Outplayed most of night, Flyers grateful for Neuvirth's stellar game

Outplayed most of night, Flyers grateful for Neuvirth's stellar game


For most of Sunday night’s game, the Flyers were second best. During long stretches of play, the Golden Knights camped out in the offensive zone, firing shots at Michal Neuvirth’s goal. They looked like the best team in the Western Conference, while the Flyers looked like a tired team playing the second game of a West Coast back-to-back.

Despite being outshot 39-18, the Flyers made their opportunities count to beat the Golden Knights, 4-1 (see observations), behind a huge game from Neuvirth, who was stepping in for injured starter Brian Elliott.

Sean Couturier, who tied the game at one late in the first period with his 28th goal and assisted on the Flyers’ second and third goals, credited Neuvirth for giving the team a chance to win.

“I think they probably outplayed us for most of the night,” Couturier told reporters. “Neuvy kept us in the game and we got two lucky bounces to kind of get going a little bit, but we found a way to win and that's all that matters.”

The Flyers are finding a lot of ways to win these days. Saturday, they had a season-high 43 shots but needed seven shootout rounds and a clutch cameo from Neuvirth in the final five rounds to beat the NHL-worst Coyotes.

Sunday, they beat the Golden Knights, a team that was 19-3-2 at home, despite sparse offensive opportunities. Radko Gudas even scored his first goal of the season, an empty-netter. Overall, they have 65 points and sit in third in the Metropolitan Division, with four straight wins heading into Tuesday’s game against the Devils.

“For a night like tonight, to win on a back-back, you have to have good goaltending and you have to have a bunch of guys that are willing to lay it on the line and scratch and claw and find a way,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “And I think that sums up a little bit about our hockey team.”

If Elliott’s lower-body injury is serious, Neuvirth will need to maintain the high level he showcased against the Golden Knights. After stopping the final five shots of the shootout in relief of Elliott Saturday, he felt good heading into a matchup against one of the NHL’s top teams.

“It was huge coming off the bench yesterday and shutting the door,” Neuvirth said. “That gave me a lot of confidence coming into this game and back-to-back wins in our tough schedule is huge for us."

Claude Giroux, who has been thriving recently alongside Couturier and Travis Konecny on the first line, said the Flyers couldn’t have pulled off such an unlikely win without Neuvirth.

“Neuvy was the best player out there tonight,” Giroux said. “He made a lot of big saves, great opportunities that he was able to shut down. Without him tonight, we don’t win this game.”

Flyers make their opportunities count vs. best in West

Flyers make their opportunities count vs. best in West


Scoring chances were few and far between for the Flyers Sunday night in Las Vegas. 

That wasn’t a huge surprise against the Golden Knights, who came into the game with 76 points, best in the Western Conference. But when the Flyers created opportunities, they made them count in a 4-1 win over the Golden Knights.

Overall, the Flyers were outshot, 39-18. The most shots they had in a single period was seven, which they did in each of the first two periods. Michal Neuvirth started in goal, replacing Brian Elliott, who suffered a lower-body injury in the Flyers’ 4-3 shootout win over the Coyotes Saturday. He kept the Flyers in the contest, saving 38 shots.

It seemed like Sean Couturier, who registered three points, was at the center of everything the Flyers did offensively.

With their fourth-straight win, the Flyers now have 65 points through 56 games. 
• Brayden McNabb scored the game’s first goal 11:22 into the first period, ending an extended period of possession for the Golden Knights with a pinpoint shot that beat Neuvirth high to his glove side.

• Shortly after, former Flyer Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who the Golden Knights selected in the expansion draft, had a prime scoring chance. Bellarme had a 1-on-0 with Alex Tuch trailing shortly behind. Bellemare carried the puck right to the front of the net but, instead of shooting, wasted the scoring chance by passing it wide to the right out of Tuch’s reach.

• The Flyers tied it up at one with 2:10 left in the first. Claude Giroux found Travis Konecny on the right side, and the 20-year-old centered a beautiful pass in front to Sean Couturier, who beat Marc-Andre Fleury. It was Couturier's 28th goal of the season. 

“We had good cycling down low and we were able to keep the puck moving around and creating some space,” Couturier said after the first period. “We were aggressive at the blue line and G made a nice play to keep it from going out and caught them with a good turnover. I went to the net hard and TK found me and it was a tap-in.”

