Sergei Bobrovsky

Flyers exorcise some demons thanks to Sean Couturier

Flyers exorcise some demons thanks to Sean Couturier

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The losing streak at Nationwide Arena is finally over.

After 11 straight losses on Columbus’ home ice, the Flyers added a pair of crucial points in the standings Friday behind Sean Couturier’s overtime game-winner for a 2-1 win over the Blue Jackets (see observations).

“It’s been a long time,” said Wayne Simmonds, who opened the scoring with a tip-in goal in the second period. “I’ve been here for seven years; that feels like an eternity, but I felt we had a strong team effort tonight and the boys showed up.”

Although the outcome in Columbus favored the orange and black for the first time since Dec. 13, 2005, Friday night’s divisional contest didn’t veer too far out of the ordinary. Nemesis Sergei Bobrovsky (24-18-5) made his seventh home start against his former team, and was once again stellar, stopping 23 of the Flyers’ 25 shots.

The two-time Vezina Trophy winner put on a magic show, starting in the first period with acrobatic saves against Jordan Weal, Couturier and Claude Giroux.

“He’s a good goalie,” Simmonds said. “You've just got to keep shooting and second opportunities, third opportunities — he doesn’t give up very many goals, and I thought Neuvy (Michal Neuvirth) played just as well, if even better.”

As the default starter with Brian Ellliott on injured reserve, Neuvirth (8-7-3) was outstanding, earning the team’s Ric Flair robe. With Columbus coming off of three consecutive outings of firing 50 or more shots on goal, the 29-year-old goalie faced a barrage of shots, stopping 35 of 36 en route to his eighth win of the season.

“I felt pretty good; I feel confident,” Neuvirth said. “Obviously, [it was a] great team effort. The guys played unbelievable in front of me and I was seeing the puck well. It was a good two points.”

After letting Tuesday night’s game against New Jersey slip away in a 5-4 shootout loss, the rare pair of points in Columbus were crucial for Dave Hakstol’s team to stay ahead of the Devils, who won for the second consecutive time with a 5-2 win on Thursday (see standings).

Adding to the familiarity to the feel of a showdown in Ohio’s capital, the contest remained a one-goal game from Simmonds’ tally in the second to Cam Atkinson’s equalizer at the 16:32 mark of the third.

“Both goaltenders played really well tonight,” Hakstol said. “It was a tight, grinding game; there were some great opportunities [in] both directions. I think both teams made enough plays for it to be more than a 1-1 game, but both goaltenders were really good. We’re more and more comfortable in these games. We’ve won a lot of these games and that’s a lot of credit to our guys just staying with it.”

In addition to yet another one-goal game between these two teams, Friday’s tilt marked the seventh time in the last 13 meetings that a game was decided in overtime. Despite some trends between these teams remaining true, however, the Flyers were able to buck a few trends, as well. Couturier’s game-winner not only added to his team-leading goal total in a career year (29), it was also just the fifth overtime blemish for the Blue Jackets all season (12-5). The result was also Bobrovsky’s first home loss against the orange and black (6-0-1), and just his third overall career loss against the team with which he debuted.

“You never want give up a late goal like that, especially two games in a row,” Couturier said of Atkinson’s overtime-inducing goal. “But the key is we focused on what was next, and we came back hard and battled and got that extra point, and that’s what matters.”

Couturier’s impact was felt in Friday night’s game, much as it’s been all year. The first-line center made life difficult for Bobrovsky in attacking the net and dishing out creative centering passes. The 25-year-old is now one goal away from doubling his previous career-high mark (15), while matching linemate Giroux for the team lead in ice time for forwards (20:30).

The redeeming win in Columbus may have been exactly what the Flyers needed, but they’ll have only a day to enjoy it. The orange and black are back in action on Sunday as they travel to the Big Apple to square off against the New York Rangers in what will be the start of a five-game stretch in nine days that will include their third meeting against the Blue Jackets.

Depending on how the stretch run turns out, the Flyers very well could point to getting the proverbial monkey off their back at Nationwide Arena on Friday night as the start of something special.

Nationwide (Arena) is not on the Flyers' side

Nationwide (Arena) is not on the Flyers' side

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — If you feel like you've seen this movie in the exact same theater before, it's because you have.

The Flyers' 2-1 shootout loss Saturday night to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena marked their 11th straight loss in the building that opened in 2000 (see observations).

Thanks to Pierre-Luc Dubois' shootout goal, and some tough luck, the Flyers head into the Christmas break losers of two straight and winless in Columbus for the 12th straight calendar year.

Just 24 hours after enduring a disappointing regulation loss in Buffalo, the pair of points on Columbus ice remained elusive despite eking out the shootout loss point.

“It’s a good team and a tough barn to take points out of and I’m proud of the way the guys played,” said goalie Brian Elliott, who was burdened with the loss despite stopping 35 of 36 shots thrown his way.

In just their fifth contest of the season against a division opponent — and the first of four against their rival from Ohio — the Flyers once again found themselves playing catch-up thanks to Seth Jones’ power-play goal in the opening stanza.

The Flyers answered in the second with Ivan Provorov’s blast from the point that found eyes through traffic and past Sergei Bobrovsky, who now stands just one win away from his 200th career NHL win.

