Scott Hartnell

Questionable calls, challenge lead to Flyers' 'frustrating' loss to Predators

Questionable calls, challenge lead to Flyers' 'frustrating' loss to Predators

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bags tossed. Doors slammed. Players cursing. A frustration this team hasn’t experienced in a long, long time. 

Without question, Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to the Nashville Predators was a game the Flyers felt wasn’t lost but simply taken away from them (see observations).

Or perhaps not.

“Oh, we gave it away. I don’t think anybody took it,” goaltender Brian Elliott said. “That’s why it’s frustrating.”

Some Flyers were still searching for answers.

“Honestly, it feels like we won. It’s weird right now,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “I’m not sure if that’s ever happened to me in my life — that type of game like that.”

Considering the implementation of rule 78.7 (b), approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors just a week before the start of the season, a game like this has never happened in the history of the league, and probably nowhere ever in the game of hockey.

The rule stems from a coach’s challenge on an offside play and states, “If the result of the challenge is that the play was ‘on-side,’ the goal shall count and the team that issued the challenge shall be assessed a minor penalty for delaying the game.”

After former Flyer Scott Hartnell took advantage of a 5-on-3 chance and tied an already wild game at 5-5 with 1:17 remaining, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol elected to challenge the zone entry of the play. Replays showed that Filip Forsberg was able to get one skate over the blue line before the puck cleared. However, replays were inconclusive whether Hartnell’s skates were completely over the line as the linesman appeared to be staring down at Forsberg and was paying no attention to Hartnell, who was right there next to him (see video).

“That’s my call,” Hakstol said on the decision to challenge. "Absolutely it’s worth it, but it wasn’t overturned, so it wasn’t the right call. I don’t want to get into the details of it."

Hakstol said he was surprised it wasn't overturned, but also knew if he lost the challenge that the Flyers would be faced with killing another 5-on-3 power play for 1:22. 

That is precisely what happened when Hartnell’s goal stood. The Flyers killed off the remainder of the two-man advantage only to have Filip Forsberg score the game-winner just five seconds into the coach’s challenge penalty, which was a 5-on-4 (see highlights).

“It happens so quick. You’re getting the feeds on the bench when you’re getting them, and 15, 20 seconds to make a decision,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “I give him credit. He’s trying to help his team any way he can. You’re going to get caught in those situations. We all are. Everybody’s going to get caught in them. 

“To be honest, I didn’t get a good look at it. We actually talked about it in the coach’s office. Those decisions are tough, and a lot of people said they would go for it. You’ve got to live by the sword and die by the sword.”

Prior to that, one can seriously debate the series of events that led to Nashville’s initial 5-on-3 power play as the Flyers were whistled for a pair of minor penalties with 2:41 remaining in the game leading, 5-4.

First, left winger Dale Weise was whistled for holding as he attempted to chase down the puck in the offensive zone. Then, as the Flyers gained possession of the puck, defenseman Andrew MacDonald was called for tripping.

“The last 10 minutes it seems they were putting the whistles away and letting the boys play,” Weise said. “I don’t know about make-up calls, but on my penalty I’m trying to swim past my guy. That happens 20 times a game and you don’t call a penalty on that. It’s just really frustrating.”

“The guy coming in on me, he crossed over and I put my stick over and he stepped on it and they called me too,” MacDonald said.

Until those two-minute minor penalties, the Flyers had played a very disciplined game. Their only penalty kill came early in the first period when Craig Smith scored Nashville's first goal. 

There was an awareness among the Flyers that calls would likely not go their way at some point in the third period.  

“Obviously, we were aware. It’s tough when you get two in one shot like that, that late in the game,” MacDonald said. “It happened and it was unfortunate. It’s something that we would have liked to kill and have gotten a big character win here, but unfortunately it was out of our hands.”

The series of unfortunate circumstances for the Flyers and the bogus new rule change, which I wrote about during the preseason, negated what could have been a tremendous comeback.

After going down, 3-0, the Flyers scored five unanswered goals, including three in a second-period span of 4:46. Valtteri Filppula scored his second goal of the game with 13:12 remaining in regulation to give the Flyers a 5-3 lead at the time.

“There’s a ton of character in that room,” Hakstol said. “We got down 3-0, but we were playing well. I didn’t feel like other than the first five minutes we weren’t back on our heels. We knew there would be a big push to start this hockey game with the energy they had in the building.”

"It says a lot about our group, how we did come back,” Gostisbehere said. "Going down 3-0 in a building like this, coming back to 5-3. It’s an unfortunate series of events there. There’s a lot of positives we can take away from this game.”

All of which had the lyrical makings of a country song straight out of Nashville’s Music Row. Now it’s up to the Flyers to change their tune in time for Saturday’s home opener against the Washington Capitals.

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Nolan Patrick adjusting offensively

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Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Nolan Patrick adjusting offensively

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It’s still a feeling out process for 19-year-old rookie Nolan Patrick, who continues to acclimate himself to the speed and style of the NHL’s brand of hockey. While he’s been defensively reliable in his own end of the ice, we’re beginning to see where Patrick prefers to do his damage offensively.

