Voracek's hat trick helps Flyers to wild win over Pens

022013-voracekgiroux-slideshow-ap.jpg

Voracek's hat trick helps Flyers to wild win over Pens

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Jakub Voracek got his first NHL hat trick.
 
Wayne Simmonds had a Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal (two actually), an assist and a fight.
 
And North America got yet another wild, emotionally-taxing 6-5 Flyers' victory over the Penguins on Wednesday night at CONSOL Energy Center that seemed to resemble last year’s playoffs.
 
“The first two [games] -- even the games in our building,” coach Peter Laviolette said, “it carries a lot of emotion and a lot of energy. Great games for the players, the fans, for everybody. Good playoff-type atmosphere.”
 
This time, the Flyers took the seven goals and achievements against the Islanders and made them count for something the next time out.
 
Recall the Flyers routed Florida 7-1 in January, then got pasted the next night in Tampa.
 
“I couldn’t tell you what happened in this game, so many things happened,” said a drained Claude Giroux.
 
“Up and down. I don’t know if it’s fun to watch but it’s fun to play.”
 
Twice the Flyers had a two-goal lead in the final period and lost it, thanks primarily to a series of penalties that gave the Pens a continual 5-on-3 power play -- the most lethal in the Eastern Conference.
 
Ilya Bryzgalov took a 3-2 lead into that stanza and then Voracek gave him some breathing room at 18 seconds with his second goal.
 
Five minutes later, Tyler Kennedy made it a nail-biter until Simmonds led a rush up ice, shot it and it tipped off James Neal’s stick to regain the two-goal lead.
 
That should have been it -- 5-3 --  but consecutive penalties, including a four-minute high-sticking penalty to Mike Knuble gave the Penguins a 5-on-3 power play for a full two minutes.
 
Evgeni Malkin scored once, making it 5-4. Then, Max Talbot went off for a closed hand on the puck, keeping the 5-on-3 alive.
 
“It’s a new rule this year -- the puck was under me and I tried to put it out of there and on our first goal it kind of happened the same thing around their net,” Talbot said.
 
“But things happen fast. The crowd is screaming. These are calls people make and sometimes they won’t. I was obviously frustrated, but guys did a good job killing them.
 
“Usually, I’m on the ice. It was more stressful sitting in the penalty box. ... Our guys stepped up and did a great job killing the penalties.”
 
Pittsburgh appeared to have tied it again with 5:39 left to play, but the play was overturned for kicking the puck in the net, setting up a frantic finish.
 
Didn’t matter. Brandon Sutter tied it with a wraparound with 2:03 left to play.
 
That set up Voracek’s heroics with 1:31 left from an impossible angle in the right corner.
 
“Sometimes the bounces go in and sometimes it doesn’t,” he said. “It’s been a while. I think the last time I scored a hat trick was Triple-A back home, I can’t remember. It’s been a while.
 
“I got smothered by [Brooks] Orpik in the corner there. The puck came to me and I didn’t want to do something stupid with the puck, so I threw it on net. Tough angle for the goalie [Tomas Vokoun].”
 
The first period was reminiscent of last spring’s Game 1 playoff meeting against the Penguins here when the Flyers spotted Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead.
 
Danny Briere brought them back to 3-2 by the second period in what would become a 4-3 overtime win for the Flyers.
 
For all the talk the Flyers had about the momentum generated off their 7-0 rout of the Islanders, they came out lethargic.
 
Which is why coach Laviolette used his timeout 5:07 into the game. It was already 1-0 at that point on Matt Niskanen’s 56-footer.
 
“They came out hard and we were just lax everywhere, to be honest,” Laviolette said. “Faceoffs, forecheck, puck battles. We needed to wake up a bit.”
 
Harry Zolnierczyk picked up a boarding call behind the Pens' net, then got slammed to ice by Pens defenseman Deryk Engelland without a return call.
 
The resulting power play saw Malkin score twice. His first attempt, on review, was ruled no goal with Bryzgalov gloving the puck inside the right post.
 
His second attempt saw him at the same post alone -- no Luke Schenn -- as a puck rebounded off the boards for an easy 2-0 lead at 7:15.
 
That ended the Flyers' successful string of 21 consecutive penalty kills. By the way: Malkin stretched his league lead to 13 power-play points in this one.
 
Pittsburgh has the second-best power play in the NHL -- 27.4 percent.
 
“You can’t give them much space on the power play because they can counter on it,” Voracek said. “They have solid players over there.”
 