Despite Bobrovsky’s 30-save performance, the Flyers had their chances. After Provorov's goal in the second, the Flyers appeared to take the lead on a deflection off the stick of Taylor Leier. The play was reviewed, however, and waived off due to Leier’s stick making contact with the puck above the crossbar.

In the third period, Jakub Voracek was thwarted on two separate opportunities, including a close-range one-on-one chance against Bobrovsky after causing a turnover in the Flyers’ offensive zone.

Additionally, Sean Couturier — who added his 16th assist of the season on Provorov’s goal — nearly prevented overtime by beating Bobrovsky to only see his wrister go off the inside of the post.

“A couple bounces either way, like Cootsy’s chance at the end there," Travis Konecny said, "it goes up inside the post so I think it was a good effort tonight.”

Missing key defenseman Zach Werenski, Columbus failed to put the visiting Flyers away early despite dictating the pace of play throughout much of the contest. For those familiar with games between these teams though, outcomes are seldom of a wide margin.

Despite finding themselves pressured once again by an aggressive Blue Jackets team, the orange and black were able to force overtime for the sixth time during the span of their 11-game skid in Columbus.

And although Hakstol’s team came away from Buffalo empty-handed, they depart Ohio’s capital with one point in hand — a valuable point as they now sit four points out of the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I think we had a real good effort from our lineup,” Hakstol said. “Obviously, we weren’t happy with the result or, you know, overall how things went for us last night, but I think tonight, you can flip that around the exact opposite. We had real good efforts from everyone in the lineup.”

With an exhausting five-game gauntlet in eight days behind them, the Flyers not only welcome the Christmas break, they also know things could be a lot worse.

“I feel good about our team,” Provorov said. “We’re playing hard, we’re getting better, you know, that 10-game losing streak kind of set us back a little bit in points, but we stuck with it, kept battling and we’ll continue to do that.”

With three games remaining against Columbus on the schedule, and one more at Nationwide Arena, the Flyers will have to find a way to end what’s now become a running narrative — the fact they can’t win in Columbus.

Not only do they have just two wins in the former Western Conference city, no player on the current roster was on the team that last won on Dec. 13, 2005.

It’s a hurdle that must be cleared if general Ron Hextall’s blueprint is to turn into a masterpiece.

Best of NHL: Sergei Bobrovsky gets 23rd career shutout in Blue Jackets' win

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Best of NHL: Sergei Bobrovsky gets 23rd career shutout in Blue Jackets' win

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Josh Anderson scored 30 seconds into the game and Sergei Bobrovsky did the rest, recording his 23rd career shutout as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Arizona Coyotes 1-0 on Saturday night.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner had 35 saves and got his fourth shutout this season as Columbus won its second game in as many days and its 10th out of 13.

Antti Raanta started in goal for the Coyotes after missing seven games with an injury and was sharp in stopping 33 shots.

But Bobrovsky was better, and the Blue Jackets (19-10-1) created more quality looks overall.

Anderson got his team-leading 11th goal when he picked up a hard Artemi Panarin ricochet pass off the back wall, skated around the net and snapped a shot over Raanta's glove into the far corner. Pierre-Luc Dubois also got an assist.

Arizona (7-20-5) lost its third in a row and sixth out of its last seven (see full recap).

Bozak scores twice, Maple Leafs bury Pens early in win
PITTSBURGH -- Tyler Bozak scored two goals, and the Toronto Maple Leafs got off to a fast start in a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

Conner Brown and James van Riemsdyk scored in the first 1:42 of the game, and Bozak also scored in the first period. Mitch Marner had three assists for the Maple Leafs, who've won five of their last seven.

Frederik Andersen stopped 33 shots for his 50th win with the Maple Leafs. Andersen has won 11 of his last 15 starts.

Evgeni Malkin scored his ninth goal on the power play and Riley Sheahan tallied his third for Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby scored his 13th with 2:48 to play, but the Penguins couldn't manage the equalizer. Crosby has at least one point in 10 of the last 12 games. Pittsburgh had won five of six before Saturday.

Tristan Jarry made 13 saves, but allowed three first-period goals before he was pulled for Casey DeSmith. DeSmith, making his second career appearance, stopped eight shots.

Brown got Toronto on the board early when he took a feed from Morgan Rielly in the slot and whipped a wrist shot behind Jarry (see full recap).

Blues score 4 times in 5-shot span, rout Red Wings
DETROIT -- Jaden Schwartz knocked home his own rebound and the St. Louis Blues scored four times on only five shots on the way to beating the Detroit Red Wings 6-1 Saturday.

Vladimir Sobotka, Scottie Upshall, Jay Bouwmeester, Brayden Schenn and Dmitrij Jaskin also had goals for the Blues in their third straight victory.

Frans Nielsen scored for Detroit, which has won just once in its last eight games.

Shortly after killing off a high-sticking penalty, the Blues opened the scoring at 11:50 of the first period. Schwartz took a pass from Alex Steen and drove a low shot that Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard stopped with his left pad. Schwartz put the rebound past Howard.

The Blues made it 2-0 at 4:07 of the second period when Sobotka's long wrist shot from just inside the Detroit blue line beat Howard high on the glove side. It was the Blues' first shot on goal since Schwartz opened the scoring.

St. Louis made it three goals on three consecutive shots when Upshall got loose on a breakaway after a turnover by defenseman Niklas Kronwall and slipped the puck between Howard's pads to make it 3-0 at 6:17 of the second period (see full recap).