Valtteri Filppula

Flyers fueled by fast start vs. Devils

Flyers fueled by fast start vs. Devils


The Flyers had no problem getting up for a Saturday afternoon puck drop.

They jumped all over the New Jersey Devils at the Wells Fargo Center, doing all their damage in the first period en route to a 3-1 victory.

Travis Konecny, Valtteri Filppula and Ivan Provorov lit the lamp in the opening frame for a team that has often fought lackluster starts.

That was far from the case Saturday as the Flyers (22-16-8) have now won six of their last seven games (see standings). Over that span, they've outscored the opposition 28-19.

With the victory, they improved to 4-2-4 against the Metropolitan Division. Plenty more to come.

The Devils (24-13-8) entered in second place of the Metro but have had trouble against the orange and black thus far. The Flyers are 2-0-0 against New Jersey with two more games remaining in the regular-season series. It's a bit ironic the Flyers went 1-3-1 against a Devils team last season not nearly as strong, one that finished 28-40-14 with 70 points.

Hockey can be a weird game, huh?

• Shayne Gostisbehere can be so elusive with the puck, which, from a defenseman, is such a luxury for the Flyers. He exhibited that elusiveness early to jump-start the Flyers' first-period ignition. Gostisbehere took the puck from his own blue line and weaved through some Devils before finding a wide-open Konecny in the circle for a 1-0 lead at 3:29 of the opening frame.

• Speaking of Konecny, his goal and assist give him nine points in the last 10 games. In his previous 25 games, Konecny had four points. The 20-year-old is showing what he can do when playing in a prominent role: the first line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Who could have known putting a talented kid with talented players would yield positive results?

• The Flyers really got after it with a much-needed fast start. Prior to then, we hadn't seen many of those through 45 games. The Flyers entered Saturday in a four-way tie for fewest leads after the first period with eight, going 6-0-2 in those contests. They had themselves a healthy 3-0 advantage at first intermission Saturday behind a superb opening 20 minutes. The Devils had to pull starting goalie Keith Kinkaid, who was shaken up after surrendering the third marker.

• Filppula and Provorov scored the Flyers' other two first-period tallies. Michael Raffl got his stick on a bouncing pass to set up Filppula in front for his 10th of the season, his first double-digit-goal campaign since 2014-15. Meanwhile, Raffl quietly has 15 points in his last 25 games.

"We haven't been starting games how we would like," Filppula said at first intermission. "Today was a good start and it is obviously nice to get rewarded."

Provorov displayed some great resolve in front to finally finish off his goal.

The second-year blueliner also made a spectacular outlet pass in the second period that covered about three-quarters of the ice. Konecny was the beneficiary but misfired on the shot. Still, Provorov's play had fans ooh-ahhing.

• Raffl is as laid back and jovial of a player as you'll see on the Flyers' roster. He's not a fighter, but give him credit for always dropping the gloves whenever the opportunity calls for it. Devils defenseman John Moore called for it this time after Raffl inadvertently tripped Kinkaid. Raffl hung in there following a few early blows.

• The Flyers were bit undisciplined in the second period (two penalties) and missed a few opportunities offensively, but fortunately for them, it wasn't too costly thanks to such a positive first period. The Flyers permitted a power-play goal during the middle stanza and went 0 for 4 on the man advantage for the game. It didn't matter.

• Michal Neuvirth made a second consecutive start and was strong again, making 28 saves on 29 shots. In limited duty, he's 5-5-1 on the season and came in with a 2.35 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. Solid stuff from Neuvirth.

• With Cory Schneider sick and Kinkaid's exit, emergency netminder Ken Appleby was forced into action and held his own. He stopped all 24 shots he faced in his NHL debut.

• It was the second NHL meeting between 2017 top-two picks Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick. Hischier finished with no points for the Devils in 17:04 of ice time, while Patrick played 11:37 and went scoreless. His line did good work, though.

• Rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim was scratched for the eighth time in the last nine games, while forward Taylor Leier sat for a second straight game in favor of Tyrell Goulbourne.

• Eagles defensive back Corey Graham was in the house. Sounds like Philly is ready for 6:40 p.m. Sunday.

• Things don't get easier for the Flyers, who are right back at it Sunday with a 12:30 p.m. puck drop in Washington D.C. against the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals on NBC. 

