Brian Elliott

Travis Konecny #11 of the Philadelphia Flyers scores a goal
Getty Images

Streaking Flyers closing in on Metro lead

The Philadelphia Flyers moved within one point of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division with a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals Wednesday.

Kevin Hayes and Ivan Provorov each had a goal and an assist as the Flyers won their seventh straight game. Brian Elliott made 25 saves and picked up his second win this season against the Capitals. Travis Konecny, Tyler Pitlick and Scott Laughton also scored for Philadelphia.

James van Riemsdyk left in the first period after blocking a shot with his right hand and did not return

“I’m not sure the severity of it,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters after the win. “There are different breaks but he took that shot right on the tip there. I’ll find out tomorrow (Thursday) for how long.”

Lars Eller and Garnet Hathaway scored, but Washington fell for the second time in the previous three games. Four points separate the top three teams in the Metro and a slump could cost the Capitals, Flyers or Pittsburgh Penguins home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Provorov sealed the victory for the Flyers with a wicked wrist shot that sailed past the glove of Braden Holtby in the third period. Jakub Voracek patiently waited at the blueline until the young defenseman was able to join the rush and gave the Flyers a 4-2 lead. Philadelphia leads the NHL with 43 goals scored by defensemen this season.

The Flyers took a 3-1 lead in the second period with consecutive goals by Konecny and Hayes.

Konecny converted on the power play shortly after one of his attempts was waived off following a video review. Provorov took a shot from the point that Holtby couldn’t control and Konecny buried the rebound.

Hayes expanded the Flyers lead when Derek Grant wisely kicked a fluttering puck toward the other side of the crease for the tall center to finish. It was the 23rd goal and 40th point of the season for Hayes, his first with Philadelphia after signing a lucrative seven-year deal this summer.

Eller opened the scoring for Washington with a skillful backhand-forehand combination at 14:09 of the first period. Richard Panik and Carl Hagelin assisted on the play.

Hathaway helped the Capitals cut the Flyers’ deficit to 3-2 with a bar-down wrister from just above the crease in the second period.


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

The Buzzer: Scheifele lights the lamp three times; Binnington earns second straight shutout

Mark Scheifele #55 of the Winnipeg Jets
Getty Images

Three Stars

1) Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets

Scheifele picked up his third NHL hat trick in the Jets’ 5-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.  The overlooked centerman completed the milestone with 1:33 remaining in the third period. Nick Paul kicked off the scoring to give the Senators an early advantage, but the Jets stormed back with five unanswered. Scheifele scored his first two goals late in the first period to help Winnipeg gain control of the game. He collected a loose puck near the top of the crease and buried a wrister to even the game, 1:11 after the equalizer, Scheifele redirected Neal Pionk’s shot from the point to give the Jets a lead they would never relinquish. With the win, Winnipeg claimed the top wild card spot in the Western Conference for the time being.

2) Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens

Chiarot recorded his second two-goal game of the season in the Canadiens’ 4-3 overtime victory against the Washington Capitals. The defenseman had two pretty goals, including the overtime winner when his blistering one-timer sped through the legs of Braden Holtby to help the Canadiens end a five-game losing streak. Early in the third period, Chiarot fired a wrist shot from the high slot to give the Canadiens a one-goal advantage. With two more years after this season remaining on his contract at an average annual value of $3.5 million, Chiarot is unlikely to be moved in the coming days even though the playoffs are a long shot for the Canadiens.

3) Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs and Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues

Andersen rebounded from a tough performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this week and posted his second shutout of the season in Toronto’s 4-0 victory. It was Andersen’s first win in four starts since returning from a neck injury that sidelined him for four games. Binnington has not been tested frequently in the past two games, but two consecutive shutouts is an accomplishment despite the limited save totals. Mackenzie Blackwood’s 36 saves and Antti Raanta‘s 45 stops also deserve recognition on a solid night from a few goaltenders in the NHL.

Highlights of the Night

The between-the-legs craze continued when Nick Foligno fooled Brian Elliott with this beauty.

Chiarot is not known for his offense but hammered this one-time feed from Max Domi.

It didn’t take long for Gabriel Vilardi to score his first NHL goal.

Raanta was nearly unbeatable, but Ryan O'Reilly finished a precise pass from Brayden Schenn to lead the Blues past the Coyotes.

Kevin Hayes‘ game-winning goal wasn’t anything special, but his celebration following was something to see.

Pavel Zacha threaded a perfect stretch pass and then Jesper Bratt mesmerized Martin Jones with a series of dekes.

