Nico Hischier

Alex Lyon's 1st NHL start has devilish finish

Alex Lyon's 1st NHL start has devilish finish

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — The Flyers' pipes are in need of repair right now.

Making his first career NHL start, Alex Lyon was a little leaky in a 4-3 loss to the Devils Thursday night at the Prudential Center, as New Jersey connected for a pair of third-period goals, including Nico Hischier’s redirection through Lyon’s five-hole with 1:27 remaining in regulation (see observations).

“He just put it to the net and I thought I was in really good position, but I just opened up a little bit, and things happen fast enough in this league where you’re going to pay for that,” Lyon, who stopped 18 of 22 shots, said. “So I learned the hard way. I’m just going to try and learn from the mistakes and be sharper next time.”

Lyon’s first start also marked the first time this season the Flyers failed to pick up a point when leading after two periods with a record of 18-1-3. 

“It’s definitely tough to take a loss like that for sure,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “I think we more feel bad for Alex. We kind of let him down there, but it’s about getting back on the horse. There’s a lot of hockey left.”

One night after Michal Neuvirth admitted he wasn’t feeling quite 100 percent over a stomach bug, Lyon had to overcome some early butterflies of his own and another poor performance from the penalty kill, as the Devils scored two power-play goals on their first five shots of the game. 

“I wasn’t very sharp in the first period,” Lyon said. “I think my head was in the locker room. I just tried to battle and regroup. Unfortunately at the end there, that’s the main thing. You've got to find a way to get a point or two points at least. I’m disappointed.”

“I’m not surprised that he’s his own worst critic,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s the type of person that he is. I thought he gave us a good hockey game.”

New Jersey’s first goal came on a backdoor play as Kyle Palmieri was left wide open in the left circle, and the Devils converted again as Drew Stafford redirected a pass in front of Lyon that also slipped through his legs. In their season series, five of the eight goals the Devils have scored against the Flyers have come with the man advantage. 

“We allowed a seam play on the backdoor to Palmieri. There’s a couple of different ways ahead of that play to defend it a little bit better, and the tip play is a missed assignment at the net front,” Hakstol said. “When you give good players on the power play second and third opportunities, those are the ones that come back and get you. That’s something that we needed to be much better with the missed clears.”

Playing the Devils for the third time in 17 days, tensions started to rise after Radko Gudas collided with Palmieri late in the first period. As Gudas was attempting to skate back to his defensive position on the blue line, he jumped into Palmieri inadvertently. Gudas was assessed a two-minute minor for interference, but considering his history of cheap shots, the Devils rushed to Palmieri's defense.

Jakub Voracek and Taylor Hall were given matching roughing minors, and Brandon Manning and Damon Severson engaged in a brawl.

“I was getting out of the way of [Wayne Simmonds] when he showed up,” Gudas said. “I didn’t see him at all. I was just trying to get back to my position. It was unlucky. I shot it, and it was unfortunate.”

“Maybe it’s not avoidable, but there are ways you can maybe soften that blow,” Devils forward Travis Zajac said. “I don’t think you have to jump at the guy.” 

On Gudas’ next shift, Zajac came straight at Gudas as both players dropped the gloves in retaliation for the previous hit.

“I didn’t expect that from him, but it was OK," Gudas said. "It was a pretty good fight."

Still, the dogfight within the Metropolitan Division continues. Just 10 points separate the eight teams all jockeying for playoff position, and unquestionably, every single point matters as the Flyers let one, and quite possibly two, slip away Thursday night, marking consecutive losses with Brian Elliott (lower body) on the shelf.

And if “Ells” doesn’t return sometime soon, those other “L's” may continue to pile up in the standings.

Alex Lyon lets 1st start literally slip right through his grasp

Alex Lyon lets 1st start literally slip right through his grasp

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — Alex Lyon’s first NHL start was a memorable one, although right now it’s one he’d rather forget.

Devils rookie Nico Hischier scored the game-winner with 1:27 remaining in regulation to give the Devils a 4-3 victory over the Flyers on Thursday. Hischier redirected a pass that seeped through Lyon’s five-hole and across the line.