Patrick has utilized his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame to create space down low around the goal line and behind the net. In one of most dazzling plays of the preseason, Patrick fed a blind pass to Oskar Lindblom for a quality scoring chance, and Saturday in Anaheim there was a similar play to Travis Konecny. 

“I’ve always felt I had a good vision to make plays from down there,” Patrick said. “I don’t know if I pride myself on making plays from down there, but I think in this league, there’s not much off the rush. Everyone tracks back pretty hard. I think that’s where the offense is going to come from down there, so I just try to make quick cutbacks and make plays, so that’s something I’ve been trying to focus on.”

“He’s got great vision from below the goal line, from down low in tight spaces,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He made the play from down low on (Ivan) Provorov’s goal the other night. He had a similar type play to (Konecny) at the end of the game there. Those are strengths of his game, and we’re starting to see those things come out more and more.

Flipping the switch
After starting the season 3 for 3, the Flyers' power play is now 0 for its last 12. Hakstol will continue to leave Valtteri Filppula on the No. 1 unit, as they worked on their setup and puck movement during Monday’s practice. 

“Part of that role is shooting,” Hakstol said. “He hasn’t spent a lot of time in that spot. I think just overall adjusting to that position and that role on the power play is something that he’s done pretty well. It’s a real puck support role as well. You’re in a support role with anybody on the rink that has the puck and you’re in a puck retrieval role. I think he’s adjusting to it really well.”

Sour jam
Peter Laviolette is one of three coaches since 2010 to take two different teams to the Stanley Cup Final only to come up short on both occasions. Peter DeBoer led the Devils in 2012 and Sharks in 2016 and was on the losing end twice. Alain Vigneault went with the Canucks in 2011 and again with the Rangers in 2014.

After the Predators bowed out to the Penguins in six games, Laviolette is now attempting to draw off his experiences in the year after he guided the Flyers to the Cup Final, when they finished with 106 points, third best that season behind the Canucks and the Capitals. However, he still hasn’t moved past the gut-wrenching loss to the Blackhawks.

“It’s never easy to get over,” Laviolette said following Monday's morning practice. “Anytime you go that deep and lose it leaves a pit in your stomach, and you carry that pit forever. I look back at Philadelphia as a missed opportunity for all of us, and certainly in Nashville I look back at it the same way. You’re here to do one thing and that’s win championships and when you don’t do it, it hurts.”  

Laviolette will be reminded of that once again as the Predators raise their Western Conference Champions banner in front of their fans prior to their game against the Flyers.

Hartnell down in Nashville
Philly fan favorite Scott Hartnell returns to the Predators, the franchise that selected him in the first round (6th overall) of the 2000 NHL draft. 

Entering his 17th season, Hartnell is one of 21 active players with at least nine or more 20-goal seasons, and he believes he can reach that mark again filling the hole left by James Neal. (Neal was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL expansion draft.) Laviolette still views Hartnell as an important part of the team’s power play and has him working with the No. 1 unit Monday.

For the first time in his career, Hartnell is taking his career year-by-year after signing a one-year, $1 million deal with the Predators.

“It’s a young man’s game now and the speed of it is incredible, and you just got to do your thing,” Hartnell said. “My game’s still pretty simple, it doesn’t change much from when I started at 18. I go to the net and that’s where I score my goals. That’s where all the action happens, and just looking forward to this year. I’m so excited to be a part of this and we’re looking forward to getting in the playoffs and making a run like last year.”

Hartnell got married for the second time over the summer after he exchanged vows at The Country Club at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. Many of Hartnell’s Flyers teammates were in attendance including Claude Giroux, Kimmo Timonen, Brayden Schenn, Sam Gagner and Nick Schultz.  

NHL Notes: Scott Hartnell signs with Predators

NHL Notes: Scott Hartnell signs with Predators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Predators brought back forward Scott Hartnell with a one-year, $1 million deal Saturday, adding depth up front for a franchise that lost James Neal to Vegas in the expansion draft.

"The No. 1 goal was to replace James Neal in our top-9 forwards and we did that with the signing of Nick Bonino," general manager David Poile said. "I really think with our center position, we've really strengthened an area that a little less than two years ago was in my mind a little bit of a weakness. Now with Ryan Johansen, Nick Bonino, (Colton) Sissons, (Calle) Jarnkrok and still Mike Fisher undecided, I think we really are strong down the middle. For the first time in a long time, this might be as good at center ice as we've had."

Hartnell spent his first six seasons in Nashville after he was drafted No. 6 overall in 2000. He went on to play for the Flyers for seven seasons, becoming a first-time All-Star in 2012 while playing for Peter Laviolette, who is now behind the bench in Nashville.

"Absolutely love the guy," Hartnell said. "How do you not love his intensity? He's so well spoken. He gets the boys going. For our Stanley Cup run in Philadelphia, it was 100 percent because of Laviolette."

Hartnell spent the past two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring 13 goals and adding 24 assists last season. He has 314 career goals and 683 points (see full story).

