Flyers Outlast Penguins 6-5 in Instant Classic

Flyers Outlast Penguins 6-5 in Instant Classic

Warning in advance: there is no way a summary of Wednesday
night’s tilt between the Flyers and Penguins could ever do the action justice – particularly the wild third period that
had fans of every allegiance on the edge of their seats literally until the final
horn sounded a 6-5 victory for Orange & Black in Pittsburgh – but you couldn’t possibly ask for more from a regular season
hockey game.

This was two bitter rivals – a pair of evenly-matched heavyweights
at that – engaged in a physical, high-scoring confrontation with all of the drama and
atmosphere of an Eastern Conference Final.

We jump right to the 7:36 mark in third period, where Philadelphia
appeared to have the game in hand on Wayne Simmonds’ second goal of the night.
Already responsible for a Gordie Howe hat trick [watch], Simmer’s center feed for Claude
Giroux instead tipped off of Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen’s stick, the
deflection fooling goaltender Tomas Vokoun to put the Flyers ahead 5-3.

But this is the Pittsburgh Penguins after all, for whom
12-plus minutes is more than enough time to score two or more goals –
especially when they have eight minutes of power-play time to work.

A series of unfortunate-to-thoughtless penalties put
the Pens on one- and usually two-man advantages for over four minutes straight. First Mike
Knuble caught Deryk Engelland with a bloody high stick for four,
followed a short time later by a Ruslan Fedotenko shaft to the head of James
Neal. Max Talbot shattered his stick on the ensuing
5-on-3, and it was elementary from there for Neal as he cut the deficit in half
with his 12th tally of the season, tying him for the league lead.

One minute later Talbot joined the parade to the box after not-so-subtly
covering the puck with his glove while it was on the ice – a new infraction for
2013 – and for a moment Flyers’ fans worst fears were realized.

All initial indications were Tyler Kennedy had knotted the
score from a scrum in front of Ilya Bryzgalov during Pittsburgh’s eternal
5-on-3 (Knuble is still serving for his double-minor, as is Fedotenko). The puck rested peacefully behind Ilya Bryzgalov across the goal line, the official signaled, and the
reaction inside the CONSOL Energy Center was rocking.

Replay showed Kennedy came into the fray
with a distinct kicking motion however, so that goal was disallowed. Such drama!

Even though you knew the Penguins would draw even anyway. Brandon Sutter found himself holding the pill
behind the Flyers’ net right before the two-minute warning, the defense giving chase, but the space in front of Bryzgalov vacated as
well.
Bryz tried to block the wrap-around as Sutter powered the puck through his weak stick attempt and right into the netminder’s five hole.

That familiar sinking feeling wouldn’t last for long. The Bullies went right back on the attack. Jakub Voracek
gained the Pittsburgh zone, sending the puck along the boards as he took a
walloping from Brooks Orpik below the goal line. Giroux gathered the pass in and rewarded Jake, sending
the play right back. With Orpik continuing to harass him, Voracek whipped around so he could just throw the rubber on Vokoun – only Vokoun wasn’t tight to the post.

A shot from an
impossible angle that had absolutely no right slipping past a 36-year-old NHL veteran did precisely that, banking in off of Vokoun to give the 23-year-old Voracek his first-career hat
trick.

With 1:28 remaining, it also proved to be the game-winner. Vokoun's blank stare as he lay on the ice was priceless.

Pittsburgh mounted one last gasp with an extra skater, but
the Flyers survived to pick up an enormous two points on their Atlantic-leading foes – and it was punch-for-punch right to
the finish.

Much of the talk from the players leading into the game was about Pittsburgh
being a measuring stick. If this result was any indication, Philadelphia can
still hang with the big dogs in East. They overcame an early 2-0
deficit, then refused to allow the action completely slip away from them when things
started going south late.

The Flyers have now earned 13 points out of the last 20 points
possible, going 6-3-1 in these 10 compared to 2-6 over the first eight.
That pace is no slouch.

It will be tough for the Flyers to turn around and match the
intensity and effort from Wednesday night or even Monday’s 7-0 drubbing of the
Islanders in the second half of a back-to-back on
Thursday versus the Florida Panthers. This was one hell of a way to wrap up a six-game road trip though,
from which they’ll gladly take the split, and worry about the rest of the slate one night
at a time.

Game Highlights:

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Instant Replay: Rockies 8, Phillies 2

Instant Replay: Rockies 8, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

The Colorado Rockies laid the wood to the Phillies again Tuesday night. The Rockies hit three home runs en route to an 8-2 win at Citizens Bank Park. The Rockies beat the Phillies, 8-1, on Monday night.

The Phillies have lost four in a row, eight of their last nine and 19 of their last 23 to fall to 15-28.

Two games into this four-game series, the Phillies have been held to just two runs in 13 innings against a pair of rookie Colorado starting pitchers.

Starting pitching report
Zach Eflin had his second straight poor outing. He was tagged for 10 hits and eight runs in six innings. He gave up three home runs.

Eflin has given up 21 hits and 15 runs in his last two starts.

