Rick Tocchet

Flyers show up too late in OT loss, allow Coyotes to notch 1st win

Flyers show up too late in OT loss, allow Coyotes to notch 1st win

BOX SCORE

On a night when hockey fans were decked out in the Halloween spirit, the Flyers reverted yet again to their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine.

A disastrous start coupled with a furious finish and capped with an overtime turnover allowed the Arizona Coyotes to earn their first win of the season, beating the Flyers on Monday, 4-3, following the worst start (0-10-1) in NHL history (see observations). Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski sealed Arizona’s first win for new head coach Rick Tocchet. 

“They’re definitely a better team than what people give them credit for,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We didn’t play a good game at all. It wasn’t a good first period. It wasn’t an ideal game for us.”

Rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim fumbled a puck at Arizona’s blue line, which allowed the Coyotes to break down the ice and convert a 3-on-2 at the other end, as Goligoski’s one-timer easily beat Flyers netminder Brain Elliott with 15 seconds remaining in OT (see highlights).

“Three-on-three is tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We made a decision instead of taking the puck to the net, we had a little bit of a bad roll, a bad hop with the puck, and they take it over, come back hard and make the play for the goal.”

For the third time in their last nine games, the Flyers also spotted their opponent a 3-0 lead before mounting a serious comeback. However, considering their winless opponent and a failure to bring energy on home ice, this early deficit was nearly inexcusable.

“As a group, we were too far below the bar,” Hakstol said. “I think we had eight shot attempts in the first period. In our own end, we weren’t quick and hard defending through the entire period. I’m not taking anything away from our opponent, they played hard. We didn’t start the hockey game where we wanted to be and where we needed to be.”

The Flyers also failed to capitalize on Arizona goaltender Scott Wedgewood, who was making his first start since March 2016. Almost inexplicably, the Flyers didn’t have a single shot on net from their forwards until Claude Giroux was able to fire off a quick wrister 3:39 into the second period. Since the Flyers generated little pressure until the final 20 minutes, they were also unable to fully take advantage of the NHL’s worst penalty kill, scoring a goal on their only power-play opportunity of the game in the third.

“I’m not too sure,” Giroux said, trying to put a finger on the team’s early mistakes. “It’s really frustrating right now. The game goes pretty quick. That’s why it’s good after games to go look at the game film and see your shifts and see what you did wrong, and correct that.”

“Yeah, we were very fortunate [to earn a point]," Sean Couturier, who scored a pair of goals in the loss, said. “We didn’t play very good at all in the first two periods. We battled back but it was too big a hole to complete the comeback. It’s a huge point, I guess.

“Once we were down a goal or two goals, the crowd got into it and it kind of got frustrating for everyone. It was tough to get back into it, but in the third we battled.” 

With the recent injury to Shayne Gostisbehere and with Samuel Morin not ready for action, as well, the Flyers had to turn to Mark Alt, who was given notice at 11 a.m. Monday that he would be in the Flyers' lineup for his second career NHL game (see story). Alt finished the night with 16:54 of ice time and a minus-1 rating after he and fellow rookie Sanheim failed to communicate on the Coyotes' first goal.

“There was a change and we kind of got stuck on the same guy,” Alt said. “Yeah, it’s tough, because you never know how the game is going to start out. You just have to pick up and roll with it. There’s going to be an adjustment, for sure. At the same time, you want to come in and be ready to go and try and eliminate as many of those hiccups as you can.” 

Notes and tidbits
• Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov registered three assists for his second-career three-point game. He now has five points (one goal, four assists) over his last three games. The Flyers' No. 1 defenseman continues to log some monster minutes, setting a new career high with 28:06 of ice time.

• Couturier extended his point streak to four games (five goals, three assists). The Phoenix, Arizona-born Couturier scored twice, including his first power-play goal since April 2, 2016, a span of 82 games. With a team-leading nine goals, Couturier is on pace to shatter his single-season career high of 15 goals scored in 2014-15.

• According to the NHL’s stats department, Monday’s game marked just the second time in franchise history in which the Flyers scored two goals in the final minute of regulation to tie the game. The other instance came on Feb. 3, 1980, when Reggie Leach and Rick MacLeish scored 33 seconds apart in a game that ended in a 3-3 tie.

Flyers preparing for dangers of facing winless, desperate Coyotes

ap-sean-couturier-jake-voracek-flyers.jpg
AP Images

Flyers preparing for dangers of facing winless, desperate Coyotes

Updated: 5:43 p.m.

If you’re not first, you’re last. That’s how the saying goes.

As far as the Flyers are concerned Monday, they don’t want to be first for the last.

The winless Arizona Coyotes, who feature former Flyers Luke Schenn, Nick Cousins and Zac Rinaldo and are coached by former Flyer Rick Tocchet, come into South Philly sporting an 0-10-1 record through the first four weeks of the season.

That’s an 11-game winless stretch to start off a new season.

