Flyers

Best of NHL: Senators clinch playoff berth with shootout win over Bruins

Best of NHL: Senators clinch playoff berth with shootout win over Bruins

BOSTON -- Craig Anderson stopped 28 shots in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout Thursday night to help the Ottawa Senators beat Boston 2-1, snapping the Bruins' six-game winning streak and pulling ahead of them in the Atlantic Division standings.

Kyle Turris scored the only goal in the shootout. Anderson stopped Drew Stafford, who scored Boston's only regulation goal, and Ryan Spooner before straddling the goalpost to turn away David Pastrnak's attempt at the end.

Tuukka Rask stopped 25 shots for Boston, which went 0-4 against Ottawa this season. The Senators had never swept the Bruins in a season series.

Ottawa, which got a goal in the second from Alexandre Burrows, now has 96 points to 95 for Boston after entering the night tied. The Senators still have two games remaining -- one more than the Bruins -- and also have the head-to-head tiebreaker but not the most important one: regulation and overtime wins (see full recap).

Leafs fail to clinch as Lightning stay alive
TORONTO -- Brayden Point scored two goals and the Tampa Bay Lightning kept their slim playoff hopes alive by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 on Thursday night.

Nikita Kucherov and Michael Bournival also scored for the Lightning, who prevented the Maple Leafs from clinching their first postseason berth in four years. There is only one spot remaining in the Eastern Conference after Ottawa clinched a berth with a 2-1 shootout win at Boston.

Toronto, which would have clinched with a win, needs two points over its final two games -- against Pittsburgh and Columbus -- to beat out the Lightning and New York Islanders for the last spot.

Nazem Kadri scored the only goal for Toronto, with Frederik Andersen surrendering four goals on 30 shots (see full recap).

Hurricanes eliminated from playoff contention with loss to Isles
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Jaroslav Halak stopped 29 shots in his second shutout of the season, and the fast-starting New York Islanders beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 on Thursday night.

Brock Nelson and Scott Mayfield scored early goals 3 minutes, 12 seconds apart, and Andrew Ladd added a power-play goal to help the Islanders win their fourth straight and preserve their long-shot playoff hopes for a little while longer.

Eddie Lack stopped 20 shots for the Hurricanes, who lost their fourth straight overall, a slide that coincides with their mathematical elimination from the playoff race for the eighth straight year -- the longest active postseason drought in the NHL. They've also been shut out in their last two home games.

Halak won his fourth straight start since his recall from Bridgeport of the AHL, and his first shutout since blanking Washington on Dec. 1 came in a must-win scenario for his team (see full recap).

Penguins lock up home ice for opening round
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins clinched home-ice advantage for their first-round playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 7-4 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.

The Penguins got goals from seven players, two assists from Sidney Crosby -- including a spectacular no-look, backhand pass to give Conor Sheary a shot into an open net -- and 34 saves from Matt Murray in picking up their 50th win of the season.

The win gave Pittsburgh 111 points -- the second-highest total in franchise history. Coupled with Columbus' 5-4 loss to Winnipeg, the Penguins will finish second ahead of the Blue Jackets in the Metropolitan Division, gaining home-ice for the best-of-7 first-round series.

Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel, Josh Archibald, Patric Hornqvist, Matt Cullen and Nick Bonino also scored for the Penguins. Bonino also had two assists.

Stefan Noesen, John Moore, Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri scored for the Devils (see full recap).

Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

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Nolan Patrick selected as No. 1 breakout player for 2018-19 by NHL Network

Nolan Patrick's rookie season can be split into two halves, but his performance down the stretch has caught the attention of one national pundit.

NHL Network analyst Mike Johnson, who played 12 years in the league, selected Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player for the 2018-19 season during Friday night's "NHL Tonight."

Johnson scored 375 points in 661 NHL games from 1996-2008 and last played in the league during the 2007-08 campaign with the St. Louis Blues.

Behind Johnson's reasoning for picking Patrick as his No. 1 breakout player was the Flyers' center's two-way instincts, ability to finish, size and a full summer of training ahead of him.

"We know his injury history, his lack of proper training, his lack of ability to hit the gym properly," Johnson said, "and he's still strong on the wall. That's only going to get better as he matures physically."

For what it's worth, Connor McDavid was NHL Network's No. 1 breakout candidate for the 2017-18 season — that was a bit of a softball.

As for Patrick, the center joined "NHL Tonight" on Friday to discuss the honor and also provide an update on how his summer is going.

"Coming off that surgery last year," Patrick said, "I had a slow start. It took a while to get my body back to where I wanted it to be. I missed two summers of training. It's been the first summer for me in a while that I've been back in the gym."

Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, finished with 13 goals and 30 points in 73 regular-season games. He missed nine games in October and November because of a concussion and spent most of the first half of the season getting his mobility back after undergoing offseason abdominal surgery. In fact, he's lost his past two summers of training because of surgery.

