Philadelphia Flyers v Buffalo Sabres

NHL on NBCSN: Flyers look to turn things around against Sabres

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers host the Buffalo Sabres at Wells Fargo Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

Things have gotten exciting for the Philadelphia Flyers in all the wrong ways.

The Flyers are winless in six of the past seven games and now find their hold on third place in the Metropolitan Division getting slippery. The Columbus Blue Jackets are two points behind them and the New Jersey Devils are three back.

In those six losses, the Flyers have given up 17 goals and scored eight. Seeing the offense dry up at a time of the season when they need to get everything together for the playoffs is disconcerting. Getting shutout in back-to-back games against the Blues and Blue Jackets has helped add to the uneasiness in Philly and for good reason.

If there’s one Flyers player to keep an eye on it’s Vincent Lecavalier. In 51 career games against the Sabres, he has 40 points including 21 goals. While he’d recently been relegated to fourth line duty, he has three goals in the past five games, albeit goalless in the last three.

 

If the Flyers want to avoid facing the Boston Bruins in the first round, they have to get back on the winning track. The schedule might appear to be smiling upon the Flyers as the worst team in the NHL comes to town in the Buffalo Sabres, but appearances can be deceiving.

The Sabres are 1-5-1 in the past seven, but in the last two games they’ve given the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings a handful despite losing. With a pair of one-goal games, what the Sabres lack in talent they make up for in tenacity. Tyler Ennis is the guy to watch for them as he has two goals and an assist in the past three games.

If the Flyers want to get their offense sparked, they’ll do it against either Matt Hackett or Nathan Lieuwen in goal.

The tandem spent most of the season in the AHL, but with injuries to Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth, they’ve had to hold down the fort. If there’s anything that’s been a trademark of coach Ted Nolan’s team it’s that if they’re given opportunities to steal points, they’ll do it.

Look for the Sabres to face Steve Mason in goal for the Flyers. Ray Emery took a 4-2 loss against the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.