Midway into the period, the Pens were outshooting the Flyers, 12-2. By the period’s end, however, it was 15-13 in the Flyers' favor as they mounted a stunning comeback with two goals just one minute apart.
 
The Flyers' first goal came off a bizarre scrum at the net with the Flyers having a half-dozen attempts -- only two actual shots -- and Kris Letang pinned inside the net.
 
At one point, it appeared the puck crossed the line and Letang swiped it back out. When he did that, Nick Grossmann popped it back in at 11:49.
 
A minute later, Briere fed Simmonds, who rushed the net from the left boards to make it a 2-2 game.
 
That forced Penguins coach Dan Bylsma to burn his timeout.
 
“Kimmo made a great play there on the blue line as he always does,” Simmonds said. “I yelled for Danny as he was about to shoot it. He found me down low and I just kind of walked the puck to the net.”
 
Incidentally, Simmonds and Tanner Glass would tangle soon after in what might have been the best fight of the season involving a Flyer.
 
“[Glass] was coming after Schenner [Brayden Schenn],” Simmonds said. “I thought Schenner made a solid hit there [on Matt Cooke]. Obviously, the refs didn’t like it.
 
“Two guys went after Schenner and I stepped in there and the two of us ended up fighting. But, it's all in the spirit of the game.”
 
The second period was one of continual hits and a few scoring chances with the game remaining tied until the final 1:32 when Craig Adams elbowed Voracek, giving the Flyers a power play.
 
Voracek, who had a career-high four assists against the Islanders on Monday, had three shots on Vokoun during that power play, connecting off a Simmonds' shot finally for his first goal in six games as the Flyers led for the first time, 3-2, with 9.9 seconds left in the period.
 
“Every time we play Pittsburgh it’s a big battle,” Giroux said. “We had a tough start there, came out flat but we found a way to get those goals back.”

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

There’s a number of reasons why the Flyers have a five-game winning streak, why they’re playing better hockey, and why they own the No. 1 wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Perhaps the biggest reason of all is goaltender Steve Mason, who has won four of those games, compiling a 1.71 goals against average and .945 save percentage during that span.
 
Mason was named the NHL’s first “Star of the Week” on Monday. St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones were second and third stars.
 
“The team is on a roll right now and I’m a benefactor of that,” said Mason, who needs a win Tuesday against Florida to tie his career-high streak of five set Dec. 17-30 in 2013, during his first, full season as a Flyer.
 
“There’s strong play in front of me. The team is playing a little tighter in our defensive zone of late and making the goaltender reads that much more simple. 
 
“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me … Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”
 
His four victories last week were tops in the NHL. Among them, he had a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against Boston. 
 
Like many goalies, Mason prefers action. Games such as the 3-2 overtime win at Ottawa last week when the Senators only fired 21 shots, bother him.
 
“Those games, when you are not getting a lot of shots, the ones you do get will be a high-grade scoring chance,” he said. “And when you’re sitting around a few minutes not seeing the puck and all of a sudden see a chance like that …
 
“It’s more difficult to play [those games] than the games where there is a constant workload and you’re not thinking, but just playing. For myself personally, those are the games I enjoy the most. When I see a lot of pucks.”
 
The Flyers have seen dramatic improvement over the past month in their overall defensive play, from both their defensemen in down-low coverage in the slow and with their forwards on the backcheck.
 
Mason said the team has gone through “growing pains” with trying to integrate some younger bodies to the lineup this season – Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins  come to mind.
 
“You have to familiar with everybody,” he said. “Have a constant lineup where guys go out  shift after shift and night after night, you know what to expect from one another. When you have that kind of confidence in guys, it makes playing easier.” 
 
Mason’s 4-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday saw him go over .500 for the first time this season with a 9-8-3 record. 
 
His GAA is coming down at 2.76 while his save percentage has risen to .904.
 
“I was aware of it obviously, just because of the way the year started,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of work to get it above the .900 level.
 
“We’re obviously going to continue to work at getting it even better. The way the team’s playing right now and the way everybody’s clicking, we’re going at a good pace right now.”

Future Flyers Report: Welcome to the Carter Hart Show

Future Flyers Report: Welcome to the Carter Hart Show

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this edition, we continue our weekly check-in on a dominant goalie prospect and a pair of AHL players fighting for the next call-up and much more. Let’s dig in.

