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

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.”

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Ron Hextall said when Flyers training camp began there were spots to be won and spots to be taken from others.

Even though it’s still early in camp, it seems fairly clear Russian forward Roman Lyubimov is going to steal someone’s job among the bottom-six forwards.

He’s been the right wing on Boyd Gordon’s line in camp with Chris VandeVelde on the left side. 

That fourth line worked again Tuesday night as the Flyers opened their home preseason schedule with a 4-0 win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 6-2, 207-pound Lyubimov plays a heavy game. He is tenacious in one-on-one battles and, perhaps more importantly, jumps on loose pucks after faceoffs as demonstrated during the 2-0 loss in New Jersey on Monday.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol took notice.

“It’s a nice trait for a player to have automatically and it’s an important trait,” Hakstol said.

“His competitiveness and his battle level on 50-50 pucks, things like that, hasn’t changed from Day 1.”

After spending six years in the KHL, it appears Lyubimov has found a home here. He’s already making a nice adjustment to the smaller rink, too.

“Last couple of years, playing for the Red Army team, there were some pretty physical games,” he said, via translator Slava Kouznetsov. “I think it was pretty close to NHL games. I just have to adapt to the smaller ice.”

He logged 3:55 ice time on the penalty kill against the Devils — second only to rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov — and Hakstol has his sights set on using him in that capacity if he makes the final cut.

While playing for the Russian Army, Lyubimov was used in a shutdown role and on the PK with little power-play time.

“I was more defense-oriented,” he said. “If you don’t let the [opponent] score on you, it’s easier to win games. Here, I’ll see what the coaches want me to do. I watched a lot of NHL games. One of my criteria was to be good at the penalty kill.”

The only hard question Hakstol has to answer is Lyubimov’s adjustment to the smaller rink.

“I think he is still working through that but he is game for it,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t look for open ice in terms of shying away from traffic areas. He is battling in those high traffic areas.”

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare made the adjustment quickly, coming over from France. Michael Raffl played a couple games with the Phantoms after coming over from Austria.

It’s possible the Flyers could start Lyubimov with the Phantoms and then call him up.

“He plays a small-ice type of game,” Hextall said of Lyubimov. “He goes hard to the net, he’s good on the wall, does all those little things. Space I don’t think will affect him as much as other guys.”

He had a prime scoring chance in Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, chasing down a puck behind the net and getting a wraparound that was blocked at the post by defenseman Kyle Burroughs.

Lyubimov finished with 12:07 of ice time and two shots.

His best shot to make the cut is to take away VandeVelde's spot on the fourth line (see story). Once Bellemare returns from the World Cup of Hockey, someone has to go. Another factor here is whether the club carries 23 players instead of 22.

Lyubimov said what impressed him about the Flyers was how players are treated here, on and especially off the ice.

That was always something former Flyers loved about their late owner Ed Snider. He treated them as family, not employees.

“There is a difference,” Lyubimov said. “Everything here is comfortable and done for the players. Here I live five minutes from the rink. In Moscow, it’s 45 minutes. Everything works for me here.”

So much so, Lyubimov is bringing his wife, Katrina, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexa, over this fall to live here even though he has just a one-year deal worth $925,000.

“I want to stay here more than a year,” he said. “I will do whatever I have to do. This is the place I wanted to come.”

Battling for Phantoms job, goalie Alex Lyon solid in NHL preseason debut

Battling for Phantoms job, goalie Alex Lyon solid in NHL preseason debut

When the Flyers signed Yale goalie Alex Lyon last April, they knew they were getting a competitive guy who was a finalist for the Mike Richter Award.
 
What they didn’t know, however, was likely how he could stand on his head and keep an undermanned squad in an exhibition game with just three NHL players on his side.
 
The Flyers lost 2-0 to the Devils on Monday night against a New Jersey lineup that was far superior and kept the puck in Lyon’s end two-thirds of the game.
 
Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers open their home preseason schedule against the Islanders with a legit lineup.
 
Lyon, who posted a 1.64 goals against average and .936 save percentage last season in college, was outstanding against the Devils with 28 saves on 29 shots (one empty netter).
 
“I had shaky legs until the middle of the first and then I felt I had settled in,” the 23-year-old said. “I guess I didn’t expect that.”
 
Exhibition games don’t mean much but this was a performance worth noting because Lyon showed he will challenge Anthony Stolarz for the starter’s job with the Phantoms this season. 

“Alex Lyon had a solid performance right from start to finish,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “Great demeanor and presence. Just a real steady performance all the way through.”
 
The kid seemed undaunted by the Devils' lineup in what was his first-ever start against an NHL club. Notice anything different from college?
 
“The biggest difference is six months ago, I was watching Travis Zajac on TV and now I am playing an exhibition game against him,” Lyon replied. “It was pretty cool going up against those guys.”
 
The Devils attacked him mostly with angled shots. So eager they were to test him, they put a shot on goal from their own blue line in the opening minutes of the game, which Lyon saved.
 
“Yeah, I think they were trying to throw some pucks and my rebound control wasn’t as good as it usually is,” Lyon said. “I think it’s because I was a little nervous. I was just trying to stop the puck to be honest, that is all I was thinking about.”
 
Lyon stopped two breakaway attempts from Beau Bennett, both coming in the opening two periods. The only goal from Nick Lappin came on a second rebound in the crease.
 
“They got their point shot through and I saw it clearly the whole way and didn’t react to it,” Lyon said. “I thought it was going to be tipped. There was a forest of sticks as Keith Allain (Yale coach) would say, in front of me.
 
“I was trying to get big in front of it and they took a couple of whacks and subsequently it bounced right to their guy.”
 
While exhibition games mean little to fans, it meant something to him.
 
“I told my roommate in Philly I was playing my first NHL game,” Lyon said. “Yeah, it’s preseason but going from college, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
 
Lyon won’t play Tuesday night against the Islanders.
 
On Provorov
Rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov, who logged a whopping 28:48 ice time during the loss in New Jersey, will play tonight against the Islanders.
 
The staff wants to get an idea of how he plays with heavy minutes in back-to-back games.
 
“I want to get him into two of the three (exhibitions), assuming he earned it,” Hakstol said. “He did a good job last night. His minutes got high but we wanted to get him into a good situation.
 
“He did a good job and the minutes didn’t seem to wear on him. It will be a challenge playing back-to-back. But that’s one for him and a few others where they have to meet the challenge.”
 
Provorov will be paired with Andrew MacDonald as Hakstol has one vet paired with one prospect in this game.
 
World Cup returnees
Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier both say they want to play games right now to keep themselves in game shape but Hakstol is biding time with them, insisting they get some rest off the ice.
 
“I feel like I’m in midseason form already,” Voracek quipped. “I don’t want to sit around. If I take more than 3-4 days off, I'll put on six pounds. ... I wouldn’t mind playing but obviously, we've got to get some rest. ”
 
Loose pucks
• Other defensive pairs: Nick Schultz and Travis Sanheim; Michael Del Zotto and Philippe Myers.  

• The lines: Jordan Weal will again center Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds; Andy Miele will handle Michael Raffl and Matt Read; Nick Cousins centers Scott Laughton and Dale Weise, which has been a line in camp; and Boyd Gordon will center Chris VandeVelde and Roman Lyubimov.

• Steve Mason will be in goal and Stolarz will back him up.

• Forward Travis Konecny will not play.