3 Stars: Lecavalier, Flyers storm back late but fall to league-leading Bruins in shootout

3 Stars: Lecavalier, Flyers storm back late but fall to league-leading Bruins in shootout

A look at the Philadelphia Flyers’ 4-3 shootout loss to the NHL-leading Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center from the perspective of three players who each made a major impact on the game.

Despite the outcome, that was an awesome hockey game. It had everything a hockey fan could ever want. Can we get some three-on-three extended overtime, please, NHL?

Mar 15, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason (35) takes a break against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers defeated the Penguins, 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

 

3. Steve Mason

The Flyers netminder may not have made as many saves as his Bruins counterpart on Sunday afternoon, but Mason was just as excellent and really kept the Flyers in the game with some huge stops in the third period as his teammates tried to knot things up.

First, he made an excellent blocker save on a tricky wrist shot from Bruins winger Daniel Paille as Paille cut down the wing and used Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen as a screen.  Shortly after, Mason made a remarkable save on the Bruins Carl Soderberg, who had beaten Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn, held on to the puck to get Mason moving and had an open net to shoot at. Or so he thought because Mason sprawled out and absolutely robbed him.

The NBC announcers even said to remember those saves if the Flyers came back, which they eventually did.

Sure, Mason wants to have Patrice Bergeron’s second-period goal back. It was a weak one from a bad angle that snuck underneath him. But Mason was there for his team when it needed him most. His glove hand was on point all game, too.

All told, Mason made 27 stops on the day and most were not of the easy variety.

He and the Flyers deserved a better fate at the end but so is life. A point is a point at this time of the year.

2. Vinny Lecavalier

It’s well known around these parts that Flyers head coach Craig Berube demoted Lecavalier, the Flyers’ prized offseason free-agent signing, from the second-line wing position to the fourth-line center spot before this past Friday’s game against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.

Lecavalier responded on Friday with a goal and one of his best games of the season. He continued to respond on Sunday with two goals, an impressive milestone and his best game of the year.

The 33-year-old opened the scoring when he blew a slapshot from the slot past Rask just over five minutes into the game. The goal was Lecavalier’s 400th of his career. No matter how you look at it, that’s an incredibly impressive accomplishment.

Then, with his team down a goal with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation, Lecavalier capped off a frantic scramble near the net by slamming home a loose puck to tie the game at three. That sent the game to overtime and allowed the Flyers to earn that crucial point in the standings.

The goals were his 17th and 18th of the year, respectively.

Getting demoted to the fourth line obviously had to be punch to the gut for a guy as accomplished as Lecavalier. But sometimes it can be a motivator for a player of that caliber and we’ve seen that over the past few games. He, Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo even seem to have some chemistry together.  Being back at his natural center position can’t hurt either.

Maybe Lecavalier is starting to peak at the right time. If he continues this kind of play down the stretch, he makes the Flyers that much more dangerous.

 

1. Tuukka Rask

If you wondered why Rask entered Sunday’s game as the leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy, he sure showed you and the Flyers why.

The Bruins goalie made 49 saves and a few more in the shootout to earn the victory for his team. And boy, did he ever earn it.

The Flyers dominated the game for stretches at a time and especially poured it on in the third period. But Rask had every answer until that kooky, bouncy play that tied the game in the waning seconds.

His save on a Claude Giroux shot near the end of the second period when he dove across the net to rob the Flyers captain was pretty remarkable.

The dude stood on his head the entire game. What a performance.

 

Outside of lackluster second period when the Bruins really carried the play and momentum, the Flyers again showed they can hang with the big boys of the league. Sure, the shootout loss was a pretty crummy ending but that point was well-deserved. They deserved a better fate but that point is clutch.

These two teams meet again this upcoming Saturday in Boston but next up on the schedule from hell is a trip to St. Louis on Tuesday.

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Phillies corner outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick is finally nearing a return. He'll begin a rehab assignment tonight with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick has been out since April 15 with an oblique strain. He did defensive work during the Phillies' road trip and has been taking outdoor batting practice at home this week.

Kendrick was off to a hot start when the oblique injury sent him to the DL. In 10 games, he went 13 for 39 (.333) with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He batted second all 10 games.

The Phillies are in a bad offensive funk and could use Kendrick's bat over Michael Saunders' right now. The Phils' 1-2 hitters were among the most productive in the majors in April, hitting close to .350 for the month. They're down to .282 on the season as Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera have slumped in May.

With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season and Saunders providing little offense so far, the Phillies' trio of offseason veteran additions has not panned out through two months.

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

It's only natural to have some reservations about Lane Johnson after he was suspended for 10 games last season for his second violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. One more positive test and the Eagles will lose their starting right tackle for two full years.

Fortunately, Johnson seems determined to avoid any future run-ins with the league. The 27-year-old changed his entire approach this offseason, cutting out negative influences or any other voices at all while preparing for the 2017 season.

"I just trained by myself back in Oklahoma," Johnson said after the Eagles' first full-team practice of OTAs on Tuesday. "Trained by myself and everything went good. I came back, my body weight is about 325, so I'm heavier than I've ever been. I feel in good shape, and I have a lot to prove, so it's a big year for me.

"I did everything by myself. There wasn't going to be any mishaps."

Two suspensions totaling 14 games later, Johnson has gained a healthy fear of being unknowingly steered toward an illegal supplement.

Johnson tested positive for PEDs before the season last year after taking a banned substance known as peptides and was eventually slapped with the full 10-game penalty after a lengthy appeal process. The fifth-year veteran always maintained peptides were not listed on the label of the offending supplement.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the players' association in November after the suspension was upheld. Its status is ongoing.

Johnson also served a four-game suspension in 2014.

When he's not in trouble with the league office, Johnson is a vital cog in the Eagles' offense. They went 5-1 with him and 2-8 without him last season.

"I feel like whenever I'm playing, I try to be the best right tackle in the NFL," Johnson said. "My deal is to just stay on the field, play a complete season, and I think it will be a big year for me."

Johnson isn't concerned about losing a competitive edge, physically or mentally, after dropping supplements altogether.

"I've always been the athlete that I am," Johnson said. "That's what I'll continue to prove. I'm gonna go play and show people what I can do."

Signed in January 2016 to a five-year contract extension worth $56 million, Johnson has plenty to prove. He was working out in place of 35-year-old left tackle Jason Peters, who wasn't at the start of OTAs, on Tuesday and is expected to one day replace the nine-time Pro Bowl selection permanently.

Despite his checkered past, it sounds like Johnson knows exactly what's on the line, which is why he chose to go it alone this offseason. The only person you can trust is yourself.

Then again, Johnson still has his vices, which might raise some eyebrows with the news he's up to 325 pounds — eight more than his listed weight.

"My big deal is cutting out the ice cream, the Ben & Jerry's late at night — the stuff you want to indulge in," Johnson said. "If you get me on an ice cream binge, it's not good."

The Eagles can probably deal with a little extra ice cream, just as long as Johnson remains committed to keeping dodgy supplements out of his body.