Flyers hope win over NHL's best isn't lightning in a bottle

Flyers hope win over NHL's best isn't lightning in a bottle


TAMPA, Fla. — The busiest man in December wasn’t the guy wearing a red suit and black boots with a low-hanging, long, grey beard. 

And his work certainly didn’t come to an end after Dec. 25.

Instead, the workhorse of the month was undoubtedly goaltender Brian Elliott, who was called upon to deliver the Flyers with their most impressive victory this season, a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning (see observations). The Lightning lost a regulation game on home ice for just the third time in 20 games.

Desperate for a win following the Flyers’ lackluster effort one night earlier against the Panthers, head coach Dave Hakstol felt he had nowhere else to turn and informed Elliott Friday morning that he was the go-to guy yet again.

Elliott completed the month of December starting every game in net, a stretch of 13 games with a record of 8-4-1 that included three pairs of back-to-backs. None seemingly tougher than the two games here in Florida.

“A little tired,” Elliott said when asked how he felt afterwards. “It’s a couple of hot buildings, so you lose a lot of liquids. It’s a big win for us. I’m feeling dehydrated, but feeling really good.”

As impressive as it was to see the Flyers’ power play finally show some life with a 2-for-6 performance, the most critical juncture of this game came in the final eight minutes of the second period when the Lightning made their strongest push. Tampa Bay appeared ready to take over after Brayden Point scored a goal with 4:23 remaining in the second period.

Then Elliott stopped a series of shots before Sean Couturier delivered a back-breaking goal with 11 seconds remaining in the period that gave the Flyers a much needed 3-2 lead heading into the third.  

“It’s tough for any team to get scored on late in the period,” said Couturier, who had his third three-point night of the season. “It was tough for us with four, five minutes left [in the second period] to get scored on, but we responded well and we came with a big goal. It gave use momentum and from there we took over.”

Elliott has been the one constant in a season of mind-boggling inconsistency. The same season when the Flyers can appear uninspired against an inferior Florida Panthers team, and then proceed to play with the necessary intensity and inspiration against the NHL’s best just 24 hours later.

Perhaps the only other aspect of this game that was more surprising than the outcome was the game-winning goal off the stick of defenseman Brandon Manning, who was playing for the first time since Dec. 4 and could only start shooting pucks a few days ago after recovering from a hand injury.

“Just kind of a lucky bounce that settled right on my stick with the goalie overcommitted on the other side,” said Manning, who now has as many goals as Travis Konecny and one more than Jordan Weal.

Manning also admitted that Elliott is the stabilizing presence that hasn’t existed in previous seasons.

“It’s something that maybe the last couple of years that’s kinda been hit and miss. Now when he’s in there, there’s a lot of confidence for our defensemen back there,” Manning said of Elliott.

“It’s a big win,” Elliott said. “It’s a measuring stick for us and we know we can compete against any team. We’ve just got to do it consistently on a nightly basis.”

“The [Lightning] have been on fire all season and it’s kinda good for us to see where we stand,” Valtteri Filppula said. “It’s good to know we’ve got a chance against anybody. If we play like this, we’re going to have a good chance to win against a lot of teams.”

Undoubtedly, the Flyers can enter the new year on the heels of one very impressive win. One can only wonder if it was a case of lightning in a bottle.

Flyers prove they're the best in the business for 1 night

Flyers prove they're the best in the business for 1 night


TAMPA, Fla. -- The Flyers turned in one of their most impressive performances of the season to defeat the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 Friday night.

It was just the third regulation loss for the Lightning at Amalie Arena, as they came into this game with a 16-2-1 record.

Sean Couturier scored the go-ahead goal with 11 seconds remaining in the second period when he pounced on a loose puck right in front of Lightning goalie Peter Budaj that gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead.

Making his 13th consecutive start, Brian Elliott made some crucial saves late in the second period and finished the game with 24 saves on 27 shots.

Claude Giroux had his second three-assist night in his last five games, and extended his point streak to a season-high seven games.  

Both teams were playing on the second night of back-to-back games. The Flyers improved to 3-2-2 in the second game of back-to-back sets while the Lightning fell to 1-4-0.

