Wayne Simmonds

Pleasant surprises in a first for Flyers

Pleasant surprises in a first for Flyers

BOX SCORE

When asked what he thought about the current Flyers team prior to his retirement ceremony, Eric Lindros admitted he really didn’t know all that much regarding this year’s team. 

After Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Lindros’ hometown Maple Leafs (see observations), "Big E" and a sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd learned something about the Flyers that no one in Philadelphia had been privy to.

The Flyers capped off their first win this season when trailing by two or more goals entering the third period. Interestingly, the only other third-period comeback that led to a victory was when they trailed this same Toronto team, 2-1, on Dec. 12. Prior to this game, the Flyers were 1-12-2 this season when trailing after two periods.

Certainly, the Flyers needed goal scoring, but more importantly, they also received a handful of momentum saves from goaltender Michal Neuvirth.

“Huge," Neuvirth said regarding his 29-save performance. “When we tied it, it was like, 'OK, here we go. You gotta be at your best right now.' So I was just focusing on the next shot. Just happy the way the guys responded in the third.”

Neuvirth had little, if any, margin of error after the Leafs scored twice in a 28-second span to grab a 2-0 advantage, but the Flyers' backup netminder provided a handful of momentum saves that allowed the Flyers to win in overtime.

• A minute after Wayne Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with a shorthanded goal, Neuvirth stopped Auston Matthews and Connor Brown on back-to-back shots, including an impressive blocker save on Brown from up close.

• With 2:48 remaining in regulation, Neuvirth made the save of the game with the Leafs coming down on a 2-on-1. Neuvirth expected Nazem Kadri to shoot. Instead, he passed it to his left, forcing Neuvirth to make a full extension on Patrick Marleau, turning aside the shot with the tip of his right pad (see highlights).

• Neuvirth denied Matthews from in tight with another pad save just 10 seconds into overtime. That save created a 2-on-1 scoring chance resulting in Sean Couturier’s game-winning score. 

“At least three 10-bell saves by Neuvy. He was tremendous,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We generated a lot in the third period, but when you give up those chances against, Neuvy stole the show in my opinion and you need those saves sometimes to win games. For me, he was first star.”

Neuvirth and the rest of the Flyers needed an initial spark and 19-year-old rookie Nolan Patrick was surprisingly the one to provide it. After taking a shot that hit the side of the net and caromed behind it, Patrick chased down Mitch Marner, stole the puck and fired a quick shot on goaltender Frederik Andersen for his first goal in his last 25 games.

“I tried to forget how many games it was in a row without a goal and just keep playing,” Patrick said. “I thought I was playing some good hockey lately and I knew it would come.”

A minute and 52 seconds later, Simmonds tied the game at 2-2 with the Flyers' second shorthanded goal of the season, extending his point streak to six games.

Struggling to find the right overtime combinations, Hakstol elected to go with the trio of Couturier, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov to start the extra session. Couturier continued his magical run and now has 11 goals in his last 12 games, while also providing five game-winning goals in the Flyers' last 10 victories. 

“He’s hot. We keep calling him ‘Rocket,’" Simmonds said, referring to Hall of Famer Maurice “Rocket” Richard. “You just keep giving him the puck and he’s going to find the back of the net. When you’re hot, you want to keep giving it to a guy like that. Hopefully, he’s going to continue to score for us.”

More Couturier goals and more game-changing saves, and the Flyers will find themselves rocketing up the standings.

Flyers go from running on E to comeback for 'Big E'

Flyers go from running on E to comeback for 'Big E'

BOX SCORE

On a night when a sold-out Wells Fargo Center crowd celebrated “Big E,” the Flyers responded with an equally big ‘W’ by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, in overtime to sweep the three-game regular-season series. 

Sean Couturier scored his 26th goal just 18 seconds into the extra session on a feed from Travis Konecny.

The Flyers trailed, 2-0, after the first two periods, but erased that deficit in the first 3:25 of the third period.

Nolan Patrick opened the scoring in the third with his third goal of the season. 

Wayne Simmonds scored his 16th goal of the season and the second shorthanded goal for the Flyers this season, which tied the game at 2-2. Simmonds now has a point in six straight games (four goals, two assists).

Michal Neuvirth stopped 29 of 31 shots as the Flyers’ backup netminder has now won his last two starts.
    
