Hart Attack! Flyers Down Pens on OT Buzzer Beater

Hart Attack! Flyers Down Pens on OT Buzzer Beater

Scott Hartnell's amazing All-Star season rolls on.

With one goal already under his belt to knot the score at two in the third period, Hartsy would go on to play the hero. His 35th goal of the season sailed past Marc-Andre Fleury as the final seconds ticked off the clock in overtime, boosting the resilient Flyers to a 3-2, come-from-behind victory over a white-hot Penguins club that came to Philadelphia winners of their last 11.

Various pieces of hockey equipment were mistreated as the Pens vacated the bench area, but not merely out of frustration over dropping a two-goal lead in a game they dominated for the first 40 minutes. Tempers flared increasingly during this intense meeting between division rivals jockeying for playoff positioning, and emotions finally boiled over when one of the main antagonists netted the game winner.

There was a point where the Flyers walking away with two points seemed improbable though. Orange and Black stumbled out of the gate, and appeared to be headed for a dull effort. Thankfully, Ilya Bryzgalov steadied the team until they made a late rally, stopping 38 shots in yet another strong showing for the redeemed netminder.

Bryz survived a pair of dangerous-looking power plays late in the first period, but not before the Penguins had already lit the lamp. Craig Adams made Wayne Simmonds pay for a rare miscue, putting the Flyers' forward on his butt before he could clear the puck. The veteran Adams went back to work in front of the net, redirecting a Kris Letang slap shot off of young Brandon Manning's leg, and past a guessing Bryzgalov.

It was a quality deflection, but Manning maybe could have been stronger on the body in front of his net.

Things went from bad to worse in the second frame. After getting outshot 17-8 in period one, the Flyers offense disappeared entirely, completing an 18-minute stretch without a shot on goal. It took a five-on-four to break out of the funk, but they never really threatened.

Despite the offensive ineptitude, the Flyers almost made it to the locker room unscathed. Evgeni Malkin had something to say about that however, victimizing Philly's defense with a late goal that increased the deficit to two.

The NHL's points leader skated around Claude Giroux out of the corner, then went for a walk in Bryzgalov's crease. Basically uncontested, Malkin had time to maneuver across the mouth of the goal, and slip the biscuit under the sprawling goaltender's pad on the opposite side. Impossible play for Bryz, and difficult for Kimmo Timonen and Brayden Coburn as well, both of them opting to stick with their man while Malkin dazzled.

Things began to turn around for the Flyers shortly thereafter. Zbynek Michalek took a slashing penalty following Malikn's goal, and Philly began the third period on the power play. They responded 31 seconds in with a Timonen blast from the point. Fleury was playing peek-a-boo behind Simmonds, and never saw the puck as it sailed into the net, cutting Pittsburgh's lead to one.

The win was Philadelphia's fourth this season when trailing after two periods. More importantly, it was two points. With three weeks remaining in the regular season, they are two points back of Pittsburgh, and three points back of the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers, though the Flyers have played one more game than each of those clubs.

Notes

- Hartnell had quite a raspberry on his face after the game, stemming from a third-period scrum with Chris Kunitz.

An incensed Hartnell wanted a piece of anybody wearing a white sweater, long after whistles had blown and referees had separated him from the initial brouhaha. Kunitz eventually wound up on top of Hartnell in a dog pile, and as Keith
Jones put it, was really giving him the business. The Flyers and Pens meet two more times this season, so this feud probably isn't over.

- Unfortunately, Hartnell also wound up taking out one of his own guys. Hartnell and Zac Rinaldo each wanted to have words with Letang, but Rinaldo probably isn't speaking to anybody right now. Letang gave Hartnell a shove, and his stick wound up clipping Rinaldo right inside the mouth. Nasty.

- What we're trying to say is Scott Hartnell was really gooning it up out there today. He amassed six penalty minutes to go along with his two scores.

- Next meeting: Sunday, April 1 in NBC's Game of the Week from Pittsburgh.

Give and Go: How much credit does Brett Brown deserve for Sixers' improvement?

Give and Go: How much credit does Brett Brown deserve for Sixers' improvement?

With the team at the All-Star break, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we analyze the job head coach Brett Brown has done this season.

Haughton
Brown's performance has already resulted in more wins than any other season under his leadership, but it continues to be a complex judgment.

He's still tied to an extremely young roster, which lends itself to the high number of turnovers, mistakes coming out of timeouts and defensive breakdowns. 

However, he has managed to get several players to show growth in their games and make sure the Sixers remain balanced even with Joel Embiid's emergence. That can also be attributed to Brown's emphasis on state of play and not state of pay.

He turned to T.J. McConnell ($874,636 salary) at starting point guard over Sergio Rodriguez ($8 million) because the second-year pro has proven to be a better fit and has routinely moved Gerald Henderson ($9 million) from starter to reserve.

Then of course, there has been Brown's handling of the Sixers' mashup at center. The coach has found each guy minutes when he can and, according to the players, been up front about all potential minutes and trade scenarios.

Perhaps Brown's finest job this season has come in a role he thought was over: team delegate. Once Sam Hinkie exited and Bryan Colangelo proclaimed he would be more open with information, Brown certainly had to think his days of standing in front of the media to explain every single thing going on with the franchise were over. Think again. 