• One of the more interesting subplots to this game was to see how Shayne Gostisbehere handled himself in the defensive end against the Bolts’ top line. Early on, Gostisbehere sealed off Lightning star Nikita Kucherov, got the puck back and proceeded to skate it out from behind his net. I liked the confidence and commitment to defense in Gostisbehere’s game at the outset.

• The Lightning buried the Flyers with their power play as Kucherov sent a cross-ice missile right through the box and onto the tape of Steven Stamkos, who may have one of the top three one-timers in the league. Not a thing Brian Elliott could do to stop that.

• The Flyers received a gratuitous power play when Cory Conacher seemingly hooked Gostisbehere. The Flyers’ first unit had a couple of early shots on Budaj and the second unit couldn’t even get set up.

• Another first-period stick infraction for the Flyers as Valtteri Filppula had his stick wrapped around Yanni Gourde. The Flyers’ PK performed much better at closing off those passing lanes while they successfully cleared the zone more often.

• There was a great read by Elliott to pick up Kucherov’s cross-ice pass to a cutting Victor Hedman. A play similar to the power-play goal, but Elliott had just a spilt second longer to react.

• Take away the Stamkos goal and I liked the Flyers’ opening 20 minutes. I give them the slight edge when the two teams skated at 5-on-5, even though the shot total was even.

• The Flyers can’t seem to cut down on the odd-man rushes. The Lightning had a golden opportunity early in the second period and the Flyers were fortunate that Conacher hit the outside post.

• The Flyers’ third line had an extended shift five minutes into the second period. Nolan Patrick looked much more comfortable playing alongside Wayne Simmonds than he did with Jake Voracek.

• The Lightning PK got a little overaggressive and the Flyers caught them in more of a diamond formation. With Dan Girardi as the only defender down in the low blocks, he unwisely went to his knees. That opened up a passing lane as Sean Couturier completed a nice no-look, backhand pass across the crease to Simmonds, who slammed it home. That snapped an 0-for-9 power-play skid.

• The Flyers continued to push play at even strength as Gostisbehere and Patrick nearly teamed up for a quality scoring chance, but the “Ghost” pass was just a touch behind Patrick.

• Kucherov took a retaliatory slashing penalty against Robert Hagg and that led to the Flyers’ scoring their second power-play goal. Gostisbehere was operating in the right circle as Simmonds took the shot, Giroux grabbed the rebound and fed a pass to “Ghost,” who found the wide-open net. 

• The Lightning’s big guns were able to strike late in the second period as Ivan Provorov turned the puck over in the neutral zone. That allowed Tampa to transition quickly and led to a 3-on-2 as no one picked up Brayden Point in the slot. Point nearly whiffed on his shot, but got just enough of it to throw off Elliott’s timing.

• Elliott bailed out the Flyers again as Alex Killorn got past Andrew MacDonald and skated in all alone. A sprawling Elliott denied Killorn with his right pad. Less than a minute later, Point sped his way around Radko Gudas and got a chance to bang home a shot. Once again, Elliott had everything sealed up.

• The Flyers grabbed a late lead in the second period as Tampa struggled to clear the zone. Gostisbehere jumped on the loose puck and fed it to Provorov, who fired a cross-ice pass to Giroux. Budaj robbed Giroux, but the puck squirted free and Couturier was there to clean it up. It was a big momentum goal for the Flyers.

• Elliott had another highlight-reel save when he snared Kucherov’s potential game-tying goal with a beautiful glove save. Fifteen seconds later, defenseman Brandon Manning, playing for the first time in 10 games, pinched down low. The initial shot was saved by Budaj, but Manning corralled the puck behind the net and wrapped it around for the goal.

• With the Flyers looking to add another power-play goal, they were doomed by an unfortunate circumstance when Provorov snapped his stick on a slap shot from the point. Provorov was left trying to defend Tyler Johnson without a stick. Johnson made a nice move to free up a shooting lane and proceeded to beat Elliott high to the blocker side.

• Scott Laughton lost an edge and undercut Budaj, who was clearly injured and had to be helped off the ice. The Flyers were fortunate they weren’t whistled for goaltender interference. It was a bad break for both teams as the Flyers had success against Budaj, who was replaced with No. 1 goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

• Valtteri Filppula scored an empty-net goal against his former team to put the game away.

Lineups, pairings and scratches 

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Scott Laughton-Dale Weise

Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott

Scratches: Mark Alt, Taylor Leier and Travis Sanheim.