Carter Hart, G, 6-1/181, Everett (WHL)
It appears the Flyers have struck gold with a legitimate goalie prospect, one of a few in the system, in Hart. The 18-year-old is dominating the Western Hockey League. Last Monday, Hart was named the WHL Goaltender of the Week for the second consecutive week. More good news for Hart came Tuesday, when he was named to Team Canada’s selection camp roster.

Hart also saw his shutout streak reach an Everett record 193 minutes and 48 seconds. He pitched a 20-save shutout Wednesday in the Silvertips’ 5-0 win over Kootenay. That was his second straight shutout, and his third in his previous four games. He saw his shutout streak snapped at 6:47 in the first period Friday against Medicine Hat, a game in which he stopped 23 of 26 shots in a 4-3 Silvertips’ win.

Oskar Lindblom, LW/RW, 6-1/192, Brynäs IF (SHL)
More points for Lindblom last week, as he now is second in the SHL with 24 points. The winger had a two-assist game in Brynäs IF’s 3-2 defeat to Skelleftea on Thursday, then a goal in Brynäs’ 2-0 win over Växjö. The 20-year-old has developed into force as a kid playing among men. He’s been a mainstay of the Future Flyers Report this year, and it’ll be interesting if he comes overseas for a tryout again with the Phantoms once the SHL season ends.

Jordan Weal, C, 5-10/179, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
There is not much to be disappointed with Weal this season. He came into Flyers’ training camp and nearly wrangled a roster spot, and then responded by going down to the Phantoms and torching the AHL. His wrath continued again last week, and he’s currently on a four-game point streak. Weal has seven points in his last four games, and nine points in his last six games. Overall, Weal leads the Phantoms with 15 assists and 24 points — which has him tied for second in the AHL. He’s third on the team with nine goals. Weal’s production offers general manager Ron Hextall some scoring depth in the American League, which should allow some comfort if an injury falls to one of the Flyers’ skilled forwards. Weal would be the first call-up from Lehigh Valley.

Taylor Leier, LW, 5-10/176, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL)
Leier has heated up over the past few weeks, and last week he turned in another impressive string of games for Lehigh Valley. Leier displayed unselfishness last Tuesday in the Phantoms’ 4-1 win over Toronto, dishing a pass to Colin McDonald for an empty-net goal instead of going for the goal himself. He picked up another apple on a McDonald goal Saturday in the Phantoms’ 4-3 overtime win over Hershey. To cap off the week, Leier recorded a goal and an assist for Lehigh Valley in its 3-2 win over Bridgeport. He’s now two points shy of a point-per-game pace with 20 in 22 games, and sits behind Weal for the team lead. Could be an injury call-up at some point this season.

Quick hits
• Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski turned in a four-point night for the Buckeyes Saturday vs. Minnesota, scoring one goal and three assists. He now has 22 points in 15 games.

Wade Allison registered his seventh collegiate goal and scored in a shootout Saturday for Western Michigan in a 5-5 tie to St. Cloud State. He has 10 points in 14 games in his freshman campaign.

• Bowling Green’s Mark Friedman picked up another assist Saturday against Lake Superior. Friedman has nine assists and 13 points in 17 games this season.

Merrick Madsen started two more games for Harvard last week. Madsen stopped 44 of 47 shots in two Crimson wins. He’s goaltended every game for Harvard this season.

• Brynäs IF goalie Felix Sandstrom pitched a 22-save shutout against Växjö on Saturday, his first start since Nov. 22.

Sam Morin tallied his second goal of the season last Tuesday in the Phantoms’ 4-1 win over the Toronto Marlies. His D-partner, Travis Sanheim, had an assist last week.

• A good week for Robert Hagg, who picked up his first goal of the season Friday against Hershey and then an assist Sunday against Bridgeport.

Alex Lyon started three of the Phantoms’ four games last week, going 2-0 and allowing seven goals on 78 shots. He let up four in his only loss last week.

• After returning from a concussion two weeks ago, Pascal Laberge missed both of Victoriaville’s games last week with concussion symptoms.

• Rouyn-Noranda’s Philippe Myers had a goal and two assists in two games last week for the Huskies. Myers will join Hart on Team Canada’s selection camp roster.

Connor Bunnaman scored a hat trick in Kitchener’s 5-4 overtime win over Ottawa on Saturday night. He now has 15 goals in 25 games.

• Sarnia’s Anthony Salinitri words had a goal and an assist in two games last week.

Carsen Twarynski picked up a goal and an assist in Calgary’s 7-5 loss to Moose Jaw on Saturday night.