• The Leafs snapped a scoreless tie in the second period when Shayne Gostisbehere attempted to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Gostisbehere missed it completely, and with Ivan Provorov already pinching, only Couturier was back at the blue line. Couturier couldn’t catch Connor Brown, who broke in all alone on Neuvirth and beat him through the five-hole for a 1-0 Toronto lead. “Ghost” has to make sure that puck doesn’t squirt past him. 

• Just 28 seconds later, the Flyers surrendered another goal on a fluky play as Jake Gardiner harmlessly shot the puck on net from the left circle. Neuvirth made the initial stop, but the puck popped up straight in the air. Unfortunately for the Flyers, Robert Hagg couldn’t prevent Frederik Gauthier from getting a shot off. Neuvirth either lost track of it or the puck was tipped on the way to the net, but it put the Flyers down 2-0.

• The Flyers finally came to life when Patrick scored perhaps his most impressive goal of the season. After his initial shot from a sharp angle was turned aside and bounced behind the net, Patrick tenaciously chased down Mitch Marner, stripped the puck and turned to fire a shot that caught Frederik Andersen by surprise. Patrick continues to improve his play and show more jump in the offensive zone. He had a strong first period and followed it up with a goal.

• Neuvirth made the save of the game off a 2-on-1 when Patrick Marleau had a wide-open net. Neuvirth went post to post and was able to extend his right pad just enough to kick away Marleau’s shot.

• The Jori Lehtera interference penalty was absolutely ridiculous. The referees allowed both teams to play without much officiating and then whistled Lehtera for a penalty they had no business calling. 

• It was a tight-checking game in the opening five minutes. The only sustained pressure came from the Leafs’ top line of Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Zach Hyman. The Flyers had a good look when Claude Giroux was able to feed Provorov, who came into the high slot untouched. However, Provorov’s one-timer hit Andersen in the chest.

• There was a great save from Neuvirth that started after Jakub Voracek was caught stick handling too much just inside the Leafs’ blue line. That led to a 2-on-1 rush with James van Riemsdyk leading the rush up the left side. Neuvirth did a fantastic job of anticipating the pass to Tyler Bozak, who was cutting down the middle of the ice.

• The Flyers worked a power play in the final two minutes of the opening period as Hyman tripped up Gostisbehere unnecessarily. “Ghost” unleashed a slap shot early that handcuffed Simmonds, who was looking for a shot where he could extend his hands a little bit more. Gostisbehere also had a prime opportunity as he broke in underneath the Leafs’ coverage for a quality scoring chance. 

• The Flyers continued to play with fire as they gave Toronto a shorthanded opportunity. Overall, it was a pretty good first period for the Flyers, who have struggled to score in the first 20 minutes with just five goals over their last 11 games. 

• Interestingly, Dave Hakstol had Lehtera as one of his penalty-killers. Lehtera, who’s not exactly fleet of foot, had a chance to jump on a loose puck and clear the zone, but simply couldn’t get there quick enough. Overall, the Flyers’ PK did a solid job of pressuring the Leafs from the top of the circle to the blue line, not allowing them to setup and ultimately no shots on goal.   

• If you enjoy the defensive part of the game, then you would have loved watching Couturier battle with Matthews. Couturier refused to give Matthews any room to maneuver with the puck. The Matthews line was clicking earlier this season when the Flyers faced the Leafs in Toronto, but not so much in mid-January.

• There was a very good save sequence from Neuvirth around the 12-minute mark of the second period as the Leafs had several whacks right around the crease area. Neuvirth stood his ground, looked calm and maintained his positioning for any rebounds.

• The Flyers came up empty with two of their best scoring opportunities from the high-danger area in the span of a minute. First, Konecny missed wide of the net, and then later, Jordan Weal’s shot was blocked by Leafs defenseman Gardiner. For Konecny, that’s a shot he has to bury.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

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

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

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Forwards Taylor Leier (healthy) and Dale Weise (healthy), and defenseman Travis Sanheim (healthy).

Fights and a flurry of goals in a snow-day win

Fights and a flurry of goals in a snow-day win

BOX SCORE

The Flyers like to score goals in bunches against the New York Islanders.

Of their three four-goal periods this season, two of those have come against the Isles, as the Flyers bounced back from a lackluster performance against the Penguins to beat New York, 6-4, at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday.

Three of the Flyers’ goals in the second period came during a span of 4:48.

Travis Konecny, Michael Raffl and Wayne Simmonds all scored even-strength goals. Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov tallied on the power play.

Twelve different Flyers registered at least one point.

