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

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

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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.”

Sean Couturier excited to play for Team North America at World Cup after summer rehabbing

Sean Couturier excited to play for Team North America at World Cup after summer rehabbing

VOORHEES, N.J. — The last time Sean Couturier played a meaningful game, he got drilled into the side boards by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
 
Couturier suffered an AC sprain in his left shoulder during the second period of Game 1 against the Capitals and missed the remainder of the playoffs.
 
“Most of the summer was a lot of rehab, trying to strengthen that shoulder,” the Flyers' center, who is practicing at Skate Zone, said Monday. “Now I feel good. I’m not gonna lie, it took me longer than I thought.”
 
The 23-year-old reported early. He’ll travel to Montreal on Sept. 4 for Team North America’s training camp and the upcoming World Cup of Hockey Tournament next month.
 
“I’m trying to skate as much as I can to get back in the rhythm,” Couturier said. “I think it’s going to be tough to get in the rhythm right away. We’re not used to playing that high-level hockey in September, but every guy on every team is going to be like that.
 
“Once we get out there, the level is going to be pretty high right off the bat. I think it can help me personally be ready for the season and step right into game action.”

Eight Flyers will participate in the eight-team competition. The others: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, Mark Streit, Radko Gudas, Jakub Voracek and Michal Neuvirth.
 
Team North America is comprised of age 23-and-under players.
 
“I don’t really listen too much to the hype and stuff in the summer, but we can definitely surprise some people,” Couturier predicted. “I don’t think there’s much attention for our team. Really no one knows what we’re gonna look like.
 
“We’re gonna try and surprise the world, basically, and try to win the tournament. We’re not going there as tourists. We feel we have a good group and a lot of skill and speed and we’ll surprise some teams for sure.”
 
Couturier is a perfect North American because he has dual citizenship — U.S. and Canada. Though born in Phoenix, he spent nearly his entire childhood in Canada.
 
“For me, I’m dual citizenship, so that’s the way I see it,” Couturier said of playing favorites. “It’s a little different, but at the same time the mindset is more about trying to win the tournament. Once you’re out there and on a team, you’re just trying to win and I think that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
 
This tournament offers Couturier a chance to test his shoulder competitively before preseason NHL games start.
 
Obviously, the Flyers will open camp here without some of their best players.
 
“Everyone’s had a long summer, so I think everyone’s kind of looking forward to getting back into action,” Couturier said. “We’re lucky. We’re fortunate to get back into action earlier than we usually do. I’m just happy to be part of it and live the experience.
 
“I know a little what to expect international-wise — I went to the Worlds two years ago. This is going to be high level. No easy games.”
 
Loose pucks
Ten players, including Gostisbehere and free-agent Russian forward Roman Lyubimov, who was signed in July, are also working out at Skate Zone, which is under major reconstruction. … Because of construction, the Phantoms' dressing room no longer exists. The Flyers have a logistics problem of where the majority of their players are going to dress during camp. ... Construction won’t be completed until sometime this fall. … As part of the club’s 50th anniversary celebration, the Flyers have decorated walls throughout their dressing room area with steel plates from old newspaper pages, and other media, commemorating their two Stanley Cups, plus other historic moments from the past. … Brayden Schenn, who will miss the first three games of the regular season on a suspension, will play in preseason.

NHL Notes: Brandon Pirri, Rangers agree to terms on one-year deal

NHL Notes: Brandon Pirri, Rangers agree to terms on one-year deal

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have agreed to terms with forward Brandon Pirri on a $1.1 million, one-year deal.

The 25-year-old Pirri spent last season with the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks, recording 14 goals and 15 assists in 61 games. His 29 points were a career high.

A second-round pick, 59th overall, in the 2009 draft, Pirri has been traded twice and was considered a potential bargain in NHL free agency. Pirri is something of a shootout specialist, scoring on five of his six attempts last season, and that 83.3 percent success rate ranked first among players with at least five attempts.

