Sergei Bobrovsky

Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

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Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 33 shots for his fifth shutout of the season, Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist, and the Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Florida Panthers 4-0 on Thursday night for their 10th straight win.

Pierre-Luc Dubois had two assists for the Blue Jackets, who improved to 42-28-5 and joined Philadelphia (1984-86) and Pittsburgh (2010-13) as the only NHL franchises to record 10-game win streaks in consecutive seasons.

The shutout was the 24th of Bobrovsky's career and his seventh straight win. Sonny Milano, Seth Jones and Thomas Vanek -- into an empty net -- also scored for Columbus, which moved into a second-place tie in the Metropolitan Division with idle Pittsburgh, each with 89 points.

Florida dropped to 37-28-7. With 10 games left in the season, the Panthers remained a point behind the idle New Jersey Devils for a playoff spot (see full recap).

Maple Leafs top Predators in Matthews’ return
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Auston Matthews had a goal in his return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 10 games and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Thursday night.

The Predators had been 14-0-1 since their previous regulation loss on Feb. 17.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitchell Marner each had a goal and an assist, and William Nylander and Jake Gardiner also scored for Toronto, which has won five of six.

Morgan Rielly had three assists for the Maple Leafs, and Tyler Bozak had two. Frederik Andersen stopped 23 shots.

Viktor Arvidsson and Scott Hartnell scored for Nashville. Pekka Rinne had 23 saves (see full recap).

Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings
DETROIT -- Philipp Grubauer made 39 saves for his third shutout of the season, and Brett Connolly scored the game's only goal on a third-period breakaway to lift the Washington Capitals to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

The Capitals have won six of seven and lead Pittsburgh and Columbus by four points atop the Metropolitan Division as the regular season winds down. Washington has turned increasingly to Grubauer of late after Braden Holtby struggled in February and at the beginning of March. Holtby wasn't available Thursday because of an injury coach Barry Trotz described as a tweak.

The Capitals took the lead with 13:19 remaining in the game after Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet couldn't control the puck near Washington's blue line. Connolly and teammate Jakub Vrana went the other way on a two-man breakaway, and Connolly beat Jimmy Howard with a wrist shot to the glove side. It was his 15th goal of the season.

The Red Wings had a goal called back for goalie interference in the first period -- replays showed Tyler Bertuzzi appearing to make contact with Grubauer in front of the net. Detroit squandered a great opportunity in the second when the Red Wings had a two-man advantage for the full 2:00.

Andreas Athanasiou had a breakaway in the third, but couldn't beat Grubauer. Athanasiou had another chance in the final minutes, but his shot deflected wide as Grubauer tried unsuccessfully to grab it with his glove.

Detroit has lost 11 of 12 (see full recap).

Flyers fail biggest test of season with loss to Blue Jackets

Flyers fail biggest test of season with loss to Blue Jackets

BOX SCORE

Allowing two goals during a span of 11 seconds in the first period set the tone for the Flyers in a 5-3 loss to the Blue Jackets in the final meeting between the two teams.

Bad defensive coverages and a failure to clear their own zone led to a very poor start.

Claude Giroux scored the Flyers' first goal for the third straight game and has now scored 11 goals in his last 18 games.

The Flyers had to fight back from three different two-goal deficits, but couldn’t manufacture the game-tying goal in the third period.

Shayne Gostisbehere scored his 12th goal just 16 seconds into the second period to reduce the Blue Jackets' lead to 3-2, but Columbus answered just 3:09 later as Cam Atkinson scored his second goal of the game.

Atkinson netted a hat trick after adding an empty-net goal in the final second.

The Flyers and Blue Jackets are now tied with 81 points in the Metropolitan Division as both teams have 11 games remaining. The Flyers hold the tiebreaker with one more regulation/overtime victory.

• It took all of 11 seconds for the Flyers to fall behind 2-0. With the Flyers chasing the puck around their end, they couldn’t clear the zone as Travis Sanheim pushed the puck forward without gaining possession. That allowed the Jackets to maintain possession and Oliver Bjorkstrand from one knee roofed a shot from close range. Those types of mishaps the Flyers must avoid.  

• Columbus came right back and doubled its lead with four of its defenders along the boards. Once the Blue Jackets gained possession, Boone Jenner simply beat Brandon Manning to the front of the net and redirected Jack Johnson’s slap pass in which Petr Mrazek had very little shot at stopping. It’s a lost board battle leading to a breakdown in coverage that we’ve seen from the Flyers on several occasions this season.  

