Penguins’ Murray stifles Flyers with career-high 50 saves in win

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The Philadelphia Flyers certainly deserved a better fate on Monday. But try as you might in the NHL, what you deserve isn’t always what you get.

The Flyers will attest to that. They pelted Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray with 51 shots, including 28 in the second period — setting a franchise record — but had nothing to show for it after three periods.

The 24-year-old, two-time Stanley Cup winner was equal to the task in a 4-1 win, making stop after stop, especially during that second-period siege.

Pittsburgh’s win was a big one, snapping a four-game losing streak that had us here at PHT wondering if the Penguins were in danger missing the playoffs. The win will quell that thought for a moment

Flyers rookie netminder Carter Hart brought with him an eight-game winning streak into the game. A ninth straight would have set a record for the longest streak by a goalie before his 21sts birthday, but alas, he’ll have to share the spoils with former Quebec Nordiques goalie Jocelyn Thibault.

Hart was bound to lose at some point, but he had a .934 save percentage during the streak and shouldn’t have an issue bouncing back.

The Pens got Evgeni Malkin back after he missed five games with an upper-body injury. Malkin’s presence was felt in the second period after he set up Nick Bjugstad for his first in Pittsburgh threads.

But Malkin’s return to the lineup may be short-lived.

Late in the third period, Malkin took exception to a punch to the back of his head from Flyers forward Michael Raffl. Malkin lost his cool and swung his stick around at Raffl’s head, catching him up high.

Malkin was handed a match penalty.

The Flyers finally scored on the ensuing power play, with Jakub Voracek grabbing his 14th to end the shutout bid.

The game could have been different, too, after a second-period goal by Nolan Patrick was waved off after a quick whistle by the referee. The replay shows that the puck was still loose.

The Flyers continued their onslaught one the game resumed, but it was a definite miss and one that could have changed the complexion of the game.

Jake Guntzel and Kris Letang both scored in the third for Pittsburgh.

Letang’s was particularly noteworthy, despite it being a rolling puck that found the empty net. The goal was career marker No. 109, making him the top goal-scoring defenseman in franchise history, passing Paul Coffey.

Letang now holds Penguins defenseman records for games played, goals, assists, and points along with playoff games played, playoff goals, playoff assists and playoff points.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Flyers’ winning streak ends in dramatic fashion

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With a minute remaining in Thursday’s contest against the Los Angeles Kings, it seemed like the Philadelphia Flyers would finally see their eight-game winning streak end.

It ultimately did, but not in regulation. Jakub Voracek scored the tying goal with just 17.6 seconds left, sending the contest into overtime. The overtime period featured plenty of drama, including a tremendous save by Anthony Stolarz, but the game required a shootout.

And even the shootout was pretty exciting.

For one thing, Claude Giroux made some beautiful moves to score in the shootout, and Philly held a brief lead. It looked like the Flyers would extend the streak to nine games, but then an Adrian Kempe shot that at first seemed to hit the post actually was a goal. Ultimately, Los Angeles won the shootout, earning a 3-2 (SO) victory, with Drew Doughty jawing at the Flyers.

Maybe it feels a little silly for a Kings team that is destined to hit the links by April, yet considering all that late drama, it was pretty understandable.

Here are some of the big moments.

1. Voracek’s goal. Jonathan Quick didn’t really stand a chance.

2. Stolarz save, even without his stick.

3. Tyler Toffoli‘s shootout-winner.

The Kings don’t have much to look forward to beyond getting answers around the trade deadline, and the Flyers still face such a steep climb that it’s tough to imagine a full run to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but this was an exciting way for Philly to see its exhilarating run end.

And, hey, the point streak is still going.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Canucks defenseman Edler sidelined by concussion

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By Stephen Whyno (AP Hockey Writer)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler avoided long-term injury from hitting his head on the ice but will be out at least a week with a concussion.

Coach Travis Green said Tuesday that X-rays revealed no facial fractures. Edler was released from the hospital and headed back to Vancouver.