Stats of the Night

Scores

Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 0

New Jersey Devils 2, San Jose Sharks 1

Montreal Canadiens 4, Washington Capitals 3 (OT)

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 3 (OT)

Winnipeg Jets 5, Ottawa Senators 1

St. Louis Blues 1, Arizona Coyotes 0

Vegas Golden Knights 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 3

Los Angeles Kings 5. Florida Panthers 4


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

Flyers keep confident as playoff push continues

WASHINGTON – How will we respond? That was the message in the Flyers locker room on Saturday as they again found themselves in a critical position against the Capitals.

After falling 5-0 to the Devils on Thursday, Philadelphia seized the opportunity to not only rebound from one of the toughest losses of the season, but to continue their playoff push and keep momentum alive.

“There’s not much to say. When you get to this level, you should know when you have one bad loss, you need to regroup and get back to it,” captain Claude Giroux said. “We talked about coming out of bye week, if we lose one, we need to regroup and get the next one, so hopefully it’s something we’re going to do for the rest of the year.”

It’s that mentality that helped the Flyers pull together one of their best overall performances. They dominated Washington at both ends of the ice en route to a commanding 7-2 victory to tie the Hurricanes for the second wild card spot in the East.

Their play was evident of a team that could pose a major threat come April. The Flyers dominated in the face-off circle, winning over 70 percent of their draws, while they also got key performances from critical players – most notable Giroux, who was able to end a four-game scoreless drought, notch his first goal since Jan. 2 and register his 800th career point with a goal and two assists.

[NHL on NBCSN: Ovechkin’s chase for 700th goal continues Monday at 7 p.m. ET]

“The win feels the best… and I haven’t been playing that great lately,” Giroux admitted. “t’s good to be able to contribute to a team win and we have to keep it going here.”

Beyond their stars, though, they also got a strong offensive performance from all four lines, from Sean Couturier’s two goals to a Gordie Howe hat trick for Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

Even more impressive was the defense. In his return to Washington since being traded to Philadelphia in the offseason, Matt Niskanen and Robert Hagg – who led the team with four blocked shots — helped lead the blue line put together a wall that shut down Alex Ovechkin, who was held at bay as he approaches 700 career goals, and kept Washington scoreless on three of four power play opportunities.

Brian Elliott also had another strong showing in net, stopping 25 of 27 shots for his third win in five games.

“Really proud of the guys. I think we approached it the exact right way that we needed to,” Niskanen said. “We acknowledged how embarrassing and how bad we were the other night and brought one of our best efforts of the season… that’s a good sign that we have a lot of character in here and something to build on.”

“You’re going to have a game now and then where it doesn’t go your way, you have a stinker – whatever it is – but if you can bounce back and get a couple wins the next time out, that’s a good quality.”

Although the Flyers are tied with Carolina in the standings, the Hurricanes currently hold the tiebreaker, meaning Philly is still looking from the outside in and can’t afford to slow down, with the division race tight and the wild card race even tighter.

“[This] was important… this time of year, you really can’t lose two, three in a row,” Couturier said.

“It’s Saturday night in a tough rink, and we wanted to bring it. I thought we came [to D.C.] with our A-game, you could tell everybody was into it right away,” Elliott added. “That’s what we want to bring every night. It’s tough in an 82-game schedule, but these are the types of games and this time of year that you need to bring it.”

Heading into another tough matchup on Monday against the Panthers – who are in a major playoff push of their own – the Flyers’ mentality stays the same as they look to not only collect points, but maintain the same play and success they’ve shown against top teams so far this season.

“We’re a good team. This is a tough league and there are no bad teams and everybody works hard and everybody prepares,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “We were fortunate we capitalized on some of our looks and got a big game from Giroux and Couturier, so [we’ll] build off that.”

————

Sammi Silber is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @sammisilber.

The Buzzer: A very bad night for the Maple Leafs

Bad night for Maple Leafs The Buzzer
Getty Images
1 Comment

Three Stars

1. Mark Pysyk, Florida Panthers

Pysyk played a big role in the Panthers’ toppling the Maple Leafs on Monday, including icing the game. Pysyk managed a hat trick in the win, hustling for an empty-netter.

Scanning Pysyk’s Hockey Reference page makes it clear that this is his first hat trick. While the blueliner sports a pretty modest point total this season (13 in 40 games), seven of those points are goals. Pysyk’s seven goals easily rank as a career-high.

2. Mike Matheson, Florida Panthers

While Pysyk racked up three goals, Matheson generated three assists. Matheson produced primary assists on two of those three helpers.

Matheson also fired three shots on goal, enjoyed a +3 rating, and delivered a hit and blocked shot.