After a pointless outing against the Coyotes, Konecny’s pass was key in sparking the Flyers, who were outshot 12-7 in the first period.
• The Golden Knights almost regained the lead near the end of the first, as Neuvirth struggled with rebound control. However, he did well to stop a series of close-range shots.

• Vegas spent much of the action early in the second period in the offensive zone, as the Flyers had just one shot in the first 9 minutes of the period before Michael Raffl broke free for a transition opportunity. He went near post with a backhand, which Fleury easily handled. 

• The Flyers were on their back foot most of the game; outside of the occasional breakaway, they didn’t seem to pose much of an offensive threat. The power play, which had scored twice in each of the last two games, had no opportunities the entire night. 

• Andrew McDonald gave the Flyers an unlikely lead with 2:52 remaining in the second, scoring his third goal of the season thanks to some good fortune. Konecny connected again with Couturier in front of the net. Couturier appeared to skew his shot wide of the net, but the puck deflected off MacDonald’s skate into the goal, wrong-footing Fleury. 

• Only right that after mustering up just four shots on goal in the first 17-plus minutes of the second period, the Flyers struck twice in under a three-minute span. Couturier recorded his third point of the game here and he really earned it. The Flyers’ center carried the puck from the blue line all the way to the right side of the net before dropping it off to Giroux right in front to finish off for the score. Giroux’s 18th goal of the season gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead heading into the second intermission.

• The third period was a lot like the start of the second, with the Flyers spending most of the time in their own zone trying to protect the two-goal lead. With under three minutes remaining, the Golden Knights were outshooting the Flyers 11-2 in the period. 

• Radko Gudas’ first goal of the season sealed the win with 2:26 remaining. With Fleury pulled, Gudas gained possession in the defensive zone and flipped the puck into the empty net.

• This was a big improvement on Neuvirth’s last start, when he allowed 5 goals on 20 shots against Washington on Jan. 31 before being pulled for Alex Lyon in the middle of the third period. He anticipated well and maintained his concentration during stretches where he was being bombarded with shots.

Still, Neuvirth is not known for his consistency. If Elliott’s absence is extended, it will be interesting to see how long a leash Hakstol gives Neuvirth if he has an off night. That obviously won’t be an issue if Neuvirth continues to play as well as he did Sunday.

• After a quick weekend road trip, the Flyers return home to face the Devils on Tuesday. The Flyers have taken two of their three meetings against New Jersey this season.

Golden Knights rally to beat Capitals

AP Images

Golden Knights rally to beat Capitals

WASHINGTON — Perseverance paid off the Alex Tuch and the Vegas Golden Knights.

Tuch scored the go-ahead goal with 5:12 remaining, and the Golden Knights defeated the Washington Capitals 4-3 Sunday in a matchup of division leaders.

Vegas rallied three times from one-goal deficits to beat Washington for the second time this season.

"We never gave up. I thought we played our best game in two weeks, I really did, even though we were behind most of the (day)," Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. "It was only a one-goal lead every time, so we kept battling and we worked hard and that's something our team has done all year long."

On Tuch's shot from in close, Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer tied to corral the loose puck, but knocked it into the net with his catching hand. Washington challenged the play for goaltender interference, but the goal stood (see full recap).

Lehkonen scores twice in Canadiens' win
MONTREAL — Artturi Lehkonen broke out of a 24-game scoring slump with a pair of goals as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 on Sunday.

Lehkonen had not scored since he had two goals on Oct. 30 in an 8-3 win over the Senators in Ottawa.

Jeff Petry, with his third goal in two games, and Tomas Plekanec also scored for the Canadiens, who were coming off a win over Anaheim on Saturday.

Mike Hoffman scored for the Senators, who had won their previous two games, including a shootout victory Saturday in Philadelphia.

Montreal outshot Ottawa 35-26 (see full recap).

Sharks top Hurricanes for 2nd straight win 
RALEIGH, N.C. — After their worst stretch of the season, the San Jose Sharks are back on the winning track.

Brent Burns had a goal and an assist, and the Sharks beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Sunday.

Timo Meier and Chris Tierney scored, and Aaron Dell stopped 29 shots for this first win in two weeks. San Jose never trailed as it won their second straight following a season-high four-game losing streak.

"I wouldn't say we're rounding into form, I think we just got back to it," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "Real big commitment, it's created a little bit of momentum. Everyone is buying in."

Sebastain Aho scored for the Hurricanes, who missed a chance to move into sole possession of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. Cam Ward made 23 saves and saw his personal three-game win streak snapped (see full recap).