Ouch.

But that creates a dangerous scenario for the Flyers, who will be encountering a desperate team. And the Flyers don’t want the egg on their face of being the first victim of a team with an NHL-worst minus-22 goal differential.

“It’s a dangerous game where we can’t take them lightly,” Sean Couturier said. “They’re a better team than what their record actually shows. They have some pretty good skills up front and some young legs that skate pretty well. We’re going to have to be ready to skate and compete tonight.”

Couturier is right. The Coyotes, despite their miserable record, do have plenty of talent.

Max Domi and Anthony DuClair are young stars in the making. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is as good a defenseman as there is in the league. Derek Stepan has long been a thorn in the Flyers’ side from his Rangers days (nine goals and 22 assists for 31 points in 33 games against the Flyers. The 31 points are the most he’s recorded vs. any team.). And Clayton Keller is the early season Calder Trophy favorite for rookie of the year.

The Coyotes are going to win eventually. They almost did Saturday night in New Jersey before falling, 4-3. The Flyers just don’t want it at their expense.

“They’re a desperate hockey team and they’ve been playing some pretty good hockey as of late,” Travis Sanheim said. “The results haven’t been there. But we’re going to have a good challenge. I think they’re a competitive team.”

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol on Monday morning wasn’t in the mood to talk about the Coyotes’ struggles. He was more focused on fixing the inconsistencies of his own team, which is coming off a solid 4-2 victory in Toronto on Saturday, but lost its previous two games while giving up 11 goals.

“We’ve got to really prepare to take advantage of opportunities,” Hakstol said. “Every team presents different challenges. The team we’re facing tonight deserved a better fate in its last few games.

“We’ve got our own things we’re focusing on. Like I said to the team, we have our own things we need to and want to improve on.”

Not falling to a winless team would be a good first step there.

No Morin
Samuel Morin wasn’t present at Monday’s morning skate and GM Ron Hextall solved the mystery for reporters afterward.

Morin is dealing with a nagging injury and Hextall did not expect the young defenseman to suit up against the Coyotes.

“We’re trying to get to the bottom of it,” Hextall said of Morin, who was called up from Lehigh Valley on Sunday evening. “The intent was to call him up. If he can’t play, we’ll call another defenseman up.”

Defenseman Mark Alt was later called up from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and is expected in the lineup.

Injury updates
Both Shayne Gostisbehere and Nolan Patrick will miss tonight’s game as they continue to nurse their respective upper-body injuries.

Gostisbehere was injured after absorbing a hit in the second period of the win in Toronto on Saturday. Patrick was injured when his head smacked against the glass after taking a check last Tuesday vs. Anaheim.

Hextall said both are considered day to day.

Lines
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read-Jori Lethera–Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Mark Alt

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Coyotes hire former Flyer Rick Tocchet as head coach

Coyotes hire former Flyer Rick Tocchet as head coach

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Coyotes have hired Rick Tocchet as head coach, turning the team over to a man who helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win the past two Stanley Cup titles.

The 53-year-old Tocchet, who spent the past three seasons as a Pittsburgh assistant, played 18 seasons in the NHL and helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 1992.

Tocchet spent one season as an assistant to Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky in 2005-06 and played parts of three seasons with the team from 1997 to 2000.

Tocchet's controversial departure from his Coyotes coaching job did not figure into the decision to hire him, general manager John Chayka said.

"Rick was the best candidate by a wide margin," Chayka said.

Tocchet was on a leave of absence from his Coyotes job in 2007 when he pleaded guilty in New Jersey to conspiracy to promote gambling and promoting gambling. He was sentenced to two years' probation. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said an investigation showed Tocchet's involvement in gambling was not as serious as first thought and he was suspended for three months.

There was no evidence Tocchet ever bet on hockey games.

"He's a man of character and integrity," Chayka said. "Any issues in the past are in the past. It didn't raise any red flags for us whatsoever."

Tocchet briefly returned to the Coyotes in 2008 before being hired as an assistant at Tampa Bay. He became interim head coach of the Lightning that November and was head coach at Tampa Bay the next two seasons.

But it was his work with the Penguins that elevated him to the clear favorite to replace Dave Tippett, who parted ways with the Coyotes after eight years as the franchise's head coach.

"He's one of the best communicators I've come across not only in hockey but probably professionally as well," Chakya said. "... I think he can just relate to the players. He's very firm. He can motivate. He can be aggressive in his approach, but he can also be that big brother kind of approach with our young players and I think that's going to be helpful moving forward."

Chakya said Tocchet has a clear idea of the style he wants his team to play.

"He wants to play fast. He wants to play aggressive. He wants to dictate time and space," Chakya said.

"We had a lot of coaches come through. They will all say something similar. I think he had a real plan of how to do it. He had concrete examples of what that means based off his time in Pittsburgh and some more ideas of what he's maybe looking to do moving forward."