Mike Hoffman deserves a mention, too. He generated a goal and an assist, helping Florida storm back from a 3-1 deficit to win 5-3 as much as the two defensemen listed.

3. Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars

Could this be the sign of a breakthrough? Joe Pavelski scored two power-play goals in 16 seconds as the Stars beat the Rangers on Monday. With that, he now has a two-game goal streak (3G).

In the past, that would just be a hot streak during a strong season. Instead, those three goals represent a significant portion of his 2019-20 totals (11G, 22 points in 52 games).

Pavelski languished with just seven points in 23 games between December and January. The Stars likely thought that Pavelski might hit a wall at some point during his three-year contract, but they have to hope that he looks more worthy of his $7M AAV down the stretch.

Of course, the Stars could help matters by opening things up a bit, though.

Highlights from Monday’s three games

The light schedule opens the door for clips from all of the games. To begin, we have the Maple Leafs’ meltdown against the Panthers, which began with a troubling injury to Frederik Andersen.

The Stars beat the Rangers 5-3, with some controversy surrounding the circumstances leading to Pavelski’s two goals.

Finally, the Flyers smothered the Red Wings 3-0. Brian Elliott only needed to make 16 saves for the shutout.

Factoids

  • The Red Wings remain winless (0-14-1) against Metropolitan Division teams. It’s no secret they’re bad, but … sheesh.
  • The Panthers generated their fifth hat trick as a team. That leads the NHL this season, and also ties their franchise record, according to NHL PR. That same NHL PR feed notes that the Panthers tied the Capitals for the league lead with four multi-goal, third period comeback wins.
  • Kaapo Kakko reached 17 points on Monday. With that, Kakko passes Manny Malhotra’s 16 points for the most by any Rangers player at age 18, according to the Rangers. If you’re like me, you’re still surprised Malhotra was drafted so high (seventh overall in 1998), considering how much of a specialist Malhotra would become.

Monday’s NHL scores

FLA 5 – TOR 3
DAL 5 – NYR 3
PHI 3 – DET 0

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.

Flyers take care of business vs. Red Wings, approach key stretch

If the Flyers want to make the playoffs, they basically have to win vs. teams like the Red Wings. Philly did what was necessary to make that happen, beating Detroit 3-0 on Monday.

To hammer home the “can’t lose to a team like Detroit” point, consider that the Red Wings still haven’t beaten a Metro team this season (0-14-1). Let’s talk about the game, and then look at a crucial stretch in the near future.

Flyers dominate vs. Red Wings, Elliott stays hot

Brian Elliott‘s 2019-20 stats aren’t anything to write home about. Elliott came into Monday with an exceedingly mediocre .901 save percentage, for example.

Elliott has, however, been heating up when the Flyers needed him the most. Things seemed grim when news surfaced that Carter Hart suffered a substantial injury, yet Elliott has delivered. Elliott is now 4-0-1 in five games since Hart went down with that injury.

Elliott earned his 40th career shutout, and his second in three games. His only recent loss came against the Penguins.

Kevin Hayes also continued a recent hot streak. One could understand some nerves when the Red Wings went on a power play with Philly’s lead being at a slim 1-0. Hayes relieved such concerns with a key insurance shorthanded goal.

Hayes is now on a two-game streak of shorthanded goals, also extending his overall point streak to three games.

Scott Laughton scored the Flyers’ opening goal, while Matt Niskanen scored a long-distance empty-netter to wrap things up.

The Flyers didn’t run the Red Wings out of their own building on Monday, but it was a complete effort. They easily disassembled a potential “trap” game.

Flyers getting ready for key stretch

Much like with the Red Wings on Monday, the Flyers host the Devils on Thursday in a game they should win. After that, things become more interesting — and challenging.

Feb. 8: at Washington
Feb. 10: vs. Florida
Feb. 11: at Islanders
Feb. 13: at Florida
Feb. 15: at Tampa Bay
Feb. 18: vs. Columbus
Feb. 20: at Columbus

As you can see, the Flyers play a home and road game apiece against the Blue Jackets and Panthers. If the Islanders continue to stumble, they represent another immediately relevant matchup. The Capitals and Lightning round out that stretch as one where there really isn’t a “night off.” Facing five of seven games on the road amps up the difficulty a notch or two, as well.

So, you can see why it’s important to win games like Monday’s against the Red Wings. You either provide yourself more room for error, or head into a tough stretch with less confidence and little margin for error.

If the Flyers takes care of business against New Jersey like they did against Detroit, they could enter the weekend with their heads held high.

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.