneuver with the puck. The Matthews line was clicking earlier this season when the Flyers faced the Leafs in Toronto, but not so much in mid-January.

• There was a very good save sequence from Neuvirth around the 12-minute mark of the second period as the Leafs had several whacks right around the crease area. Neuvirth stood his ground, looked calm and maintained his positioning for any rebounds.

• The Flyers came up empty with two of their best scoring opportunities from the high-danger area in the span of a minute. First, Konecny missed wide of the net, and then later, Jordan Weal’s shot was blocked by Leafs defenseman Gardiner. For Konecny, that’s a shot he has to bury.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

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

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

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Forwards Taylor Leier (healthy) and Dale Weise (healthy), and defenseman Travis Sanheim (healthy).

Bye week doesn't slow Couturier-led Flyers

Bye week doesn't slow Couturier-led Flyers

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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.