Flyers' playoff exit still on Jagr's mind

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Flyers' playoff exit still on Jagr's mind

In his first season with the Flyers, Jaromir Jagr contributed 19 goals and 35 assists in 73 games.

After the Devils eliminated the Flyers from the playoffs, the 40-year-old said that this past season in Philadelphia had been the most enjoyable of his lengthy NHL career.

Jagr wouldn't commit to a return to the orange and black but did say he wants to continue to play in the NHL.

It's been almost three weeks since the Flyers were knocked out of the postseason, but it appears Jagr still has the Devils on his mind.

Jagr recently discussed in his blog for a Czech website, thanks to ProHockeyTalk for the assist, how things went down against New Jersey.

"I still cant explain why we stopped skating, all of a sudden!" Jagr wrote. "Or why we were so weak, when everything had been ideal against Pittsburgh. I dont understand at all how they could suddenly outplay us...

"The matches were tight, but our overall performance was worse than theirs, that much is clear. Perhaps we had all been convinced we would win before the tie actually started. And that might also have been a problem."

Jagr had just one assist in the Flyers' series with the Devils. He posted a goal and six assist in the team's first-round matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Many wondered if Jagr was hurt during the second round.

"The fact is I did have problems with my thigh, it had happened during the last game against Pittsburgh, but then I had a week to get myself together," Jagr said. "The thigh actually did not hurt that much during the games, so I dont think I should use it as an excuse."

While Jagr's future is still uncertain, it's apparent he still has a strong love for the game since he's still bothered by an early playoff exit.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins fight off Lightning to force Game 7

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NHL Playoffs: Penguins fight off Lightning to force Game 7

BOX SCORE

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins made good on Evgeni Malkin's pledge to force Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final.

Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist, and Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory that evened the best-of-seven series with the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-3.

Game 7 is Thursday night, with the Penguins hoping to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009 and the Lightning looking to advance to the Cup Final for the second straight year.

"I just told them to embrace the moment. It's a great opportunity for us. These are the type of circumstances to where you have an opportunity to write your own story," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan.

"They had a certain mindset going into this tonight: `We're going to leave it all out there and do everything we can to bring this back to Pittsburgh,'" Sullivan added. "And, certainly that's what they did."

Malkin was the most demonstrative of the players expressing confidence the Penguins could take the series back to Pittsburgh, saying he believed in himself, his teammates and that they could return home for a seventh game "for sure."

Crosby stepped up with his third game-winning goal of the series. The Penguins captain assisted on Kessel's 5-on-3 power-play goal in the opening period and later skated around Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman into the clear before sending a wrist shot between goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy's legs for a 3-0 lead in the final minute of the second period.

"We know the circumstances. It makes you go out there with a mindset of playing desperate," Crosby said. "I think we had confidence in the whole group. I think everyone played great.

"Everyone contributed in their own way. In a big game like this you, don't do anything special, just do your job. I think that's gotten us this far."

Rookie goaltender Matt Murray returned to the lineup after being replaced as the starter for Game 5 by Marc-Andre Fleury, but his 10th playoff victory did not come without a bit of suspense.

Brian Boyle scored twice in the third period for Tampa Bay, with one of the goals bouncing off Kessel before getting past Murray, who finished with 28 saves. The second score drew the Lightning within one goal with 7:17 remaining.

Instead of flinching, the young goalie who turns 22 on Wednesday retained his composure down the stretch to help the Penguins avoid relinquishing a third-period lead for the second straight game.

"I just think it's part of his DNA. He has a calming influence. He doesn't get rattled if he lets a goal in. He continues to compete," Sullivan said.

"That's usually an attribute that takes years to acquire. And to have it at such a young age is impressive. I think one of his biggest strengths is just his ability to stay in the moment."

Rust's breakaway goal at 17:52 of the third gave Pittsburgh breathing room, and Bonino added an empty-netter to finish it off.

"We had a great chance tonight and just tip-toed around a little bit," Boyle said. "We were tentative and weren't aggressive."

Kessel's goal was his team-leading ninth of the playoffs. Crosby had the primary assist, his first point since delivering game-winners in Games 2 and 3, and Malkin also had an assist to extend his point streak to four games after a slow start in the series.

The Lightning had an apparent goal by Jonathan Drouin waived off a little more than five minutes into the game, when Sullivan successfully challenged that the young Tampa Bay winger was offside on the play before tapping in a rebound off Ondrej Palat's shot that bounced off Murray's pads.

Sullivan announced the decision to go back to Murray following Tuesday's morning skate.

Murray started the first four games of the series. Fleury replaced him during the third period of Game 4, then made his first start in nearly two months in Game 5, which Tampa Bay won 4-3 in overtime.

Before Game 5, Fleury had not started a game since March 31, when he suffered a concussion.

Tampa Bay entered the game determined to not come out flat in Game 6 of the conference final for the second straight year.

The Lightning beat the New York Rangers on the road to go up 3-2 in that series, but were badly outplayed at home the next game and had to return to Madison Square Garden to finish the series.

Now, they'll have to win on the road again to make the third Stanley Cup appearance in franchise history.

"I know we can. I've got confidence in this group. We believe we can do that," Tampa Bay's Ryan Callahan said. "We've had success on the road in the playoffs. We've had success in their building already. It's going to be a good one."

Notes
The Penguins were 1 for 3 on the power play and are 4 for 19 in the series. The Lightning were 0 for 1, dropping to 2 for 12. ... Malkin was penalized in the first period for slashing Tampa Bay Bay's Ryan Callahan in what appeared to be retaliation for the Lightning forward whacking him across the wrist with his stick. ... Murray improved to 4-0 following a loss. He's 10-4 overall in the playoffs.

Flyers Stay or Go Part 3: Brandon Manning to Michael Raffl

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Flyers Stay or Go Part 3: Brandon Manning to Michael Raffl

In the third of our five-part offseason series examining the future of the Flyers, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster. We go alphabetically. Part 1 and Part 2 can be found by clicking the links. Today, we begin with Brandon Manning.

Brandon Manning
2015-16 stats: 56 GP, 1 G, 6 A; Contract: Restricted free agent

Dougherty: I don’t see Manning as a long-term fit here — he’s a restricted free agent — but he showed enough this past season to stick around another year. If a prospect beats him out in training camp, so be it. If not, he’s a good placemat until one of them is ready to take the reins.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Manning, an inexpensive pending restricted free agent, will be back next season. Is he a long-term answer on the Flyers’ blue line? I can’t say he is, but Ron Hextall liked his growth and the soon-to-be 26-year-old is capable enough to keep a defensive spot warm before the prospects arrive.
 
Verdict: STAY

Paone: Manning isn’t in the category of one of those guys to build around. In fact, he’ll already be 26 in just over a week. But Manning was very good in his third-pair role alongside Radko Gudas late last season and proved he can stick. He’s a RFA, but proved he should be back, at least in the short term. He’ll be fine again in the same role or valuable NHL-ready depth if someone ahead of him is hurt or fails to play well enough to stay in the lineup. Odds are he’s with the big club in some capacity when the season begins.

Verdict: STAY

Steve Mason
2015-16 stats: 23-19-10, 2.51, .918 SV%; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $4.1 mm cap hit

Dougherty: We touched on this two weeks ago. Mason is the starting goalie, though Michal Neuvirth will push him even more than he did this season come September. But that’s OK. Mason led the Flyers to the playoffs with terrific goaltending down the stretch before running out of gas. There’s no reason to move him this summer. Some teams envy the Flyers’ goalie situation. I’m sure if you call the Dallas Stars, they’ll tell you the same thing.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: I’ve said I believe the Flyers would benefit greatly from trading one of their two No. 1 goalies before they can become unrestricted free agents following the 2016-17 season. I feel Mason has a better chance than Michal Neuvirth at sticking in Philadelphia down the road. The man who carried the Flyers’ torch into the playoffs is more proven and less injury-prone.
 
Verdict
: STAY

Paone: As Tom and Jordan mentioned, we tackled the goalie question in an End to End last week. I mentioned there I am of the belief that the Flyers don’t have a No. 1 goalie, nor do they have a No. 2 goalie. They have two very good goaltenders whom they have the utmost confidence in when either is between the pipes on a given night.  And they’ll need both again next season as both have had injury issues. Some will only remember how Mason’s season ended with a thud in the playoffs against Washington and not how he put the Flyers on his back down the stretch and led them to the playoffs. And that’s just not fair. But Mason will be back. Now’s not the time to move either goalie, especially when Mason and Michal Neuvirth’s contracts are both up after next season. Let the goalie prospects, specifically Anthony Stolarz in Lehigh Valley, get some more seasoning and reassess the situation at the end of next season.

Verdict: STAY

Colin McDonald
2015-16 stats: 5 GP, 1 G, 0 A; Contract: Signed through 2017-18, $637,500 cap hit

Dougherty: McDonald proved himself to be a very valuable AHL player last season. He played a few games during the regular season with the Flyers, and a couple in the playoffs. I really liked the energy he brought and wouldn’t hate to see him on the NHL roster. But they need scoring, and he’s really just another role player. He signed an extension mid-season, so he’ll head back to Lehigh Valley.

Verdict: GO

Hall: McDonald had a leadership impact at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and served the Flyers as a reliable insurance policy. His experience is valuable within the organization, but much more so with the Phantoms full-time, being available for the Flyers when needed.
 
Verdict
: GO

Paone: Depth is so valuable, not just at the NHL level, but throughout the entire organization. And depth player is the category McDonald, a veteran forward, falls into. He’s a guy with a physical edge who can be called up at a moment’s notice and fill almost any role that’s asked of him. Don’t expect him to make the big club out of camp, barring injuries or anything else unforeseen. So that’s why I’ll say go. But don’t be surprised if he’s among the first names on the call-up list during season.

Verdict: GO

Evgeny Medvedev
2015-16 stats: 45 GP, 4 G, 9 A; Contract: Unrestricted free agent

Dougherty: I like Medvedev’s game, but he didn’t work out. Hextall brought him over from Russia on a one-year deal and while I’ve seen some say it’s Hextall’s worst move as GM, it was not a bad move.  Overall, Medvedev wasn’t a killer on the ice. In fact, he didn’t make a ton of mistakes, but when he did, it would be a big one and lead to Hakstol benching him. He’s a puck-moving defenseman and NHL teams need them. His legal troubles could be a deterrent for teams, though. If he wants to continue playing in North America, he'll have to look elsewhere.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Medvedev brought an intriguing offensive game but struggled in his own zone. To be frank, though, there’s no way he returns. Medvedev turns 34 in August, will be an unrestricted free agent and faces legal trouble following an arrest shortly after the Flyers’ playoff exit.
 
Verdict: GO

Paone: Ron Hextall took a no-risk flier (no pun intended, I promise – I just couldn’t think of a better word) on the 33-year-old Russian defenseman last summer. And while Medvedev showed flashes at certain points, his lack of playing time at the end of the season was telling that the marriage just wasn’t going to work out. Getting his cap hit off the books puts a nice chunk of change in the Flyers’ pocket. Plus, his recent legal issues certainly don’t help his cause of returning to Philadelphia. He just seems ticketed for a return home to Russia and the KHL.

Verdict: GO

Michal Neuvirth
2015-16 stats: 18-8-4, 2.27, .924 SV%; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $1.625 mm cap hit

Dougherty: See above. Neither goaltender is leaving. A Mason-Neuvirth tandem puts the Flyers in good hands. Both have injury history, too, so keeping both makes a ton of sense. Neuvirth was signed here last summer to push Mason and give the Flyers a solid backup. He proved to be far more than that. As noted above, he’ll push Mason even harder this season.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Neuvirth carries solid trade stock and will be a nice card for the Flyers to play up until the deadline. I could see Hextall pulling off a surprising move this offseason but, more than likely, the Flyers will have both their goalies entering the 2016-17 season.
 
Verdict
: STAY

Paone: Neuvirth played extremely well last season when healthy. He was sterling in his three playoff starts. But healthy is the key word there as his troubling career arc of not being able to stay healthy at key moments continued. But he’ll be back. Why? See that Mason part above. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Verdict: STAY

Michael Raffl
2015-16 stats: 82 GP, 13 G, 18 A; Contract: Signed through 2019-20, $2.35 mm cap hit

Dougherty: Raffl isn’t going anywhere. He signed an extension before the trade deadline last season, as Hextall decided extending Raffl made more sense than moving him. He’s well-liked in the room and has enough skill to move up-and-down the lineup. He’s a keeper.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Raffl is coming off a quietly good season in which he was the only Flyer to play all 82 regular-season games while compiling a plus-9 rating, best among the team’s regulars. And, of course, he signed an extension, so he’s here to stay.
 
