Flyers

Rangers top Sabres in Winter Classic thriller

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USA Today Images

Rangers top Sabres in Winter Classic thriller

NEW YORK -- J.T. Miller scored a power-play goal 2:43 into overtime to lift the New York Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday in the NHL's 10th Winter Classic at Citi Field.

Paul Carey and Michael Grabner scored in the first period for the Rangers, who improved to 4-0 in regular season outdoor games. Henrik Lundqvist, who has been in goal for all four of the wins, stopped 31 shots to help New York improve to 6-2-3 in its last 11 overall.

Rasmus Ristolainen had a goal and an assist, Sam Reinhart also scored and Kyle Okposo had two assists for the Sabres. Robin Lehner finished with 39 saves for Buffalo, which has just 10 wins this season but is 4-3-5 in its last 12 games.

The Rangers went on the power play 2:15 into overtime when Jacob Josefson was whistled for tripping Jimmy Vesey. Miller scored the winner on a rebound in front off a shot by Kevin Shattenkirk.

The game, played at the home of baseball's New York Mets, was on the 10th anniversary of the Sabres' 2-1 shootout loss to Pittsburgh in Buffalo in the first Winter Classic. This was also the league's 24th regular season outdoor game.

Buffalo was 1 for 5 on the power play after coming in 30th in the NHL at 12.4 percent. The Rangers went 1 for 3 with the man advantage.

Lundqvist made a sensational save on an attempt by Zemgus Girgensons with 2:12 remaining to keep the score tied.

The national anthem was performed by a group of children born in 2008, the year of the first Winter Classic. The Goo Goo Dolls, a rock band that started in the Buffalo area, performed during the first intermission.

Despite the official temperature at puck drop at 20.5 degrees, the game drew a sellout crowd of 41,821.

There was a shadow across about half the ice lengthwise at the start of the game. Lehner in the Sabres' goal was in the shade and Lundquist was standing in the sun just beyond the shadow. By the middle of the opening period, the shadow was at least partially covering about two-thirds of the ice, with the team benches in sun on the side facing where home plate usually sits.

The playing surface was completely in the shade at the start of the second period, except for the side boards to Lehner's right on the first base side of the field.

The Sabres trailed 2-0 after one period before Reinhart cut the deficit in half in the opening minute of the second period. Lundqvist stopped a slap shot by Rasmus Ristolainen but Reinhart knocked in the rebound at 56 seconds.

Shortly before that, Lehner made a stellar stop on a short-handed breakaway by Grabner that would've given the Rangers a three-goal lead.

The Sabres tied it in the opening minute of the third. Ristolainen fired a wrist shot off a pass from Ryan O'Reilley for his second at 27 seconds.

To mark the 10th anniversary of their appearance in the Winter Classic, the Sabres gave up a home game to be in this one since the Rangers are contractually obligated to play all their home games at Madison Square Garden for a tax exemption.

New York got on the scoreboard first as Carey got a pass from Jesper Fast and fired it past Lehner from straightaway for his fifth of the season at 4:09.

Grabner made it 2-0 a little more than four minutes later. Marc Staal sent the puck of Lehner's back as he spun around and skated past the left side of the goal, and it came to Grabner at the right side and he put it in for his 18th at 8:20.

Bruins 4, Flyers 3 (preseason): Flyers fall in worst preseason performance

Bruins 4, Flyers 3 (preseason): Flyers fall in worst preseason performance

BOX SCORE

The Flyers simply couldn’t handle the B’s B-team.

Playing without most of their regulars, the Bruins handled the Flyers' comeback, winning, 4-3, and dropping the Flyers' preseason record to 3-2-1.

Here are my observations Monday from the Wells Fargo Center: 

1. The Flyers came to life in the second period, outshooting the Bruins, 18-9. However, overall, this was by far their worst game of the preseason. Boston rested a lot of its regulars following an exhibition series with the Calgary Flames in China. All of its key players stayed back home, which made this performance that much more disheartening. We should see something closer to the actual Bruins next Saturday in Boston.

2. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald had to work on some first-period rust. On his second shift of the game, MacDonald turned the puck over horribly in his own zone, which was one gaffe. In the same sequence, MacDonald kicked the puck away from Brian Elliott, who was about to cover up. That sequence eventually led to Peter Cehlarik’s goal. MacDonald looked better as the game wore on. 

