Flyers

Penguins ruin Fleury's Pittsburgh homecoming

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USA Today Images

Penguins ruin Fleury's Pittsburgh homecoming

PITTSBURGH -- Third-period goals by Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel ruined former teammate Marc-Andre Fleury's homecoming as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 5-4 on Tuesday night.

Fleury, who won three Stanley Cups with the Penguins -- including the last two seasons -- returned to Pittsburgh for the first time since Vegas selected him in the expansion draft last summer. Fleury, who stopped 33 shots, beat his former teammates in December in Las Vegas.

In the first meeting between the teams in Pittsburgh, Malkin gave the Penguins a 4-2 lead with his 30th of the season at 3:09 of the third period. Malkin, who scored in his fifth straight game, became the fifth player in team history to score 30 goals on six separate occasions.

Kessel extended the lead to 5-2 a little more than three minutes later on a one-touch, backdoor feed from Malkin.

Jake Guentzel, Ryan Reaves and Ian Cole also scored for Pittsburgh, which won for the fifth time in six games.

Matt Murray, Fleury's former understudy in Pittsburgh, made 21 saves to top his mentor (see full recap).

Bruins win to close in on NHL-best Lightning
DETROIT -- Sean Kuraly and David Krejci scored in the second period, and the surging Boston Bruins rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night.

Boston is 17-1-4 in its last 22 games and only three points behind NHL-leading Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. The Red Wings never mounted much sustained pressure on goalie Tuukka Rask, who improved to 19-0-2 in his last 21 games.

Martin Frk scored a power-play goal in the second for Detroit, but the Bruins quickly wiped out that lead later in the period. Danton Heinen scored with 11:39 remaining in the third to put Boston up by two.

With their goalie pulled, the Red Wings moved within one when Frans Nielsen scored with 1:24 to play, but Boston held on (see full recap).

Backstrom’s late score lifts Capitals over Blue Jackets
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Nicklas Backstrom scored the winning goal with 43 seconds left, Braden Holtby made 37 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 on Tuesday night.

Brandon Dubinsky tied the score for Columbus late in the third period and the game appeared headed to overtime before Backstrom jumped on a pass from T.J. Oshie and beat Sergei Bobrovsky for his 200th career goal.

John Carlson and Tom Wilson also scored as the Capitals rallied to break a two-game skid and hang onto first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Bobrovsky had 22 saves for the Blue Jackets, who have lost four in a row and nine of 11. They're still in playoff contention, but so are all the teams in the division.

Washington (31-17-5) won the first leg of a home-and-home this week with Columbus (27-22-4) (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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Flyers/USA Today Images

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.