• Giroux had Sergei Bobrovsky beaten on a breakaway attempt but the puck hit the post. However, Giroux received his redemption and fired a one-timer past Bobrovsky. The Flyers' top two lines were very good in the offensive zone in the first period.

• Another tough break for Mrazek as the Blue Jackets took a 3-1 lead after Atkinson batted in Seth Jones’ shot from the point. Another goal where the Flyers were chasing the puck in their end and couldn’t clear the zone.

• Two bad goals to start the second period. Gostisbehere scored on a simple snap shot from the right circle that Bobrovsky couldn’t contain as the puck snuck past him. Mrazek answered with a bad goal of his own as Atkinson beat him blocker side. The way Mrazek played it appeared as if he was never on his angle. 

• Giroux took a puck to the side of his face that forced him to go to the locker room and get treatment. The Flyers' captain returned in the final three minutes of the second period.

• Andrew MacDonald needed every bit of the 72 inches from post to post to beat Bobrovsky as his slap shot clanked off the right post and then the left post to cut the Jackets' lead to 4-3 after 40 minutes of action.

• The Flyers came out for the third period with a desperate mindset, outshooting Columbus, 9-3, in the first 10 minutes, but not much from the high-danger areas.

• John Tortorella completely lost his mind when the officials whistled the Blue Jackets for too many men on the ice. His theatrics make those seats behind the bench worth the price of admission.

• The officials let a lot of stuff go in that first period, including a clear crosscheck into the back of Sean Couturier on the Giroux goal. Not sure how or why that wasn't called. 

How Flyers plan on solving Sergei Bobrovsky

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How Flyers plan on solving Sergei Bobrovsky

One Flyers employee who has seen hundreds of players come and go has a short list of two of the hardest working athletes they've witnessed off the ice: Ivan Provorov and Sergei Bobrovsky.

Provorov’s offseason regimen has been well documented, but word is, Bobrovsky would be riding the bike or working out well after all the lights to the facility had been turned off.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner didn’t just stumble into greatness, but unfortunately, it now comes at the expense of the Flyers, who infamously traded him to Columbus a season after backing up Ilya Bryzgalov. Claude Giroux was one of the few Flyers who remembers what it was like to battle Bobrovsky over the course of a season.

“Just in practice when he was here, he battled every shot,” Giroux said. “It was fun to have practice with goalies like that. They just won’t let any pucks go in, even with rebounds when the play was over. He made it a lot of fun. I’m not surprised how good he’s playing because his work ethic is really good.”

Take that talent and work ethic and add an extra five percent of incentive — motivation against the organization that elected to go in a different direction — and you have a stellar 9-3-1 record, 1.82 goals-against average with a .935 save percentage in 13 starts against the Flyers.

“I think we’ve played good games against them,” Giroux said. “Bobrovsky has been pretty solid all those games. For us to beat him, we’ve got to find ways to get pucks to the net, get rebounds. If he sees the puck, he’s going to stop it. We’ve got to have a lot of traffic in there.”

Sixteen different Flyers have scored goals against Bobrovsky, and you can count the number of players who've beaten him twice on one hand. Impressively, the one player who had the greatest amount of success against Bobrovsky is no longer here. Brayden Schenn scored six goals against big, bad Bob.

Dave Hakstol has a different sense of history, one that has seen the Flyers' last three games against the Blue Jackets result in a 2-1 game, with the Flyers winning two of those matchups.

“You stay with the game, whatever the game is," Hakstol said. "You look at the history of these 2-1 games against Columbus, it’s going to be a tight, close game. Our guys have full understanding of that.”

To compound the challenge facing the Flyers, scoring hasn’t been a strength of theirs recently, as they’ve scored two or fewer goals in seven of their last eight games.

“I think that’s one thing we can do a little bit better is keep pucks in the scoring area a little bit more,” Hakstol said. “In saying that, I think in the last 10 games, we’ve been outshot once. I think you’ve got to factor everything in and not overreact to anything.”

Flyers leading scorer Sean Couturier beat Bobrovsky for an overtime winner on Feb. 16, and he hasn’t scored since. 

For Couturier and the rest of his teammates, nothing would be prettier than the ugliest of goals and wins against Bobrovsky right now.