The Rockies got another good start from a rookie. This time it was German Marquez, who held the Phillies to a run over six innings. Rookie Jeff Hoffman held the Phillies to a run over seven innings in the series opener on Monday night.

Bullpen report
Mark Leiter Jr. stopped the bleeding with two scoreless innings.

The Rockies' bullpen has given up just one run in five innings in the series.

At the plate
The Phillies scored their first run on a bases-loaded walk in the third inning. Andrew Knapp homered in the ninth to make it a six-run game.

Rockies leadoff man Charlie Blackmon hit a pair of two-run homers against Eflin. He leads the majors with 62 hits. Blackmon has seven home runs in his last five games at Citizens Bank Park. He hit five in a three-game series last season.

Gerardo Parra also homered for the Rockies, who have the best record in the National League at 30-17.

Transactions
The Phillies placed outfielder Daniel Nava on the 10-day disabled list with a slight hamstring strain. He is expected to return sometime next week. The team opted for an extra bullpen arm and recalled reliever Adam Morgan from Triple A to take Nava's roster spot.

Health check
Howie Kendrick took outdoor batting practice Tuesday for the first time since suffering an abdominal strain on April 15. He could head out on minor-league rehab later this week and be ready to return sometime next week. Kendrick can play corner infield and corner outfield, so he could take away at-bats from Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders if they don't get going. Both were benched Tuesday night (see story).

Up next
The series continues Wednesday night. Jeremy Hellickson (5-1, 3.44) will pitch against Colorado right-hander Tyler Chatwood (3-6. 5.09).

More WRs, more buzz, but Jordan Matthews unfazed with Eagles

More WRs, more buzz, but Jordan Matthews unfazed with Eagles

After leading the Eagles in passing targets for the past two seasons, Jordan Matthews suddenly became an afterthought when the club signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency. There's even speculation Matthews might be available in a trade if a solid offer comes along.

The Eagles' investments at the wide receiver position this offseason would certainly appear to put Matthews' future with the team in question. In addition to Jeffery and Smith, Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson were brought aboard in the draft, all as Matthews enters the final year of his rookie contract.

None of which seems to concern Matthews, who described the trade rumors as "fake news" on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex, where Phase 3 of Eagles OTAs was underway.

"I don't care about any of that stuff," Matthews said. "I feel like it's the NFL, if you think about it, everybody has a price. Those talks, they happen, so it really doesn't faze me."

To be clear, there has been very little noise to suggest the Eagles were at any point actively shopping Matthews or the fourth-year veteran is on the trade block. A reporter merely stated a belief the Eagles would be open to moving Matthews in the right deal. It was enough to get people talking, and once Jeffery and Smith signed days later, the rumors weren't going away.

Matthews' contract situation has a lot do with the reaction. Apart from all the new faces in the receivers room, this offseason was the first he was eligible to sign a contract extension.

There is absolutely nothing to report on that front. Instead, the Eagles directed funds toward Jeffery and Smith — who are viewed by some as his potential replacements.

"I haven't really talked to anybody about that," Matthews said. "I really don't focus on that too much, to be honest.

"I think you all know me by now. That's not really what fuels me, so it's like one of the last things I actually really think about. Whatever is going to happen is going to end up happening, so I just try to come out here and play hard and do what I need to do for my team."

Matthews turns 25 in July and has impressive numbers for the Eagles, recording 225 receptions for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. Only six players in NFL history amassed more in all three categories their first three seasons.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Matthews will reprise his role as the Eagles' primary slot receiver in 2017, downplaying the possibility of a reduced role. Pederson also noted Matthews' tight bond with quarterback Carson Wentz.

Pederson also declined to make mention of Matthews' standing with the club beyond '17, nor is it really this coach's place to say.

"Jordan has been a big part of this offense, and he is still a big part of this offense," Pederson said on Tuesday. "He's got a great relationship and a great rapport with Carson, and Carson feels very comfortable with him."

Despite trade rumors, his contract situation and the simple fact the Eagles brought in a bunch of players who would gladly take his targets and his job, Matthews remains positive. In fact, he sees Jeffery and Smith making life easier for the rest of the offense.

"I'm glad, to be honest," Matthews said. "I'm glad to have Torrey, glad to have Alshon, the rookies.

"Obviously, having more guys on the field that have that type of production over a long period of time, they're going to garner attention. That's going to help me get free."

Matthews is coming off of his worst season, posting 73 receptions for 804 yards and three touchdowns. Much of his problems seemed to stem from the lack of options in the passing attack, particularly at receiver, allowing defenses to hone in on Matthews.

Furthermore, Matthews was plagued by an ankle injury for much of the season, from which he is still recovering.

"Still getting there," Matthews said. "An ankle messes up the whole chain. It's not like an upper-body extremity injury. When you're dealing with an ankle, there's a lot more stuff that you have to continue to get right from the back down."

Despite the increasing competition at the Eagles' receiver position, Matthews doesn't sound very worried about his ankle, either. Like trade rumors and concerns about his contract, that too will pass in time.

"We've got a lot of time," Matthews said. "I know I'll be good when it's time to roll."