3. Should Flyers fans have any concern about Elliott? A little bit as he still appears to be working out the kinks. While the first goal was a series of breakdowns and a failure to clear the zone, the Bruins' second goal — a Brandon Carlo snap shot — was one Elliott has to stop despite James van Riemsdyk venturing too far down defensively to stop the pass and block the shot. Elliott also faced a couple of shorthanded breakaways. He turned aside Jordan Szwarz coming down the left wing, but was beaten later in the second period by Chris Wagner.  

4. I think this was a big game in determining Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s future with the team. Having played on a line with skilled players Claude Giroux and Jordan Weal previously, Aube-Kubel was working with Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise. In the first period, Aube-Kubel appeared gun shy and passed up on a really good scoring chance from the left circle. He instead elected to pass to Philippe Myers at his right defense position.

5. Jakub Voracek took a nasty hit from Bruins defenseman Steven Kampfer as he nailed Voracek up high right in front of the Flyers' bench. Kampfer was given two minutes for roughing. Voracek was fortunate he wasn’t nailed into the boards, where there was a panel of glass or the impact may have led to injury.

6. I don’t think Myers has had the outstanding camp, like Travis Sanheim a year ago, that would have guaranteed his place on the roster. In fact, Myers may have regressed a little bit in Week 2. Myers blindly backhanded a pass straight into the slot, which led to Lee Stempniak’s slap shot and the Bruins' fourth goal of the game.  

7. Michael Raffl gave the Flyers one of his best efforts of the preseason. Raffl was noticeable for most of the game as he was quick to pucks and strong along the boards. Raffl forced the neutral zone turnover that led to Dale Weise’s 2-on-1 shorthanded goal. From that moment, the Flyers scored three goals in a 2:44 third-period span.  

Lines and pairings

Forwards
Giroux-Mikhail Vorobyev-Travis Konecny
van Riemsdyk-Nolan Patrick-Voracek
Aube-Kubel-Lehtera-Weise
Scott Laughton-Corban Knight-Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere 
MacDonald-Christian Folin 
Robert Hagg-Myers

Goaltenders
Elliott
Anthony Stolarz

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Flyers' dynamic top 6 draws national praise

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Flyers' dynamic top 6 draws national praise

If there appears to be a genuine buzz around the Flyers this season that hasn't been here in a few years now — and not about that weird orange thing they unveiled today — you're not exactly wrong.

This is the first season in the Ron Hextall era that the Flyers enter coming off reeling in a big fish via free agency, even if it wasn't John Tavares.

Yes, James van Riemsdyk is a big fish. He's a 30-goal scorer and was the second-best free agent available behind Tavares. It was a huge get, and it's a better fit this time around.

It's not just Philly that believes JVR's addition instantly upgrades the Flyers in 2018-19. TSN's Travis Yost on Monday graded out all 31 NHL teams' top sixes and he reaped praise for the orange and black.

Philadelphia is another notable standout. The Flyers’ offense should be nothing short of ridiculous this season — they are returning three forwards in Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier who all finished in the top 30 in scoring last season. Add another year of playing experience for youngsters Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick, plus a 36-goal guy in James van Riemsdyk, and you have attacking options flooding the lineup.

What's interesting about Yost's analysis is that he didn't even include Wayne Simmonds in the group. Even with a hefty list of injuries, Simmonds scored 24 goals and 46 points last season when it was clear that he wasn't himself.

A healthy Simmonds is a 30-goal scorer, and while he hasn't played in the preseason yet, he should be 100 percent by the season opener Oct. 4 in Vegas.

The Flyers will have seven legitimate top-six forwards this season, which means the third line will have a top-six player on it. That's depth this team hasn't had since … van Riemsdyk was with the Flyers in 2011-12.

If we go back to the 2011-12 season, the Flyers had Giroux, Simmonds, Voracek, Couturier, Jaromir Jagr, Danny Briere and Brayden Schenn. That was a pretty solid group of forwards. That team just lacked a defensive group that could actually skate.

Fast forward to this season, the Flyers' defensive group is younger, a bit faster and, quite frankly, a lot better. A healthy Brian Elliott and the Flyers should be fine.

What we should take away from Yost's column is that the Flyers have caught the eye of national pundits, and that's a good thing. The season starts in 10 days.

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