Lyon finished the night with 18 saves on 22 shots, as the Flyers failed to pick up a point when leading after two periods for the first time this season.

The Flyers and Devils combined for four power-play goals in the first period alone. Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds connected for the Flyers, while Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford found the back of the net for New Jersey.

Shayne Gostisbehere hit double digits with his 10th goal that gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead.

This was the third matchup between the Metropolitan Division rivals in a span of just 17 days.

• Let’s start with the Radko Gudas interference call. If you watched him all the way down the ice, Gudas skated hard into the Devils’ zone and fired a shot on goal. Afterward, he was simply looking to get back to his right side spot on defense. I don’t think there was intent to plow over Palmieri. I believe Gudas saw him at the last second and made a last-ditch effort to protect himself. However, by leaving his feet, it certainly didn’t look good. Two minutes for interference was the right call.

• For Gudas, that was his first penalty of any kind dating all the way back to Nov. 16 when he was tossed from the game in Winnipeg for his vicious slash on Mathieu Perreault. If the league looks at this and hands down a suspension, it’s only because of reputation.

• Gudas also had a horrendous turnover in the defensive zone right on the stick of Blake Coleman in the second period. Considering the play of Brandon Manning in the game against the Capitals, I’m a little surprised Dave Hakstol elected to stick with this pairing again.

• The Flyers’ penalty kill has been the best tonic for any struggling power play. The Devils’ PP came into this game scoreless in its last 11 tries. However, it must feel like its clicking now after scoring on the first two attempts. The first goal was really bothersome for a couple of reasons: Why is Jori Lehtera still killing penalties? Lehtera was out there for the Devils’ first PP goal with Valtteri Filppula as they gave New Jersey all sorts of room to operate in the offensive zone. Lyon simply couldn’t move to the near post and reposition himself for Palmieri's shot. Outside of Sean Couturier and Michael Raffl, the Flyers are running out of dependable forwards on the PK.

• The second power-play goal was a shot Brian Elliott is so good at reading and stopping and probably one Lyon wishes he could have had back. Stafford was manning the high slot area when he was able to redirect the pass that slid through Lyon’s five-hole. Of course, the Flyers could have done a better job at defending the pass as well.

• Four first-period power-play goals. Giroux scored his 15th goal on a 5-on-3, an easy tap-in from the left side circle. Then Simmonds netted the game-tying goal later in the period. Simmonds did a solid job of knocking a New Jersey penalty killer off the puck from behind the net and keeping the play alive in the zone. That was a key as the Flyers worked around to Jakub Voracek, who created a low-angled shot that set up Simmonds’ rebound goal. I’m still not sure how he was able to switch over and wrist a backhand sandwiched between two defenders.

• Gostisbehere had a very silent night offensively in Washington as he failed to register a shot on net in over 24 minutes of ice time. “Ghost” more than made up for it against the Devils. He has had six shots on net and jumped in the play with the fourth line to score the go-ahead goal. New Jersey’s Coleman made no effort to play effective defense on this play.

• The Devils tied it up at 3-3 with nine minutes remaining in regulation on a play that started with the puck tied up along the boards. Once the Devils’ Pavel Zacha broke out of the pack with the puck, the Flyers were in scramble mode and lost coverage. Defenseman Damon Severson pinched in from his right defense position and Travis Konecny simply failed to pick him up in time.

• It was a rough opening 20 minutes for Lyon in his first NHL start, but he certainly wasn’t helped out by the guys in front of him. It was important for Lyon to come out in the second period and make some big saves early on. I liked how he skated to the top of his crease and cut down the angle on Mirco Mueller. Then midway through the second, Lyon challenged Jesper Bratt and cut down the angle. I thought it was important how the two power-play goals didn’t deter his confidence.

• There was a working man’s shift from the Nolan Patrick line that kept the puck in the Devils’ zone in the neighborhood of 45 to 50 seconds. That spread out the Devils’ defense and allowed firing from just about every angle. Hakstol looked smart for putting Patrick, Simmonds and Voracek together as the rookie is playing with more confidence. All three forwards are really strong on pucks.