In 166 NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Panthers and Ducks, Pirri has 49 goals and 31 assists for 90 points.

Enroth replaces injured Lerner for Sweden at World Cup
NEW YORK -- With goaltender Robin Lehner still not fully healthy, Sweden replaced him on its World Cup of Hockey roster with Jhonas Enroth.

The Buffalo Sabres' starting goalie was bothered by a right ankle injury for much of last season that limited him to 21 NHL games. Lehner underwent surgery in March and had been working to get ready for the World Cup, which begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.

"We really wanted to give Robin the opportunity to recover from his injury from last year, but unfortunately it wasn't enough time for him to feel 100 percent recovered," coach Rikard Gronborg said in a statement released by the Swedish Ice Hockey Association.

Concussion problems held Lehner to 23 games in 2014-15, and he looked to be over those after the Ottawa Senators traded him to Buffalo at the 2015 draft. The 25-year-old injured his ankle early in the season opener and aggravated it in March.

It was not immediately clear when the Sabres expect Lehner to be back to 100 percent.

"As Robin continues to progress during the offseason in his rehab from last season's ankle injury, he felt that it was best to withdraw from Team Sweden for the upcoming World Cup," Buffalo general manager Tim Murray said in a statement. "Robin felt it was important to continue his rehab in Buffalo to prepare for training camp. He has been working out both on and off the ice and we look forward to seeing him on the ice with our team next month."

Enroth, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Kings, recently signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He joins Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks as the goalies on Sweden's roster.

The 28-year-old has a 2.80 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 147 career NHL games. Enroth was on the Swedish team that earned a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, though he never appeared in a game. He started for Sweden at the 2013 and 2015 world hockey championships, winning gold in 2013 with a 1.15 GAA and .956 save percentage (see full story).

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have acquired prospect Lawson Crouse and veteran Dave Bolland's contract from the Florida Panthers for two draft picks.

Arizona sent a 2017 third-round pick and a conditional 2018 second-rounder that could become another 2017 third to Florida. The Coyotes are taking on the final three years of the injured Bolland's deal to pick up Crouse, the 11th pick in the 2015 draft.

Nagging injuries limited Bolland to 25 games last season, and the 30-year-old forward has three years left on his deal at a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. But Arizona general manager John Chayka said Bolland isn't expected to play for the foreseeable future and could be placed on long-term injured reserve.

Crouse, 19, is a 6-foot-4 left winger who could make his NHL debut this fall.

Avalanche name Jared Bednar head coach
DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche have hired Jared Bednar as their new head coach.

Bednar replaces Patrick Roy, who abruptly stepped down as coach and vice president of hockey operations earlier this month.

The 44-year-old Bednar won the American Hockey League's Calder Cup championship as coach of the Lake Erie Monsters last season. He also won the ECHL's Kelly Cup in 2009 with the South Carolina Stingrays.

President of hockey operations and general manager Joe Sakic said upon Roy's sudden resignation that he'd look outside the organization for Colorado's next coach. He did just that with Bednar, who had been in the Columbus system.

Sidney Crosby named Canada's captain for World Cup of Hockey
Canada has chosen Sidney Crosby as its captain for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Crosby returns as Canada's captain after wearing the "C" for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He's coming off his second Stanley Cup as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber will serve as the alternates.

Crosby scored one of Canada's biggest goals in international history when he beat U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller to win the gold medal on home ice at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Now 29, he has two gold medals, two Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Canada begins training camp Sept. 5 in Ottawa. The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto (see full story).

Coyotes hire NHL's first female coach
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have hired Dawn Braid as skating coach and say she is believed to be the first full-time female coach in NHL history.

Braid has a long association with the NHL.

She worked part-time for the Coyotes last year and has served as a skating consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.

Braid also spent seven years with the Athletes Training Center as director of skating development. Among the skaters she worked with while there is New York Islanders center John Tavares (see full story).