Edler will miss at least three games, but the Canucks are glad it wasn’t worse.

”Obviously a scary incident,” Green said. ”Medical staff I thought did a great job getting out there as quick as they did, and we’re thankful that he’s going to be all right.”

Edler’s skate got caught in the stick of Flyers winger Jakub Voracek in the first period Monday night, causing him to lose his balance and slam into the ice. Edler lay motionless on the ice before being wheeled off on a stretcher.

The 32-year-old Swede leads the Canucks in ice time and has 20 points in 38 games this season.

”You don’t want to lose your top guys,” Green said before facing the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals. ”He’s a big part of our team. It’s what it is. Teams face injuries a lot. He’s one of our best players on our team. He’s a good player.”

Rookie goaltender Thatcher Demko was injured in warmups Monday, forcing Jacob Markstrom to make back-to-back starts. Green said Demko was returning to Vancouver to have an MRI on one of his knees.

The Canucks recalled defenseman Guillaume Brisebois and junior goalie Mike DiPietro before facing the Capitals. Green figures DiPietro will be with the team through its game at Chicago on Thursday.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

NHL Trade Deadline 2019: Four playoff bubble teams that need to sell

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With the 2019 NHL trade deadline coming up on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. ET, we already have a pretty good idea as to who the clear buyers and sellers are.

We know Tampa Bay, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, Vegas, Calgary, Nashville, Boston, Washington, San Jose and a few others (New York Islanders? Montreal Canadiens?) at the top of the standings will be buying.

We also know the teams at the bottom of the standings will be selling — teams like Detroit, Ottawa, New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other clear rebuilding teams. We already looked at a couple of those teams in depth a little. (Chicago here; Los Angeles here).

We also know there are probably a few teams in the middle that might tinker with their roster a bit with a bigger picture move here or there. Maybe they even simply stay the course and do nothing. Teams like Vancouver, Carolina, and Buffalo.

Then there are a couple of teams that are still on the playoff bubble that have some big decisions to make.  Here, we take a look at four teams that are probably still considered on the playoff bubble that should resist the temptation to add and go into a seller mode.

[Related: PHT’s 2019 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker]

1. Anaheim Ducks. The record is a mirage. It is not even a good record, but it is still a mirage. The standings say they are only three points out of a playoff spot, which might be manageable and doable under normal conditions in a normal season. But they are only three points out of a playoff spot because the bottom half of the Western Conference is as bad as it’s ever been, and because John Gibson and Ryan Miller carried them to more wins than they deserved early in the season.

Even with three-point gap they still have five teams ahead of them for a playoff spot. They are also only on pace for 78 points this season. That is awful, and the fact they are still “in it” is a testament to how bad the rest of the Western Conference is around them.

Not only are the Ducks arguably the worst team in the NHL right now — and seemingly getting worse by the day — they have three massive contracts tied up in players age 33 or older and only have five draft picks in the 2019 class. So they’re bad now and are probably going to be bad for the foreseeable future. Yes, Corey Perry has only played in two games played this season. Yes, Ryan Kesler has dealt with injuries recently. But let’s be honest about this mess and admit that this team isn’t a 33-year-old Corey Perry and a 34-year-old Ryan Kesler away from being good again.

There should be no one on this roster that is untouchable other than John Gibson.

Jakob Silfverberg is their big upcoming free agent and they should absolutely be looking to move him. Given their current salary cap situation they can’t afford another long-term deal on a player pushing 30 that probably won’t be an impact player.

Tear it down and start over.

2. Florida Panthers. For the second year in a row the Panthers began the season by falling flat on their face in the first two months before trying to put it all together for a second half push that will ultimately fall short.

The Panthers already started selling by sending Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann to Pittsburgh in an effort to dump salary.

Those salary dumps did two things.

First, it added to the Panthers’ stockpile of draft picks and gives them nine picks in 2019. It also helped them clear future salary cap space to prepare themselves for a run at Sergei Bobrovsky and/or Artemi Panarin. Or any other free agent they have their sights set on.

