Late Inning Come-From-Behind Heroics Help Erase Early Ineptitude

Late Inning Come-From-Behind Heroics Help Erase Early Ineptitude

Plenty of fans were on their feet for the final out of the Phillies-Cubs game tonight at Wrigley. The only problem for Chicagoans was that the people wearing red were the hot, sweaty fans doing all the cheering late in this one. It didn't come easy for the Phillies tonight, however.

Cubs starter Matt Garza was fantastic for seven innings on Tuesday night, keeping the Fightins hitless until the fifth inning, but Cubs Manager Mike Quade opted to bring him out for the eighth after having thrown 113 pitches. Garza proceeded to give up a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins and the Cubs right-hander's effort proved to be for naught, as reliever Sean Marshall promptly gave up a single to Michael Martinez to put two men on for Chase Utley.

Utley came to the plate with ducks on the pond and no outs, having failed to notch a hit in his last fifteen at-bats. It was time for the Phillies leader to finally make some noise.

Utley delivered a double to the gap in left which scored both Rollins and MiniMart to tie things up at two.

The turning point in this one could have been moments later after Utley stole third and Howard went down swinging.

Shane Victorino hit a weak chopper to short, and with the infield in, Starlin Castro went for the play at the plate. Utley didn't appear to get a great jump, and may have even slipped on the grass a bit when Vic first made contact. Cubs catcher Geovany Soto blocked the plate well and Chase was called out on a bang-bang play. You almost expect Utley, with his baserunning prowess, to score there every time.

But the Phils had some exiting two-out heroics left in them in the top of the ninth, rewarding the throngs of loyal Philadelphia fans in attendance.

After John Mayberry grounded out and Carlos Ruiz went down swinging to start the ninth, Ben Francisco came through with a big two-out pinch-hit to center. Jimmy Rollins ripped a ball right at third baseman Aramis Ramirez which ricochetted off him to short. The play was ruled a single.

That brought up Michael Martinez who proved to be the man of the hour, saving the Phillies from dropping two straight to the second-to-last-place Cubs.

Martinez hit a bloop double down the line in right that scored both Francisco and Rollins to put the Phillies up 4-2. MiniMart was so excited with what would prove to be the game winner that he got thrown out caught between second and third. Awful base running, but we'll let it slide tonight.

Mike Stutes must be commended for his two innings of shutout work after replacing Lee, who was pulled after six in hopes of getting some offense out of pinch-hitter Ross Gload. Stutes wasn't perfect, and allowed a couple of Cubbies on board in the seventh, but despite getting squeezed by the homeplate ump, he kept them from crossing the plate and put the Phils in position for the come-from-behind victory.

Antonio Bastardo was filthy in the ninth, striking out the side and earning the save.

The final two innings don't erase the offensive ineptitude for the rest of the night, but damn a come-back victory -- keeping a another potential series win alive -- certainly sends the Phillies and their fans home happy tonight.

*

Cliff Was Solid For Six

Starlin Castro hit a home run in the first inning off of Cliff Lee to put the Cubs ahead 2-0 early. Manuel pulled Lee a bit early in this one because he desperately needed some offense. Cliff's final line: 6.0 IP, 8 hits, 2 ER, 6 Ks, 0 BBs.

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Shayne Gostisbehere’s fist pump was so vicious and mighty, the celebration was probably felt back in Philadelphia.

This was an exultation the entire Flyers felt, too.

When it started to look like the bye week wasn’t the break they needed, the Flyers reached down deep and got one Sunday night at the Barclays Center in the form of a 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders (see Instant Replay).

“It allows you to take a breath,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s one thing for sure.”

A sigh of relief for a team beaten and bruised — losers of three straight by a combined score of 15-4, not to mention 3-9-3 in its past 15 games. The Flyers had lost the day prior on home ice to the Devils, 4-1, with a performance not exactly inspiring confidence following five days off.

On Sunday, they trailed 2-0 in the second period.

“We've got to get better at dealing with adversity when something goes wrong,” general manager Ron Hextall said bluntly before the game. “We need to get back on the horse and get back going. Big deal, a team scored a goal. We need to react better to it.”

Finally, the Flyers reacted the way their GM had been hoping.

They flipped the deficit into a victory when Gostisbehere skated behind the net and put the puck on Claude Giroux’s stick for the game-winner with 1:40 left in the extra session. Gostisbehere whipped his arm through the air and embraced Giroux, along with Jakub Voracek, who started the play by stripping Islanders captain John Tavares.

“On a lot of different levels, it’s an important win,” Hakstol said. “It’s huge. And more importantly for us, a great effort. Thought we deserved the two points. Sometimes maybe that’s what it takes to get over the hump — a tremendous effort for 60-plus minutes. I thought we got that out of everyone tonight.”

For Giroux, it was his first goal since Dec. 21.

For Steve Mason, his first win since Dec. 21.