• The Flyers took over a five-minute stretch late in the second period, as they outshot the Devils, 8-0, until they were forced to kill Konecny’s penalty. The penalty kill made a few adjustments after the first period to confuse the Devils with a 1-3 formation in the neutral zone and didn’t allow New Jersey to skate freely into the offensive zone with the puck.

Lineups, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Jakub Voracek-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl
Taylor Leier-Valtteri Filppula-Jori Lehtera

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Alex Lyon
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forwards Dale Weise (healthy) and Tyrell Goulbourne (healthy), and defenseman Mark Alt (healthy).

Bye week doesn't slow Couturier-led Flyers

Bye week doesn't slow Couturier-led Flyers

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — Sean Couturier has been the Flyers' goal-to guy all season. 

Saturday night was no different.

The Flyers' top-line center had his third straight two-goal game in a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils.

Couturier, who was left off the Metropolitan Division All-Star team announced Wednesday, was arguably the best player on the ice for both teams with a three-point night and a plus-2 rating.

Travis Konecny, Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl also scored for the Flyers, who have reeled off four straight wins while the Devils have dropped their last six.

The Flyers also snapped a three-game losing streak at the Prudential Center. Their last win there came on Feb. 16, 2016.

This was the first of four meetings between divisional rivals with all four games being played in a span of exactly one month. Their next matchup comes Jan. 20 in Philadelphia.

• The Devils struck first with the Nico Hischier line taking advantage of the Nolan Patrick line and the Flyers' third defensive pairing of Travis Sanheim and Radko Gudas. Hischier connected with Jesper Bratt, who made it 1-0. The Flyers simply lost coverage, as the Devils gained time and space after crossing the blue line. Gudas made the situation worse by leaving his feet and with Sanheim misplaying the puck along the boards, the Flyers were completely lost defensively.

• With the Patrick line facing the Hischier line for their second shift, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol found a way to get Couturier out on the ice with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. It was Couturier who won a puck battle along the wall and then moved it out to the point, where the rebound came straight out to Couturier. He then outmuscled two Devils, including Hischier, to score his 24th goal of the season.

• With Patrick out there, I gave the Devils the clear advantage against the Hischier line. With Couturier against the Devils' top line, the Flyers had the edge with that matchup.

• On their fourth attempt, the Devils' power play finally answered. Jersey moved the puck around the umbrella before setting up Kyle Palmieri with a one-timer that he ripped past Brian Elliott for a 2-1 Devils lead. Elliott couldn't quite make it to the post to seal off the shot. Typically, Elliott has anticipated those one-timer shots, but this may have caught him by surprise.

• On their first power-play opportunity, the Flyers capitalized. They broke down the Devils' four-man box. It all started with Couturier drawing a pair of defenders around the goal line and then finding the open passing lane to Jakub Voracek in the slot, as he used the back of his skate to kick it to Claude Giroux for the one-timer.

Sure, Voracek makes a nice kick pass, but Couturier, coupled with a Simmonds screen and an eventual tip-in on Cory Schneider, set up the goal and a 2-2 game.

• The one guy unaffected by the bye week is Couturier, who scored a power-play goal as he worked his way into the soft spot in the Devils' slot. Couturier blasted a one-timer past Schneider. That’s now three straight two-goal games for Couturier, and a big 3-2 lead after two periods.

• Travis Konecny was patiently waiting for several seconds for the two-line pass to spring him for a breakaway, and it all started with Couturier doing the grunt work below the goal line, winning the puck battle, and working the puck to Ivan Provorov, who found Konecny at the Devils' blue line, and the 4-2 Flyers lead.

• Penalties were a real problem for the Flyers in this game, as they were whistled for the first five minors — all stick infractions. In fact, Patrick committed a pair of high-sticking penalties in a span of 47 seconds of ice time. Aside from the Palmieri goal, the Flyers' PK was very strong. On their fifth opportunity, they pressured the Devils, not allowing Jersey to even set up.

• The Flyers' blue line appeared to be completely out of sorts early on, especially Brandon Manning, who committed a penalty, lost an edge, got beaten on a play and then nearly put a puck in his own net off his skate. With Shayne Gostisbehere out of the lineup because of an illness, Hakstol had to reconfigure his pairings, and with a five-day layoff, the bottom two pairings weren’t in sync at all.