Starting his 15th consecutive game, Brian Elliott turned aside 27 of 31 shots. He’s 9-5-1 in those 15 starts. 

The Flyers and Islanders will meet one final time, April 3 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

• It was a good, solid shift in the opening minutes from Nolan Patrick as he kept the puck in the offensive zone and made a play that you can see from the press box but not sure if the guys on the ice have the same visual. 

Patrick’s pass to Robert Hagg resulted in a good scoring chance. If Hagg had quicker release, it may have resulted in a goal. Patrick’s vision reminds me a little of Joe Thornton’s. He definitely appears to be more of a setup guy, or at least, that’s what he’s comfortable with at this point. 

• The Flyers held the Islanders without a shot for the first five minutes of the game. Isles defenseman Ryan Pulock finally got New York’s first shot from just inside the blue line that Elliott easily snagged.

• There was another good shift from the Patrick line that resulted in a Provorov shot that went high and wide. On a delayed penalty, the Flyers pulled Elliott. With Provorov floating in the high slot, the Flyers' defenseman attempted to redirect a shot that just went wide.

• Couturier continued his magical season as he opened up the scoring during the first period with a redirect on Jakub Voracek’s pass into the slot.

• A couple of middleweights dropped the gloves as Konecny exchanged blows with New York’s Shane Prince. It was good to see that side of Konecny as he never connected any good right hands but he was able to body slam Prince for the takedown.

• For some reason, the Islanders’ checking line turns into a scoring line against the Flyers. Fourth-line winger Cal Clutterbuck scored his second goal against the Flyers this season when he deflected Nick Leddy’s entry shot from the blue line off his knee in the first period. Clutterbuck had an earlier shot in the game when he went high glove side on Elliott but rang it off the post.

The Flyers came out really strong in the opening minutes of the second period. First, Raffl did an excellent job of playing keep-away from Islanders captain John Tavares. His ability to control the puck and shield it with his body allowed the Flyers to cycle the puck and work it around to Provorov, who fired a shot that deflected off Raffl and past Thomas Greiss for the goal and 2-1 lead.

• Patrick’s line, which was buzzing all night, finally received its due when Jordan Weal gained control along the boards and sent it out to the point. With Simmonds in front of the net, he was able to circle around the defense and beat Greiss low to the glove.

• The Flyers earned a four-minute double minor as defenseman Andrew MacDonald drew a high-stick to the face. On the ensuing power play, Provorov found a shooting lane with a line of at least four bodies standing in front of Greiss. All Provorov had to do was snap a shot between everyone’s legs to score a goal and extend the advantage to 4-1. Provorov followed up a bad game against Pittsburgh with one of his best against the Islanders. He also tallied a second marker with an empty-netter.

• Konecny got in the scoring act on a breakaway. Couturier flipped a perfect pass over the Islanders’ defense, which sprung Konecny, who made sure he picked a side of the net instead of the corner. He snapped a shot over Greiss’ blocker for his fifth goal of the season. Konecny now has points in three of his last four games.

• With Anders Lee serving as a screen directly in front of Elliott, John Tavares sniped a shot that barely saw Elliott flinch. The Flyers’ PK can’t allow a superstar like Tavares to get that kind of open look no matter where he is on the ice.

• Pulock, the Islanders’ defenseman taken four spots after Samuel Morin in the 2013 draft, came up with a solid individual effort. When Hagg tried to flip the puck from his blue line into the Islanders’ zone, Pulock stepped up, snagged it and skated in all alone on Elliott before snapping a shot high glove to pull the Isles within a goal, 5-4, in the third period.

• There were three fights in the game. Along with Konecny, Couturier and Scott Laughton also dropped the gloves, while Simmonds and Clutterbuck had plenty of words.

• The Flyers called up Tyrell Goulbourne from Lehigh Valley Wednesday night, but he couldn’t make it to the Wells Fargo Center from Toronto (where the Phantoms practiced prior to their game with the Marlies) in time for Thursday’s game.

General manager Ron Hextall described Goulbourne’s game and what he brings to the Flyers, as the 2013 third-round pick is expected to make his NHL debut Saturday against the St. Louis Blues. 

“I think he’s a hard-nosed player,” Hextall said. “I think you see that in what he’s done in Lehigh Valley. He’s done everything asked of him there. He’s a hard-nosed, two-way player. He’s been going to those dirty areas. Because of that, he’s had a couple of scraps. You look at his last couple games here and he has a couple points. Playing good, consistent hockey and when need be, he’s answering the call there.”