Rangers: Shattenkirk comes home, signs 4-year deal 
NEW YORK -- The Rangers have agreed to deals with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and goalie Ondrej Pavelec on the opening day of free agency.

Shattenkirk was considered to be one of the top players available and fills a need on the team's blueline after the team bought out Dan Girardi and he is also a native of nearby New Rochelle.

Shattenkirk split last season between St. Louis and Washington and had 13 goals and 43 assists for 56 points in 80 games. He is one of four NHL defensemen who have at least 30 assists and 40 points in at least six of his first seven NHL seasons.

The Rangers also addressed their backup goalie situation by agreeing to a deal with veteran Ondrej Pavelec.

Pavelec will be the backup to Henrik Lundqvist after Antti Raanta was traded to Arizona last week.

Pavelec has played his entire career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise. He had a 3.55 goals-against average last season with a .888 save percentage in eight games in the NHL, and a 2.78 GAA and .917 save percentage in 18 games in the AHL (see full story).

Hurricanes: Williams returns for 2nd stint in Carolina 
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Mr. Game 7 is coming back to the Carolina Hurricanes with the goal of leading them to another Game 1.

The Hurricanes opened free agency Saturday by bringing back 35-year-old forward Justin Williams on a two-year deal worth $9 million.

Williams, a key member of their 2006 Stanley Cup champion team, will make $5 million this season and $4 million in 2018-19.

The 2014 playoff MVP had 100 points combined the past two years with Washington, and after winning the Cup with the Hurricanes went on to win two more with Los Angeles.

Now Williams -- who earned the "Mr. Game 7" for his 7-1 career record in those series-deciding games -- will try to help Carolina snap the NHL's longest active playoff drought at eight years (see full story).

Panthers: Moving forward without Jagr
Jaromir Jagr gave the Florida Panthers some star power like perhaps never before, helped them win a division championship and unquestionably played a role in energizing what had been a stagnant fan base.

And now his tenure with the Panthers is over.

Making official what was suspected for some time, the Panthers revealed Saturday that they are going forward without the future sure-fire Hall of Fame forward. On a day dominated by free-agent signings -- like adding forwards Evgeny Dadonov, Radim Vrbata and Micheal Haley -- the biggest news out of Florida was that Jagr is no longer in the Panthers' plans.

"I can't say enough. It was an honor to be touched by a legend," said general manager Dale Tallon, who ultimately made the call to move on. "I was torn. It was a tough couple weeks, or months, whatever it was. Can't thank him enough. What he did for our kids, for myself and everyone in this organization, you can't measure it."

Jagr was with the Panthers for 2 1/2 seasons. He'll turn 46 next season, still wants to play and is coming off a 46-point season for a Florida team that wasn't exactly loaded with offensive weaponry. But in the end, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press, the two sides were simply too far apart on financial terms to make any more talks feasible (see full story).

Ducks: Fowler re-signs with new 8-year deal
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Cam Fowler wanted to stay home, and Ryan Miller wanted to get closer to Hollywood. They both wanted to be in position to contend for the Stanley Cup next season.

Fowler and Miller got everything they desired from the Anaheim Ducks on the opening day of free agency.

Fowler agreed to an eight-year, $52 million contract extension with the Ducks on Saturday, keeping the cornerstone defenseman with the club through the 2025-26 season. Miller agreed to a two-year, $4 million deal to leave Vancouver for the Ducks as a free agent, teaming with John Gibson in Anaheim's goaltending tandem.

Fowler has been a fixture on the Ducks' blue line ever since he unexpectedly fell to them at No. 12 overall in the 2010 draft, and the Ducks now can keep the U.S. Olympian through the prime of his career. He was outstanding last season, excelling on both ends of the ice while racking up a career-best 11 goals and 28 assists.

"From top to bottom, Anaheim has always treated me right and given me a really great opportunity right from the very start," Fowler said in a phone interview. "With the coaching staff we have in place, our ownership and the roster that we have, I really feel like we're very close, and I think we've proven that," (see full story).

Blackhawks: Sharp returns to Chicago
Patrick Sharp figured he would return to Chicago. He just wasn't sure he would play for the Blackhawks again.

Sharp, a high-scoring winger who helped them win three Stanley Cup championships before getting traded, will once again suit up for Chicago next season. The 35-year-old veteran agreed Saturday to a one-year contract that guarantees $800,000. He could earn an additional $200,000 in incentives.

"I have a special place in my heart, my family does as well, for the city," he said. "We did have plans on returning - maybe not as a hockey player. But we definitely do want to live in that city at some point."

Sharp said he could have signed for more money elsewhere. But the lure of returning to the team where he enjoyed his greatest success was too strong.

Sharp spent 10 seasons with the Blackhawks from 2005 to 2015 and had 511 points, including 239 goals. He scored more than 30 goals four times in that span and helped transform Chicago into one of the most successful franchises along with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Sharp got dealt to Dallas in a salary cap move after the Blackhawks beat Tampa Bay for the championship in 2015 (see full story).