That sell off should continue in the coming weeks. Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan, both acquired in the Pittsburgh trade, have no real long-term value to the Panthers beyond this season and could easily be flipped again as rentals at the deadline for additional picks. If they are going to take a run at Bobrovsky that means one of their goalies that is already under contract beyond this season (for several more seasons) is going to need to go.

The Panthers aren’t going to make up enough ground in the playoff race to be a factor this season, but they can position themselves to be players in the offseason and hopefully build around their of Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, and Jonathan Huberdeau.

3. Philadelphia Flyers. Goalies are weird, and projecting goalies long-term performance is not something you want to try to do based on less than 30 games at the NHL level because there is a good chance you are going to make yourself look like an idiot in the future by being horribly wrong. Having said that, I’m going to take a chance here and say Carter Hart might be the player. He might be the player the Flyers and their fans have been waiting for. He might be the player that actually sets them in net and positively impacts the franchise.

He might be. He could be. Maybe he is?

Heck, he has already helped change this season by arriving in the NHL and backstopping the team to an eight-game winning streak that has a chance to keep going with a couple of dog teams on the schedule over the next week.

That is all great news for the future of the Flyers. Perhaps even as soon as next season. But even with this current hot streak they are still five points out of a playoff spot and they still have three teams ahead of them. For as much ground as they have gained over the past two weeks that is still a difficult gap to overcome and they’re not going to keep winning forever.

When Chuck Fletcher took over as the new general manager I argued he needed to let this season play itself out, evaluate what he is, and then address what he still needs in the offseason. In other words, don’t come in and take a machete to the roster and don’t make some foolish short-term addition to the roster that tries to salvage the season. Let it play out.

With Hart emerging as the team’s starting goalie he could be a game-changer for them and it might be worth seeing what a core built around Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Sean Couturier can do with an actual living, breathing, solid NHL goalie. So a tear down probably isn’t in the cards.

What should be in the cards is dealing the upcoming unrestricted free agents on the roster (Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl specifically) if there is a market for them, and perhaps trying to dump an undesirable contract (Andrew MacDonald?).

The hot streak is probably (heavy emphasis on probably) too little, too late, but offers some encouragement for the very near future. There are pieces here to sell, but don’t blow it all up just yet.

4. Edmonton Oilers. They need to do something to fix this mess. But what is that something? The head coach and general manager are already gone There aren’t many options here that don’t result in another core player (likely Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Oscar Klefbom) getting shipped out. Given their history of those moves, that would probably be disastrous.

The Oilers look like a team that is on track to miss the playoffs, again, and there is no rental or addition they can possibly make in the next three weeks that is going to change that.

So they need to sell. Sell whatever they can that isn’t named McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins or Klefbom.

Some of that will be difficult because there isn’t much here beyond those four that has a lot of value. But the one name that stands out is Alex Chiasson. He joined the Oilers for nothing on a PTO, earned a spot on the roster, and has had a surprisingly decent season that has already seem him set a career high in goals scored.

A very Oilers-like move would be to look at a 28-year-old winger having a career season that is driven by an unsustainably high 25 percent shooting percentage and thinking, “he’s going to repeat this! Let’s sign him!”

The sensible move is to sell high, cash in what they can, and try to pick up a future asset for a player that was a pleasant surprise for you.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Canucks’ Edler stretchered off after crashing face-first onto ice

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Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher in Philadelphia on Monday night.

The incident happened nearing the mid-way point of the third period. Edler’s stick got caught in the skate of Flyers forward Jakub Voracek as he was shadowing him in the Canucks zone.

Edler got twisted around and hit his face violently on the ice, appearing to knock him unconscious.

Here’s the tape:

Blood was pouring out of Edler’s face as the Flyers (kudos to them for stopping immediately despite being well-positioned in the offensive zone) and referee immediately called for the trainers. Eventually, Edler was stretchered off the ice.

After the game, Canucks coach Travis Green said Edler had gone to get an x-ray on the injury and did not have any further update.

The Flyers held on to win 2-1, winning their eighth straight game.

UPDATE:

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck