3 Stars: Lecavalier, Flyers storm back late but fall to league-leading Bruins in shootout

3 Stars: Lecavalier, Flyers storm back late but fall to league-leading Bruins in shootout

A look at the Philadelphia Flyers’ 4-3 shootout loss to the NHL-leading Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center from the perspective of three players who each made a major impact on the game.

Despite the outcome, that was an awesome hockey game. It had everything a hockey fan could ever want. Can we get some three-on-three extended overtime, please, NHL?

Mar 15, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason (35) takes a break against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers defeated the Penguins, 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

 

3. Steve Mason

The Flyers netminder may not have made as many saves as his Bruins counterpart on Sunday afternoon, but Mason was just as excellent and really kept the Flyers in the game with some huge stops in the third period as his teammates tried to knot things up.

First, he made an excellent blocker save on a tricky wrist shot from Bruins winger Daniel Paille as Paille cut down the wing and used Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen as a screen.  Shortly after, Mason made a remarkable save on the Bruins Carl Soderberg, who had beaten Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn, held on to the puck to get Mason moving and had an open net to shoot at. Or so he thought because Mason sprawled out and absolutely robbed him.

The NBC announcers even said to remember those saves if the Flyers came back, which they eventually did.

Sure, Mason wants to have Patrice Bergeron’s second-period goal back. It was a weak one from a bad angle that snuck underneath him. But Mason was there for his team when it needed him most. His glove hand was on point all game, too.

All told, Mason made 27 stops on the day and most were not of the easy variety.

He and the Flyers deserved a better fate at the end but so is life. A point is a point at this time of the year.

2. Vinny Lecavalier

It’s well known around these parts that Flyers head coach Craig Berube demoted Lecavalier, the Flyers’ prized offseason free-agent signing, from the second-line wing position to the fourth-line center spot before this past Friday’s game against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.

Lecavalier responded on Friday with a goal and one of his best games of the season. He continued to respond on Sunday with two goals, an impressive milestone and his best game of the year.

The 33-year-old opened the scoring when he blew a slapshot from the slot past Rask just over five minutes into the game. The goal was Lecavalier’s 400th of his career. No matter how you look at it, that’s an incredibly impressive accomplishment.

Then, with his team down a goal with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation, Lecavalier capped off a frantic scramble near the net by slamming home a loose puck to tie the game at three. That sent the game to overtime and allowed the Flyers to earn that crucial point in the standings.

The goals were his 17th and 18th of the year, respectively.

Getting demoted to the fourth line obviously had to be punch to the gut for a guy as accomplished as Lecavalier. But sometimes it can be a motivator for a player of that caliber and we’ve seen that over the past few games. He, Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo even seem to have some chemistry together.  Being back at his natural center position can’t hurt either.

Maybe Lecavalier is starting to peak at the right time. If he continues this kind of play down the stretch, he makes the Flyers that much more dangerous.

 

1. Tuukka Rask

If you wondered why Rask entered Sunday’s game as the leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy, he sure showed you and the Flyers why.

The Bruins goalie made 49 saves and a few more in the shootout to earn the victory for his team. And boy, did he ever earn it.

The Flyers dominated the game for stretches at a time and especially poured it on in the third period. But Rask had every answer until that kooky, bouncy play that tied the game in the waning seconds.

His save on a Claude Giroux shot near the end of the second period when he dove across the net to rob the Flyers captain was pretty remarkable.

The dude stood on his head the entire game. What a performance.

 

Outside of lackluster second period when the Bruins really carried the play and momentum, the Flyers again showed they can hang with the big boys of the league. Sure, the shootout loss was a pretty crummy ending but that point was well-deserved. They deserved a better fate but that point is clutch.

These two teams meet again this upcoming Saturday in Boston but next up on the schedule from hell is a trip to St. Louis on Tuesday.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.