Flyers

Penguins score 7 in 4th straight win

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Penguins score 7 in 4th straight win

PITTSBURGH — Phil Kessel scored twice and picked up an assist, Evgeni Malkin added two goals and two assists, and the surging Pittsburgh Penguins rolled past the Washington Capitals 7-4 on Friday night.

Bryan Rust, Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist also scored for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who won their fourth straight to pull within four points of first-place Washington in the crowded Metropolitan Division. Sidney Crosby had two assists to push his scoring streak to 11 games, the longest active streak in the NHL.

Matt Murray stopped 29 shots for Pittsburgh, which won its seventh consecutive home game by jumping on the Capitals early then pulling away late.

Alex Ovechkin scored twice to push his season total to an NHL-best 32 and Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetzov also scored for the Capitals, but Washington couldn't keep pace with the Penguins. Braden Holtby finished with 27 saves but gave up three goals in the opening 8 minutes of the third period before being pulled in favor of Phillpp Grubauer as Pittsburgh broke open a tight game.

The Penguins came in rolling, ripping off an NHL-high nine wins in January to climb from 10th in the Eastern Conference to within striking distance of the division-leading Capitals with still two months to go before the postseason (see full recap).

Helm, Mrazek lead Red Wings to win over Hurricances
RALEIGH, N.C. — After two months of struggles, Darren Helm finally had the breakout game he's been seeking.

Helm had a goal and two assists, Petr Mrazek stopped 36 shots, and the Detroit Red Wings beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 on Friday night.

Helm's goal was his first since Dec. 5, and he also had his first multi-assist game of the season.

"It feels great," Helm said. "I don't know if I played a whole lot better than I had in previous games, but it's definitely nice when the puck finally gets in the back of the net, either by myself or given to teammates."

Gustav Nyquist, Danny DeKeyser and Trevor Daley also scored for the Red Wings, who won their second straight after dropping six of eight (see full recap).

Sharks beat Blue Jackets with 2 power-play goals
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Kevin Labanc had a goal and an assist, and Martin Jones stopped 28 shots to lift the San Jose Sharks to a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.

The Sharks' first two goals came on power plays, with Labanc getting a wide-open look at the net with a 5-on-3 advantage in the second period. Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored for San Jose, which snapped a four-game losing streak.

Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves for the Blue Jackets, who have lost two in a row and five of their last seven. Boone Jenner had the lone goal as Columbus continues to struggle offensively.

Couture scored 5:07 into the game with the Blue Jackets' Matt Calvert in the penalty box for tripping. Couture got his 22nd goal of the season when he snapped a shot from the high slot over the glove of Bobrovsky, who was shielded by 6-foot-5 defenseman Brent Burns (see full recap).

Samuel Morin's future with Flyers grows murkier with torn ACL

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Samuel Morin's future with Flyers grows murkier with torn ACL

Samuel Morin is taking the long and winding road to the NHL, one that’s now more rugged and elongated than ever.

The Flyers confirmed Thursday that Morin tore the ACL in his right knee when his skate caught a rut on the ice in Charlotte while he was attempting to check an opponent. The injury took place in the first period of the Phantoms' epic five-overtime game against the Checkers two weeks ago.

General manager Ron Hextall told the Courier-Post's Dave Isaac that Morin is facing a nine-month recovery process and that the 6-7 defenseman is “probably out until February” as he recovers from surgery — which Morin will undergo sometime in the near future.

Morin’s 2018-19 season will now be spent rehabbing from injury and utilizing what’s left of the regular season working his way back with the Phantoms.   

The Flyers' 2013 first-round pick is also a restricted free agent after playing out the final year of his three-year entry-level contract. In the five years since he was drafted, Morin has suited up for just three NHL games. 

Expect the two sides to reach an agreement on a one- or- two-year extension rather easily since Morin doesn’t have much leverage in negotiations at this point. Since Morin signed his rookie deal at the age of 18, he also had a five-year (or 160-game) waiver exemption that has now expired.

In other words, the Flyers will no longer have the luxury of shuttling Morin back and forth from Lehigh Valley without exposing him to the rest of the league if they attempt to send him back to the minors.

The Flyers have no choice but to give Morin the necessary time to ensure he’s not only ready physically, but also that his game can be trusted at the NHL level.  

Hextall has preached patience in the deliberate development of the organization’s prospects.

Right now, Samuel Morin is the poster child for that process.

Phantoms' Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers pairing can't be trusted with Flyers ... yet

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Phantoms' Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers pairing can't be trusted with Flyers ... yet

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The Flyers' general manager who was able to construct an entire blue line through trades and free-agent signings was once asked, "What's the number one trait you look for out of a defenseman?"

Paul Holmgren’s response was decisive and to the point. Paraphrasing, Holmgren said, "The one who can get the puck out of his zone as quickly as possible."

As much as the game of hockey has been broken down into advanced metrics and analytics, it’s rather simple at its core. The more time a team spends in its end of the ice, the greater likelihood it'll be on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

The AHL playoffs have served as an ideal test site for Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers, who have been stalwarts throughout the Phantoms' postseason run. 

However, Game 3 at the PPL Center Wednesday night further exemplified the necessary strides the Flyers' defensive prospects must take in order to develop into reliable, everyday NHL blueliners.  

Oftentimes, less is more when you have the puck in the defensive end of the ice, and it took roughly 62 seconds into the game on Sanheim’s opening shift for the 22-year-old to make a major gaffe that gave the Toronto Marlies a 1-0 lead. 

Instead of making the simple play of a quick pass up the boards, Sanheim elected to keep it, reversing his field and was suddenly stripped with the attacking forward trailing. Roughly two seconds elapsed from the moment Sanheim lost the puck to when it was behind goalie Alex Lyon in the net. 

“On that particular play, we have full possession of the puck and the opportunity to advance it," Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon said. "Instead, we go back behind the net to where their guy is. That’s just playing into their hands. In that situation, and in a few of our breakouts, there were opportunities to move forward with the puck and we didn’t.”   

However, the gaffes involving the Sanheim-Myers pairing didn’t stop there. Sanheim was stripped of the puck at his own blue line during the first Phantoms' power play. Myers inexcusably lost his edge skating with the puck through the neutral zone. Toronto’s Andreas Johnsson muscled his way around Sanheim to generate a quality scoring chance, and then another terrible pass and turnover inside the Phantoms' zone.

And that all came in the first seven minutes of the game. 

If Dave Hakstol had been behind the bench (he was actually watching from the PPL Center press box), Sanheim is likely sitting in front of him for the remainder of the game. That’s essentially what transpired in mid-January at the Prudential Center in New Jersey when Sanheim’s play landed him back in the minors for a month and a half. 

Chalk this up as one bad game. Game 3 of the AHL’s Eastern Conference Finals was simply another teaching moment as the Phantoms were blown out, 5-0, falling behind 3-0 in the series. Both players will be back there together logging close to 25 minutes as the Phantoms try to avoid elimination Friday night.    

As exciting as it is to watch Sanheim and Myers generate offense within the Phantoms' system with their size and skating ability, there’s no way Hakstol and the Flyers can depend on that pairing defensively next season. Together, they’re still young, inexperienced and unreliable. 

If anything, expect the competition between Myers and Sanheim as something worth watching when Flyers camp opens in September. Myers has closed the gap in his first full season in the AHL. 

And the guy who can clean up their play defensively will likely be the one that starts next season with the Flyers.