Still, Brown's been there each day, answering just about every question thrown his way from injuries to trade rumors. If nothing else, he deserves to be commended for dealing with that ... again.

Hudrick
It's amazing what a few NBA-caliber players can do.

After accumulating a 47-199 record over his first three seasons, Brown has led the Sixers to a 21-35 mark so far this season. Sure, much of the credit for the team's success has to do with adding legitimate NBA talent (and a legitimate NBA star in Embiid). With that said, you're finally starting to see Brown's fingerprints on the Sixers.

A protégé of Gregg Popovich's with the Spurs, Brown preaches defense and ball movement. The Sixers' defense has been a catalyst for their success this season. As Brown says in his Bostralian accent, the defensive end is where the Sixers' "bread is buttered." 

With unselfish players with decent court vision like Dario Saric and Gerald Henderson added to the mix, the Sixers don't look like a total disaster in the half court. They're ninth in the NBA at 23.5 assists per game. They haven't finished higher than 15th in the league in any of Brown's three seasons. 

When you consider what Brown has gone through and how he's managed to keep everything positive, it's incredible. Hinkie pegged Brown as his guy, knowing that Brown was an excellent teacher and had the right attitude to deal with losing. You have to be encouraged by what you've seen out of Brown and the Sixers this season.

Flyers Skate Update: Power play shakeup seems to be working

Flyers Skate Update: Power play shakeup seems to be working

VOORHEES, N.J. — They had taken another “0-for” on the power play on the road and lost a game in which they deserved to at least get a point.

Dave Hakstol had seen enough. Numbers don’t always tell a story. Yet, in the Flyers' case, they did: 4 for 42 on the power play over 12 games, including that 3-1 loss at Calgary.

The next morning in Edmonton, Hakstol met privately with Jakub Voracek to discuss, among other things, the power play. That night, Hakstol moved Voracek off the first unit power play and replaced him with Ivan Provorov.

He then told Shayne Gostisbehere to change his location on the power play on the half wall and let Provorov, the Russian rookie, worry about the blue line.

In the two games since, the power play is 3 for 6 and has the Flyers back up to ninth in the NHL after falling to 13th during that 12-game span of utter futility.

How the power play goes tonight against the Washington Capitals is critical if the Flyers have any shot of taking points away from the top club in the league.

“It’s a little bit different look,” Hakstol said. “We’re comfortable with either of the setups we have there. Whether it’s with Jake on the flank of the [Claude] Giroux unit or having Ghost there.

“Both are effective. Within the game, we can go back and forth with the other. We’ve had some pretty good play out of the other unit, regardless of the setup.”

Provorov has a very accurate point shot. Gostisbehere has the hardest shot of any on the top unit. The rest of the first unit – Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds – hasn’t changed.

“We can’t score,” Provorov said bluntly. “We needed to change something up to spark the scoring. It definitely helped us. Now the two units have a different setup in the zone.

“Just a little different. It took us first game to get used to. We did pretty good in the second game [Vancouver].”

Ghost has never played the half-wall. He thinks this will help him snap a 32-game goal drought. He had three assists – two on the power play – against the Canucks on Sunday.

“It’s completely different,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve always been at the top [blue line]. It’s definitely a different perspective from that view. I think I’ll get a lot more shots and plays that can be made.”

Voracek watches him when that unit is on the ice and offers advice after the shift.

“I have been talking to Jake a ton for pointers,” Gostisbehere said. “When I am out there, if you see something I could have done, please tell me. He is such an easy guy to talk to. He will give you the pointers right away.”

Hakstol said moving Ghost closer to the net has a payoff.

“He is in a pure one-timer side there if he gets himself in the right position,” Hakstol said. “But there is still some work we have to do there in terms of his overall positioning in that spot.

“He brings a different element than Jake does in that spot. Both of them were very, very effective in that spot. They just have different weapons.”

Even though there have been changes, Voracek still rotates back to the first unit if Provorov is on the ice the previous shift before the power play begins.

Because of Travis Konecny’s knee and ankle injuries, Sean Couturier’s second unit has changed the most. Mark Streit anchors from the point with Coots, Nick Cousins and Matt Read below the blue line and Voracek on the right-wall.

That unit has more player rotation on the ice than the top unit.

Hakstol doesn’t buy the argument the Flyers' power play crashed because it became too predictable. 

“In the game now, there’s not much hidden,” Hakstol said. “Everyone knows what the other team is trying to do, regardless of 5-on-5 or special teams.

“For us, it was a good time to make a small change that changes the look for our guys on the ice.”

Loose pucks
• A dozen players showed up for the optional morning skate at Skate Zone, more than half of what was expected. 

• Michal Neuvirth will start in goal tonight against Washington. 

• On Tuesday, Voracek got hit with a puck below the belt, during a tip drill in which Voracek tipped a shot into himself. “Feeling better,” he said today. 

• This morning was goalie Steve Mason’s turn to get hit. He took a point shot from Andrew MacDonald in the mask. Mason was temporarily shaken but no damage to either him or his mask.  

Lineup
F:
Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Voracek
Raffl-Cousins-Read
VandeVelde-Bellemare-Lyubimov

D: Provorov-Manning
Gostisbehere-Streit
Del Zotto-Gudas

G: Neuvirth