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Best of NHL: Nick Bjugstad stars in Panthers' shootout win over Maple Leafs

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Best of NHL: Nick Bjugstad stars in Panthers' shootout win over Maple Leafs

SUNRISE, Fla. — Nick Bjugstad scored Florida's only goal in regulation and the game-winning goal in a shootout as the Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Bjugstad skated in and held the puck until Toronto goalie Frederick Andersen was sprawled out, then moved to his right and flipped in his goal during the fourth round of the shootout.

The Panthers won the tiebreaker 2-1 after Aleksander Barkov scored for Florida, and Patrick Marleau was successful for Toronto.

Vincent Trocheck and Henrik Haapala had assists for the Panthers (8-11-2).

Nazem Kadri netted a goal for Toronto (14-8-1), assisted by Connor Brown and Marleau (see full recap).

Forsberg, Turris lead Predators past Habs in SO
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Filip Forsberg scored a pair of power-play goals and Kyle Turris had the only goal in a shootout to lead the Nashville Predators to a 3-2 victory over the struggling Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.

Pekka Rinne made 27 saves in regulation and overtime, then denied all three Montreal shootout attempts as Nashville won for the eighth time in nine games.

Jordie Benn and Joe Morrow scored for the Canadiens, who have lost their last five. Morrow's goal evened the score with less than a minute left in the third period.

In the tiebreaker, Turris beat Antti Niemi with a wrist shot between the pads (see full recap)

Anderson's goal in OT gives Blue Jackets win
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After missing training camp because of a contract dispute, Josh Anderson has performed at a consistently high level for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Anderson scored two minutes into overtime to give Columbus its fifth straight win, 1-0 over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.

Sergei Bobrovsky had 22 saves for Columbus in his third shutout this season and 22nd of his career. Mike Smith turned away 40 shots for Calgary.

It was the first time this season that either team ended regulation scoreless (see full recap)

Point scores in overtime as Lightning beat Blackhawks
TAMPA, Fla. — Falling behind Chicago and staging a comeback has become the norm for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Brayden Point scored a power-play goal 3:25 into overtime, and the Lightning rallied again to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Wednesday night.

Point took a pass from Steven Stamkos while positioned near the post and put the winner past Corey Crawford and complete a three-goal rally.

"To be down 2-0 to a team as good as Chicago, it was a great bounce-back performance," Stamkos said.

Chicago was short-handed after Nick Schmaltz was sent off for slashing at 3:10 (see full recap)

Flyers Weekly Observations: Tough call in Ottawa still leaving a bad taste

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Flyers Weekly Observations: Tough call in Ottawa still leaving a bad taste

Well, that was quite an interesting week for the Flyers, now wasn’t it?

It was one that had nowhere to go but up after it started, but still had unforeseen plot twists and turns along the way.

The week started Tuesday with a 6-2 dud of a loss to the Anaheim Ducks to finish off a five-game homestand, continued with a tough-to-swallow 5-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators and ended on a high note with a 4-2 victory over the high-powered Toronto Maple Leafs.

Considering what unfolded late in the game Thursday night in Ottawa, you probably have a good idea of where this week’s observations are starting.

So let’s jump right in.

• Let’s be blunt here right off the bat: The Flyers were hosed, bamboozled, swindled, sandbagged or whatever else you want to call it out of the game-tying goal late in the third period Thursday in Ottawa by one of the dumbest rules in sports.

The NHL’s “intent to blow the whistle” rule is just illogical in every single sense and Sean Couturier was the latest victim of it. Just the wording “intent to blow the whistle” is dumbfounding. So a play, in this case, a game-altering play, is ruled by something someone intends to do. Not something someone actually does, but something someone intends to do. What? Seriously? We all intend to do a lot of things. Doesn’t mean they get done. The puck was across the line before there was a whistle; it was a goal.  How many more times does this have to happen before the league realizes that something is inherently wrong here? Imagine a Stanley Cup Final game getting decided because of that. Just let the players play and let the play end when it ends.

Yet, here’s the other fact: The Flyers can’t be falling behind by three goals multiple times in a game like they did against the Sens. They were just flat as can be right out of the gate and dug themselves a hole. Not many things tend to go your way when you do that. And that’s the salt in the wound of the play that didn’t go the Flyers’ way. They scratched and clawed their way back into the game multiple times only for that call to basically take away at least a point from them.

• Have to love the power move Jakub Voracek pulled out of his bag of tricks for his goal in Toronto on Saturday evening. Good things tend to happen when you take the puck to the net, especially as hard and strong as Voracek did on that particular play. Voracek can be deceptively strong, even more so when he’s going to work in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick. He’s got a natural knack for protecting the puck. So you always like to see him make plays like that.

You can say what you want about Voracek’s goal-scoring numbers as he  has only two on the season with the first coming Thursday in Ottawa, but he’s still been a major cog in a Flyers offense that’s averaging 3.45 goals, seventh in the league as of Sunday evening. And Voracek is second in the league with 14 assists. He leads the Flyers with 16 points. The goals may not be there yet, but he’s still producing at a hefty clip. And if this week was any indication, the goals will be coming.

• The Flyers need to be holding their collective breath when it comes to Shayne Gostisbehere’s injury. “Ghost” left the game against the Maple Leafs after absorbing a hard hit in the second. Gostisbehere is such a unique talent. He’s a dynamic magician with the puck, especially in the offensive zone. And, of course, he has that booming rocket of a shot from the point. There aren’t many other players in the league who can do what “Ghost” can. Needless to say, it would be a huge loss if Gostisbehere were to be out for an extended period of time. That would be a gigantic hole on a Flyers defense that is already hurting. He has but a single goal, but also has 12 assists on the year.