Verdict: STAY

Paone: This is an easy one as Raffl, recently a pending unrestricted free agent, signed a three-year extension just prior to the trade deadline. The question isn’t whether he stays. It’s where he plays. If  history is any indication, there might not be a rock-solid answer to that as Raffl has moved from wing to center and line to line numerous times. He’s like the Flyers’ version of a Swiss Army Knife.

Verdict: STAY

NHL Playoffs: Joe Pavelski pushes Sharks to brink of Cup Final berth

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NHL Playoffs: Joe Pavelski pushes Sharks to brink of Cup Final berth

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS -- All the time Joe Pavelski has spent practicing his stick work has paid off big for the San Jose Sharks.

And the Sharks captain has his team on the brink of their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

"You think back to some of the best scorers ever, his ability to get his stick on pucks in front of the net from different angles is as good as anybody I've ever seen," coach Peter DeBoer said. "His biggest asset is he works at it."

With the Sharks trailing by a goal, Pavelski tied the game late in the second period and then scored the go-ahead goal in the opening minute of the third period in the Sharks' 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues for a 3-2 lead in Western Conference final on Monday night.

"You play a good game like that, you want to ride that," Pavelski said. "Everyone's played a key role so far and it's going to have to continue."

Joel Ward also scored twice, including one of two empty-netters, in the final minute for San Jose, which can close out the series at home on Wednesday night. Joe Thornton had three assists.

"We just keep coming. We're not going to give up and they're not going to give up," Thornton said. "Both teams, we're here for a reason."

The Sharks had a strong response after losing 6-3 in Game 4 in San Jose.

"We've done it all season, all playoff run," forward Logan Couture said. "If we get down, the bench stays pretty even, pretty calm."

Pavelski leads all players in the playoffs with 12 goals and has three two-goal games, one in each series. The Sharks' captain added an assist and is tied with Couture for the postseason points lead, each with a franchise-record 21 points.

"It's good to see Sharks up there," Couture said.

Rookie Robby Fabbri scored and David Backes had an assist for St. Louis. Both were questionable coming off injuries in Game 4.

But star forward Vladimir Tarasenko was silent again. Tarasenko was minus-2 with one shot and is scoreless in the series after getting seven goals and 13 points in the first two rounds.

"He's struggled this series," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He hasn't gotten the looks that he normally gets. But he's one shift away from breaking it open."

The Blues are just 4-6 at home in the postseason, and failed to hold leads of 2-1 and 3-2 in Game 5. They're 6-3 on the road and need another win to bring the series home for Game 7.

"We did it in Game 4," Backes said. "Now, we've got to go in there and do it again."

The Sharks are 6-2 at home in the postseason and need one more win to reach the Cup Final.

"I think we're reminding them we're not there yet," DeBoer said. "There's a lot of heavy lifting yet."

The Sharks were 2 for 3 on the power play after entering 2 for 15 in the series.

Troy Brouwer batted in a rebound from midair for St. Louis and Ward scored a similar goal for San Jose with his first of the game.

Brouwer leads St. Louis with eight goals in 19 games this postseason after totaling seven in his first 78 playoff games.

Pavelski was left alone in the slot on a power play at 18:33 of the second and beat Jake Allen to tie it at 3-3. He redirected Brent Burns' drive from the point 16 seconds into the third to put the Sharks in front to stay.

San Jose goalie Martin Jones allowed three goals on the Blues' first 13 shots, but stopped all seven shots in the third period.

"He's a great goalie," defenseman Roman Polak said. "He's mentally strong. No matter what happened in the first or second, it doesn't matter."

Blues goalie Jake Allen made 21 saves in his second straight start of the postseason. Hitchcock said he hadn't decided whether Allen or Brian Elliott would start in Game 6.

"Numbers aren't my thing," Allen said. "Never have been, never will be. Wins are all that matter right now."

The Sharks scored first on Marc-Edouard Vlasic's first goal of the postseason from the point at 3:51 of the first period.

Jaden Schwartz snapped a 13-game goal drought to tie it on a rebound at 7:04 of the first.