Flyers

Flyers hold off Avalanche after Michal Neuvirth exits early

Flyers hold off Avalanche after Michal Neuvirth exits early

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DENVER — Michal Neuvirth’s return from a lower-body injury was a successful but short-lived one for the Flyers.

Neuvirth made 10 saves on 11 shots before leaving in the second period with an undisclosed injury. Neuvirth, who was making his first start since Feb. 18, stayed in long enough to get the win but was replaced by Petr Mrazek midway through the Flyers’ 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.

Mrazek made 17 saves as the Flyers ended a two-game losing streak. Meanwhile, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol did not have an update on Neuvirth postgame.

Claude Giroux scored a goal to extend his point streak to six games and Ivan Provorov had a goal and an assist for the Flyers (39-25-14), who moved a point ahead of the Blue Jackets for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers are also knotted with the Penguins at 92 points. Both Pittsburgh and Columbus have played one less game.

The Flyers took advantage of Colorado’s goaltending issues to secure the win. Semyon Varlamov, the No. 1 goalie, was out sick and his backup, Jonathan Bernier, was unavailable because of an infection from a cut on his left hand.

Andrew Hammond, who was acquired from Ottawa in the Matt Duchene deal in November, was called up from the American Hockey League and looked shaky at the start in his Colorado debut before settling in to make 31 saves.

Giroux victimized Hammond with a one-timer off a diagonal pass from Shayne Gostisbehere 10:24 into the game, and defenseman Provorov’s blast from the point at 18:12 made it 2-0.

Matt Nieto’s goal at 5:36 of the second made it close but the Flyers held on.

• Center Valtteri Filppula missed his first game this season. Filppula was banged up in Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss at Dallas and was ruled out after the warmup. Right winger Dale Weise took Filppula’s spot in the lineup and played on the fourth line with Jori Lehtera and Matt Read.

• Giroux tied his career high with 93 points (27 goals, 66 assists) and is seven points shy of becoming the first Flyers player to reach 100 points since Eric Lindros did it in 1995-96. He has eight goals and 19 assists in his last 20 games.

• Neuvirth was sharp before he left. He made a save on J.T. Compher’s point-blank chance just 1:47 into the game, and then robbed Blake Comeau with a pad save later in the first. His best save came 20 seconds after Colorado made it 2-1. A deflected puck gave Mikko Rantanen an open side of the net but Neuvirth slid over to make another pad save.

Mrazek came on soon after and emergency goaltender Nick Barnett was in the wings if needed.

Alex Lyon, who was assigned to the Phantoms of the AHL, will likely return to the Flyers if Neuvirth’s injury keeps him out.

• The Flyers survived a late flurry by Colorado, which included nearly two straight minutes of offensive zone time for the Avalanche. Hammond came off for an extra skater with about 1:25 left but couldn’t tie it.

'You know that word that starts with B?' — Alain Vigneault makes his point after frustrating Flyers loss

'You know that word that starts with B?' — Alain Vigneault makes his point after frustrating Flyers loss

Every so often, ever since training camp in mid-September, Alain Vigneault will remind everyone he wasn't here last year or the years prior.

He'll do so amicably when questions arise about a past season or trend with the club he now coaches. Vigneault likes to focus on the present and what's ahead.

After all, he doesn't want to act as if he's openly criticizing what happened before him. 

"It's the start of a new era, a new group," he said Sept. 13, Day 1 of training camp.

If he didn't know, the type of loss the Flyers suffered Thursday night has become a recurring theme in recent years, the kind that drives the fan base up a wall. One night, the Flyers will look like world-beaters against the NHL's elite. Another night, they'll lose a game that had victory written all over it, leaving fans scratching their heads.

Except, Flyers fans are no longer dumbfounded by those types of losses because, quite frankly, their team has tended to suffer them predictably.

On Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers lost, 4-1, to the Canadiens, who are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture and had lost nine of their previous 11 games. What made the defeat particularly maddening was that the Flyers had just made a significant statement by beating the league's three best teams — the Capitals, Bruins and Blues — in the past four games.

The win over defending champion St. Louis came Wednesday night on the road. So on Thursday night, the Flyers were facing the second game of a back-to-back set, coming off the high of beating the champs in their building, and playing without either of their regular two goalies (see observations).

When "emotional letdown" was brought up at his postgame press conference, Vigneault wouldn't even tiptoe the line.

