Scott Laughton

Flyers continue ascension with eighth straight win

The Philadelphia Flyers have flown under the radar this season but now sit atop the Metropolitan Division alongside the Washington Capitals.

The Capitals lost in overtime to the New York Rangers but currently own the tiebreaker due to one additional victory in regulation and overtime. Each team has 87 points to date in 67 games this season.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Sean Couturier scored 26 seconds apart in the third period and the Flyers extended their winning streak to eight games after a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday.

Ivan Provorov and Michael Raffl also scored as Philadelphia swept a set of back-to-back games against divisional opponents.

Justin Williams netted the Hurricanes’ lone goal, but they fell for the fourth consecutive game. Carolina trails the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders for the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference.

Newly acquired Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei turned the puck over behind his own net and Aube-Kubel took advantage to expand the Flyers’ lead to 3-1 early in the third period. Shortly after, Couturier buried a rebound to put the game out of reach.

Alex Nedeljkovic made 28 saves in his second start of the season for the Hurricanes.

Provorov opened the scoring when he collected his own rebound and deposited a backhand 18:23 into the first period. Flyers defensemen have scored an NHL-best 44 goals this season.

Raffl doubled the Flyers’ advantage midway through the second period. Scott Laughton picked up his second assist of the night on the play.

Injuries piling up

Prior to the game, Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell announced Brett Pesce underwent surgery on his right shoulder. The defenseman is expected to be sidelined for the next four to six months.

He originally injured his shoulder against the Toronto Maple Leafs February 24.

In addition to Pesce, Sami Vatanen had a setback Thursday morning and is not expected to make his debut for Carolina in the near future.

“This is a tough injury. He came off (the ice early); that’s not good,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour told reporters this morning. “We were hoping to get him closer to playing. Now it looks like he’s further away.”


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.

First-period outburst propels Flyers past Panthers

The Philadelphia Flyers will need to improve their play on the road in order to remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference Playoff race.

A three-goal first period propelled the Flyers to a 6-2 win against the Florida Panthers at BB&T center. Carter Hart made 26 saves and captured his first road victory since November.

James van Riemsdyk had a goal and two assists as Philadelphia improved to 9-3-1 over its past 13 games. Tyler Pitlick, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Scott Laughton, Sean Couturier and Robert Hagg also scored.

Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov each scored in the third period, but the Panthers fell to the Flyers for the second time this week. Sergei Bobrovsky exited at the end of the first period after allowing three goals on nine shots. He’s 0-4-1 in his past five starts.

Hart stopped the bleeding

The Panthers scored twice in the first five minutes of the third period to cut the Flyers’ lead in half, but Hart’s biggest save of the night came shortly after when he denied Evgenii Dadonov.

The Flyers have struggled on the road immensely this season and a loss on Thursday could have had a demoralizing effect on the team’s confidence.

While Hart has had his own issues away from home, the 21-year-old showed why the organization believes he has not only the talent, but the mental toughness to be a franchise goaltender.

The adjustment to the NHL is a challenge for any young player. But, a key a third-period save provided a moment of confidence for Hart to look back on and know he has the ability to accomplish anything between the pipes.

NOTE: Shayne Gostisbehere took part in the morning skate, but the defenseman missed his fourth consecutive game.


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 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.

Flyers’ Konecny out ‘indefinitely’ due to concussion

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The Philadelphia Flyers’ chaotic win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon proved to be a costly one as leading scorer Travis Konecny had to exit after he was rocked on an open-ice hit by Mark Borowiecki.

The team issued an update on Konecny’s status on Monday, and it is not good.

Konecny is going to be sidelined “indefinitely” after being diagnosed with a concussion. Here is a look at the play that knocked him out of the lineup. It was one of the turning points that saw the game devolve into a series of fights, trash talk, and a late cheap shot from Brady Tkachuk on Scott Laughton (you can read about all of that here).

“He’s been our best scorer and he’s found a way to contribute offensively and defensively,” said Flyers coach Alain Vigneault on Monday. “We were using him five-on-five and the PP. It’s going to give the opportunity to someone else to see more ice time and step up and contribute.”