And for the Flyers, their first road victory since Dec. 14, as they went 0-6-3 in the previous nine games away from home.

Yeah, “it was needed,” as Wayne Simmonds said of the win.

“We’ve been fighting it lately and I thought that was a good game from start to finish,” he said. “I thought everyone played well. I think we made bounces go our way tonight instead of hoping and waiting.”

Simmonds scored what might have been the biggest goal of the game. The Flyers, down 1-0 in the second period, came up empty for 33 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play and the proceeding 5-on-4 advantage. The Islanders then padded the lead to 2-0 moments later, putting the Flyers’ backs against the wall.

But Simmonds kept his team from uncoiling with a goal at 14:10 of the period, giving the Flyers life at second intermission. If not for that score, who knows how the Flyers come out in the third period, trailing by multiple goals yet again.

"I think we were plying well,” Giroux said. “We had a lot of chances and [the puck] wasn't going in. Everybody on the bench was frustrated. When Wayne got that first goal, I think [there was] a little relief on the bench. I haven't seen a team celebrate so much just for a first goal. It was kind of a relief and we had a little boost out of that.”

Ivan Provorov scored the equalizer 1:47 into the final period when he maintained possession from the blue line to the circle, adeptly skating around two Islanders to put the puck on net. Provorov’s pass to Travis Konecny hit off the skate of New York’s Adam Pelech and into the net.

“I came off the bench and I saw [Brayden Schenn] was going into the zone, so I took a few hard strides, got the puck from him and I saw it was kind of an odd-man situation,” Provorov said. “I held on to the puck a little bit, saw T.K. going backdoor, passed it there and it went off their D skate.”

Just as important as the timely goals was the Flyers’ discipline. Against the Devils, the Flyers compiled 19 penalty minutes, forcing them on seven penalty kills. This time, the Flyers sharpened up, not allowing the Islanders a power play until midway through the third period. In total, they had just four penalty minutes and killed off both power plays faced.

That gave them a chance.

“We just kept saying it the whole time, ‘Keep going, keep going, guys,’” Simmonds said. “We just need one [goal] and from one comes two, and Mase held the fort.”

Mason made 17 of his 36 saves in the third period and overtime combined.

Now, the Flyers at least go into another important back-to-back — starting Wednesday at the Rangers before welcoming the Maple Leafs Thursday — with some confidence instead of a lost weekend.

“I thought the focus was purely on going out and playing well,” Hakstol said. “And you know, that’s harder to do than you might know — when you start to feel some of the pressure without a win in a little bit. I really liked that side of it. Even in that situation, all the guys played well. Hopefully that puts our entire team in the right direction.’’

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored two goals, Sidney Crosby added his league-leading 28th and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight game, 5-1 over the Boston Bruins 5-1 on Sunday.

Pittsburgh led 2-1 through two periods before breaking out in the third with three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 57 seconds.

Sheary scored his 17th and has nine goals in nine games. Bryan Rust added his 12th and Patric Hornqvist his 11th for the Penguins, who won a season-high seventh straight at home. Pittsburgh the NHL's best home team, is 13-0-1 in its last 14 home games.

Evgeni Malkin had two assists for a season-best seven-game point streak. Crosby added two assists for a three-point game. Matt Murray made 44 saves to win his fourth straight game.

David Krejci scored his 11th for the Bruins, who have lost four straight and five of their last six (see full recap).

Rangers shut out Red Wings in 1-0 OT win
DETROIT -- J.T. Miller scored at 1:56 of overtime to lift the New York Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season and 61st of his career. The Rangers managed only 19 shots in a game that featured few memorable chances by either team.

The winner came when Mats Zuccarello and Miller swooped in alone on Detroit goalie Jared Coreau. Zuccarello made a simple pass to Miller, who lifted the puck over Coreau for his 16th goal of the season.

Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall played for the first time since Jan. 4, returning from a lower-body injury. The Red Wings put forward Drew Miller on waivers (see full recap).

Atikinson lifts Jackets over Senators in wild OT win
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Cam Atkinson's second goal of the game at 1:09 of overtime lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets a 7-6 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

Atkinson had a breakaway after a shot by Senators captain Erik Karlsson missed the Columbus net and went around the boards out to Atkinson, who was at center-ice.

The Blue Jackets trailed 5-3 after two periods before Lukas Sedlak and Matt Calvert scored 31 seconds apart to tie it less than 2 1/2 minutes into the third. Atklnson then gave Columbus a 6-5 lead with 9:10 remaining, before Kyle Turries tied it for Ottawa on the power play less than 2 minutes later.

Nick Foligno, Scott Harrington and Zach Werenski also scored for the Blue Jackets, and Joonas Korpisalo finished with 28 saves.

Zach Smith and Mike Hoffman each had two goals and Mark Stone also scored for the Senators. Mike Condon had 22 saves (see full recap).