• This week saw the Flyers lay their first egg of the season with Tuesday’s shellacking they took from the Ducks, a power in the Western Conference when healthy, just like they were at the Wells Fargo Center. An 82-game season is one long, winding journey with many bumps along the way. Duds like that are inevitable. They happen to every team.

But the continued rejuvenation of Couturier’s offensive prowess was on full display during that game with a beauty of a breakaway tally and a slam dunk off a beautiful set-up by Travis Sanheim. Couturier has been a revelation for the Flyers so far this season. Yes, skating alongside playmakers such as Voracek and Claude Giroux helps, but Couturier’s confidence with the puck and around the net can be easily seen. He scored on a lovely tip against the Sens and should have had another, but, well, you know...

Anyway, raise your hands if you had Couturier leading the Flyers with seven goals through 11 games. Not many hands raised, I see.

• Here’s a scheduling quirk: Starting with Monday’s game vs. Arizona, the Flyers won’t play another Eastern Conference team until Nov. 23 when they visit the New York Islanders. That’s a stretch of nine straight vs. the West. In fact, 17 of the Flyers’ first 21 games are vs. Western foes. Might as well save the most important games for later on, right?

Coming up this week: Monday vs. Arizona (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Wednesday at Chicago (8 p.m. on NBCSN), Thursday at St. Louis (8:00 p.m. on NBCSP). Saturday vs. Colorado (7 p.m. on NBCSP)

Flyers rebound with 60-minute effort in bounce-back win over Maple Leafs

Flyers rebound with 60-minute effort in bounce-back win over Maple Leafs


TORONTO — Turning the page, turning the corner.

Whatever label you want to attach to it, the Flyers proved yet again Saturday night that disappointments don't seem to fester with this club, as they turned in a complete 60-minute effort, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-2, at Air Canada Center (see observations).

It also helped the Flyers didn't spot their opponent a 3-0 lead like they had in their previous two road games, in Nashville and against just two days ago in Ottawa, where they felt robbed of a game-tying goal in the final minute of a 5-4 loss.

"I thought we deserved a better result than what we got in Ottawa," Brian Elliott, who won for the fifth time in seven starts, said. "I thought we played a good game. We knew we had to come out 50 percent on this road trip. These are a big two points in this building right now."

"I think we played a really good hockey game, all 60 minutes," Jakub Voracek said. "It's a tough building to play in. That team is very good. I'd say they're one of the best teams in the NHL with a lot of young guys and a lot of speed. I think we eliminated them pretty well.”

The turning point Saturday came in the opening minutes of the second period when Shayne Gostisbehere was called for a necessary slashing penalty on Zach Hyman that negated a potential goal. Roughly a minute and a half later, Robert Hagg went to the box for holding, which left the Maple Leafs with a 5-on-3 power play for 32 seconds.

After killing those two minors, the Flyers gained control of the second period, outshooting Toronto, 16-8, and took a two-goal advantage into the third period.

“That’s a big part of the hockey game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “You can break it down even further than that — the faceoff. We win the faceoff, we get the clear and they never did get set up. That was a big momentum builder for us and we were able to take advantage of it.”

After losing Andrew MacDonald a week ago to a leg injury in a win over Edmonton, the Flyers sustained another big blow on their blue line when Gostisbehere was forced to leave the game with an upper-body injury after taking a borderline hit from Leafs forward Leo Komarov, who extended his arms sending Gostisbehere face-first into the boards.

“It’s a tough hit,” Hakstol said. “It’s one that’s got to be looked at. It’s a hit in the numbers and it’s a tough play for our player.”

Komarov was not penalized on the play, but it’s one that will certainly grab the attention of the league office for supplemental discipline. Not only were the Flyers forced to play with five defensemen, but Hakstol also shortened his bench, primarily rolling three lines to solidify their two-goal lead.

“When you go down to five defensemen, the forwards did a really good job of helping them out,” Elliott said. “It’s tiring out there. When they’re working hard for the D, they can focus on the little things — getting those pucks out of the blue line and mitigating a lot of chances they had.”

Now the Flyers will have to dig even deeper and find a way to get over the loss of another key member of their defense.

A player that leads all NHL defensemen in points, and that, could have a lingering effect.

Getting offensive from defense
Despite playing without the NHL’s leading scorer among defensemen, the Flyers generated the majority of their shots from their blue line, as 20 of the team’s 30 shots on net came from the Flyers' defense, led by Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov, who both had five apiece to lead the team.

“They play a defensive game pretty close to the net," Voracek, who has a goal in two straight games, said of the Leafs. “The defenders are open on the blue line. Sometimes you have to play like that. It’s really important for defenders to get the shots through.”

Some home cooking
Any game in Toronto is usually a homecoming affair for the visiting team. The Flyers have about five players from the Toronto suburbs and the surrounding area, including forward Scott Laughton (Oakville, Ontario) and goaltender Brian Elliott (Newmarket, Ontario), who both played a solid game in front of family and friends. 

"I got about 20 people in the stands that you know is family or friends,” Elliott said. “It’s always fun to win for them. You grow up around here as a Leafs fan, so beating them is extra special.”

“I probably had 20 people there,” Laughton said. “It’s nice for my grandparents to come and stuff. They don’t get to see me too often — all my extended family and things like that — my best buddy growing up. It’s nice for them to come. Yeah, it’s an expensive ticket here.”