Prior to his final junior season and his draft year, Patrick underwent sports hernia surgery. Then 10 days before the Flyers drafted him, he went under the knife again.

Now he's fully healthy and has a full summer of training.

"First time I can get after it," Patrick said during the team's exit interviews in April (see story). "It's going to be a big summer for me. I'm not satisfied with how the year was or how my year was, so I'm looking to take big steps here."

Once Patrick began feeling healthier, he started getting a bigger role with the Flyers. He was elevated to the team's second-line center and stuck. He also found a role on the power play.

The 19-year-old posted 17 points in the final 25 games, which translates to a respectable 0.68 points per game clip and 55 points over an 82-game schedule. Not too bad for a rookie who couldn't actually train during his previous two offseasons.

"My coaches pushed me throughout the year. Then they gave me more opportunity," Patrick told the NHL Network. "Jake Voracek was huge for me. He thinks the game so well. The puck protection that guy has, you just got to get open for him.

"I think my body also just felt better as the year went on. I kind of took a while to get my skating legs there, so I think in the second half, I had a little more pep in my step."

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End to End: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

End to End: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: What is Ron Hextall's next big signing?

Boruk
There are three ways to look at this …

1. The Flyers re-sign Wayne Simmonds, who's eligible for an extension that would take effect in 2019-20.

2. Ron Hextall inks one of his restricted free agents to a team-friendly, lengthy multi-year deal.

3. The Flyers go big in free agency next summer. 

Let’s start with the latter. There are some interesting names that are headlining next summer’s potential UFA class: Tyler Seguin, Tyler Myers, Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin. 

Who knows which of these players will be re-signed or traded, but I don’t see the Flyers paying big dollars to add another forward now that you include James van Riemsdyk. According to Spotrac.com, the Flyers have $46.5 million (fourth highest in the NHL) committed to forwards, with Travis Konecny due for a pay raise next summer, as well.

With that knowledge, I’m not sure it makes sense for the Flyers to extend Simmonds another four to five years with an AAV of $6-7 million. Hextall has a good barometer of what Simmonds is worth on the open market, which is why term would be the sticking point in negotiations. If he’s willing to look at a three-year deal, it could get done soon, but if I’m Simmonds' agent, I’m trying to maximize the length of any new contract, which very well could be the last one his client signs.

I think the next big contract will be signed by defenseman Ivan Provorov, who’s entering the final year of his entry-level deal. It’s not out of the financial realm to think Provorov could sign a Drew Doughty-type bridge deal similar to the eight-year, $56 million pact the Kings' defenseman signed in 2011 at the age of 21. Doughty was coming off a monstrous 16-goal, 59-point season. Last season, Provorov ripped off 17 goals and 41 points and appears poised to build on that for this upcoming season.

Prepare yourself. Provorov will receive the next big pay day in Philadelphia.

Dougherty
Outside of teaching the Sixers and Phillies how to close a deal, Hextall's only item left on his offseason to-do list is to re-sign restricted free agent Robert Hagg.

During his end-of-season-news conference in April, Hextall said "initially, my thought right now is that we would be open to either long term or short term" with Hagg.

Whether Hagg qualifies as a "big signing" isn't really up for debate. It's not. Hagg is a quality third pair defenseman in the NHL and he proved as much in his rookie season.

But re-signing Hagg is the only move left I envision Hextall making this summer, or at the very least, the next move. A Provorov or Simmonds extension remains possible too.

As Hextall mentioned, the Flyers are open to either a short or long-term deal with Hagg. Both have their upside. That is also likely the holdup right now.

While Hagg wouldn't qualify as a "big" signing, he is next on the checklist. Once his contract is out of the way, then I could see the Flyers knocking out Provorov or Simmonds.

Hall
Hextall tends to get ahead and take care of his own.

When you look at the track record, he's not one to let contract decisions linger, especially when it comes to his core pieces — which makes for good business.

Just like in any profession, stability and happiness are important.

The Flyers' general manager extended Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier the summer prior to their contract years. 

He signed Shayne Gostisbehere, a restricted free agent last summer, in early June before the expansion draft and free agency opened. 

He even signed Michael Raffl in February 2016 before the role forward was set to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

With all that said, my gut tells me Hextall's next big move is extending Simmonds at some point before the start of the season. Simmonds, coming off an injury-ravaged year in which he still managed to score 24 goals, can hit unrestricted free agency following the 2018-19 season. He wants to be back and Hextall values him greatly.

And the GM made it clear that when the Flyers signed van Riemsdyk to a five-year deal, it meant nothing to their situation with Simmonds.

"We like Wayne Simmonds," Hextall said July 1. "This doesn't change anything for Wayne. This is a left winger; this is a different player than Simmer. We're excited to have James, and certainly, we would like to have Simmer for a long time, too."

I expect that to be the next major check on the agenda.

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