“You know that word that starts with B?" Vigneault asked.

Begins with bull and ends in ... ?

"I mean, these are big games," Vigneault said. "There’s almost nothing separating teams. And tonight, it’s a couple plays. I understand emotionally, but points are the same. This game was worth two. Last game was worth two. You’ve got to get up for it, you’ve got to get yourself ready, it’s going to be a battle.

"You do know the word I’m talking about, right?”

Sure do.

And his Flyers know those losses can't become a theme.

Vigneault will call out that bulls--t if he sees it.

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Flyers upended by Canadiens for the type of loss that always seems to anger fans

Flyers upended by Canadiens for the type of loss that always seems to anger fans

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These ones irritate Flyers fans the most.

After playing up to the competition for four straight games and generating bona-fide excitement, the Flyers played down to the competition in a 4-1 loss Thursday night to the Canadiens at the Wells Fargo Center.

Sure, Montreal boasts a big-named goalie, but it had lost nine of its last 11 games before upending the Flyers, who had just won three games over the top three teams in the NHL.

This was a letdown any way you slice it for the Flyers (25-17-6) following victories over the Capitals, Bruins and Blues.

The Canadiens (21-21-7) salvaged the final game of the three-game regular-season series with the Flyers after dropping the first two matchups in overtime.

• The Flyers were coming off an emotional high of beating the defending champs on the road and playing the second game of a back-to-back set, but everyone should expect more than losing by three goals on home ice to a team outside of the playoff picture (see story).

On Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers should come out like gangbusters against the Kings, who are near the basement of the West.

• With Carter Hart (right lower abdominal strain) out two to three weeks and Brian Elliott playing an overtime game on the road Wednesday night, Alex Lyon made his first start of the season for the Flyers.

The 27-year-old has played well in his fourth season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

“Alex has put in a lot of time,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said before the game. “He spent the summer here in Philly to work out. I thought he had a good camp and he's been playing well. This is his best start in Lehigh Valley. He is just coming off a shutout and he deserved a chance to play.”

Lyon became the third goalie to suit up for the Flyers. At this date last season, the Flyers had already played seven goalies.

He was strong until he allowed a goal with 55 seconds left in the first period. From the end of the opening stanza to the beginning of the second frame, Lyon allowed three goals in a span of three minutes, 14 seconds.

The tallies weren’t all on Lyon. The Flyers were a step behind on all three. The second was a power play goal in which the Flyers allowed Shea Weber all kinds of room to wind up a slap shot and create a rebound in front (see highlights).

Lyon made 35 saves.

Montreal goalie Carey Price, who won his previous two games with 72 saves on 73 shots, enjoyed the lead and finished with 40 stops to beat the Flyers for the 16th time in his career.

• In the wins over the Capitals, Bruins and Blues, the Flyers were forced to kill 14 of 15 power plays. That’s a lot of work for the PK and it felt like the rising number of trips to the box would eventually burn the Flyers.

They allowed Ilya Kovalchuk’s go-ahead power play goal early in the second period and then the Canadiens scored another marker 11 seconds later to seize a 3-1 lead.

It was a momentum-changing sequence all started by a penalty, albeit a cheap hooking call on Kevin Hayes.

The Flyers also hurt themselves by going 0 for 4 on the power play.

• Kovalchuk, who signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Canadiens two weeks ago, gave Montreal a 2-1 lead on the second-period power play goal. He tacked on the fourth and final goal.

The 36-year-old winger has seven points (three goals, four assists) in seven games with the Canadiens.

Should the Flyers have been interested?

• Recalled a day after being loaned to the Phantoms for the purpose of creating space for Lyon, Joel Farabee scored a big goal to open the game’s scoring.

The marker was Farabee’s first in 16 games. The 19-year-old has offense to add to the Flyers — and if he can show it on the fourth line, his role will grow as the games grow bigger.

“I'd like him to get a little bit more than nine or 10 minutes but we've seen that go up and down, and my expectation is that that’ll come back,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Tuesday.

With the addition of Connor Bunnaman, the Flyers’ fourth line has been a positive over the past three games.

• Before the game, Vigneault said he was very optimistic about defenseman Justin Braun’s return Saturday from a groin injury.

• The Flyers play two more games, both at home, before their NHL-mandated Jan. 22-30 bye week — Saturday vs. the Kings (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and Tuesday vs. the Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN).

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