The Flyers have been one of the hottest teams in the league over the past couple of weeks and have won seven of their past nine games to climb up to the third spot in the Metropolitan Division. The play of Konecny has been one of the driving forces behind their success as he leads the team in goals and total points during what has been — so far– a breakout season offensively. He is in the first year of a six-year, $33 million contract.

He scored in the first period of Saturday’s win, giving him three goals in the past four games.

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.

The Buzzer: Star Wars Storm Surge; Bob beats Blue Jackets

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Three Stars

1. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes

Heading into Saturday, Aho only scored in one goal (a goal and an assist) in his past five contests. He made up for that dry spell in a big way against the Wild, generating a hat trick plus two assists.

His third goal was an empty-netter, but Aho’s first tally ended up being the game-winner. Aho was really clicking with Teuvo Teravainen, who finished the night with three assists.

Aho now has 27 points through his first 30 games in 2019-20.

2. Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning made life miserable for the Sharks on Saturday, feasting by way of a 7-1 score.

Killorn was a big part of that, generating a goal and three assists for four points. Killorn now has three goals and three assists for six points during a three-game streak, giving Killorn 22 points in 25 games in 2019-20.

As effective as Killorn has been over the years, his career-high is 47 points. Chances are, he’s going to slow down (example a 15.7 shooting percentage so far this season, against a 10.5 career average), but if reasonably healthy, Killorn should blow that previous number out of the water.

There were other Lightning players who played really well, as you’d expect from a blowout. Steven Stamkos ranked among those who collected three points, while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 37 saves to exaggerate the distance between the two teams.

3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Really, you can take your pick between Malkin and Jake Guentzel, as they both enjoyed one-goal, two-assist nights on Saturday, and they both clearly play off each other quite well. As much as Guentzel has been conjoined to Sidney Crosby during his young (and underappreciated) career, it seems like he can click with Malkin, too. Obviously, it’s not difficult to transition from one “NHL 100” player to another who should have made the “NHL 100,” yet … we’ve seen wingers who cannot find chemistry with one or more of Malkin and Crosby. So credit to Guentzel for being deadly with both, and likely making life a little easier for each of them.

Malkin now has a fantastic 26 points in just 19 games, and may very well have his biggest year in a while if he can stay healthy — an uncomfortably familiar phrase for the Penguins for quite some time. (Heck, even spanning back to Mario Lemieux.)

Guentzel now has 31 points in 30 games, and a solid chance to exceed last season’s excellent career-high of 76 points.

Highlight of the Night

Uh, you think the Kings were expecting Johnny Gaudreau to pass when he did? (Don’t lie.) This is just a tremendous combination of speed, skill, and vision as he set up Sean Monahan:

Star Wars Storm Surge

Yay or nay on the Star Wars-themed Storm Surge from the Hurricanes? I’d say solid enough, although it lacked a Bunch of Baby Yoda so … maybe not ideal.

Factoids

  • The Blue Jackets spoiled Sergei Bobrovsky‘s shutout bid a bit more than halfway through the third period. Still, Bob had a strong night with 33 saves. Hot take: Columbus is still probably relieved to not be spending to the tune of Bob’s $10M AAV, considering how infrequently Bob has looked this good.
  • NHL PR notes that the Avalanche extended a point streak to 14 games, while they also gave the Bruins their first regulation loss at home this season.
  • Brady Tkachuk received a fine from the Department of Player Safety for cross-checking Scott Laughton. More on that wild game here.
  • A bit esoteric, but interesting, from NHL PR: Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid are the fifth pair to generate at least 300 points each in 320 games or fewer. They’re the first pairing to pull that off since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

Scores

PHI 4 – OTT 3
VAN 6 – BUF 5 (OT)
COL 4 – BOS 1
PIT 5 – DET 3
TBL 7 – SJS 1
FLA 4 – CBJ 1
CAR 6 – MIN 2
TOR 5 – STL 2
NSH 6 – NJD 4
DAL 3 – NYI 1
CGY 4 – LAK 3

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.