Fleury, Penguins Grind Flyers to a Nub

Fleury, Penguins Grind Flyers to a Nub

Tough loss, but nowhere near as bad as Game 4. It'd be hard to sink lower than that one… The good news is, the Flyers' effort was leaps and bounds better in Game 5. The bad news is obvious—the Pens are absolutely back in this series after winning a tight battle, 3-2. 
Recappish notes, video, below.  
We're not going to linger too much on this one. It's Friday night after a long week of hockey, and there's not actually a lot to dissect here. After a game like that, the recap is a few more beers and maybe a back yard fire. 
Again buoyed by their success on the power play, the Flyers got out to an early lead in Pittsburgh. The game looked like it would be called tight, which benefits the Flyers so long as they're getting the calls. All three of their Game 4 goals came on first period power plays, and in Game 5, they punched in two more on the man advantage. 
Again, they'd be the only goals the Flyers would score on the night. Five-on-five play wasn't dominated for 60 minutes by the Pens, but they held the even strength advantage on the scoreboard, and that's all that mattered on the night. 
The first period was a tease. The Pens appeared ready to come unglued, taking dumb penalties and paying the price. Deryk Engelland's mauling of Danny Briere led to the first goal, a sharp wrister by Matt Carle. After Steve Sullivan scored on a Pittsburgh power play (after a Braydon Coburn interference we never saw on replay), Evgeni Malkin would take the first of his two dumb penalties. Geno mugged Brayden Schenn into the net, and after Craig Adams was sent to the box for a slash on Jaromir Jagr (one I didn't agree with), the Flyers scored on a 5-on-3 for the second time in the past two games. 
It was gorgeous too, despite the caveat that it was a 5-on-3. Watch how the umbrella draws the Pens' top pair up, then drops the puck down to an open Danny Briere, who saucers a pass over the outstretched stick of Brooks Orpik to Scott Hartnell for the water bottle shaker…

At that point, it felt like the Flyers really had the edge. The second period's been their jam frame all season, but not on Friday night… They looked gassed, with forwards and defenders double-shifting to compensate for injured regulars. 
A pair of Penguins goals in the second changed the landscape in that middle period. Jordan Staal tallied off a great outlet relay from Kris Letang to Tyler Kennedy through the neutral zone, and a Kennedy blast beat Bryz as a weary shift of Flyers failed to challenge an open shooter. 
The power play gravy chain was halted, with only one call for each side in the frame. Malkin went hunting on Sean Couturier and drew a call, but the Flyers couldn't score on the advantage. Fresh out of the box, Malkin put a shot on Bryz, then ran him over, but didn't get a second call. 
The Flyers looked better in the third, controlling play for much of it, but Marc-Andre Fleury came up huge. No matter what they threw at him, he was square to it. In two games, MAF hasn't been beaten at even strength, and two of the five goals he's allowed came on 5-on-3's. 
Neither side scored in the third, and only one penalty was called. After showing a strong hand in the first period, the officials really let them play as the game went on, and it didn't necessarily favor the Flyers. [Watch JVR get mugged in plain sight.]  
To close out this series, they'll need to get their even strength scoring back on track. And, they'll need better luck. They appeared to have MAF beaten a few times early (ping!) and late (whiff!). Connecting on just one of several missed opps would have meant a different game altogether. But when isn't that true? 
Hat's off to MAF for being the difference in a pretty good hockey game. 
Notes:Bryz came up big in the third period, but clearly looks slowed by his pair of injuries. 
How's this for an ice time breakdown for the Flyers: Per Flyers PR, "Matt Carle played 29:40 in the game; Braydon Coburn played 29:11 and Kimmo Timonen 25:01. Pavel Kubina, Andreas Lilja and Erik Gustafsson played 25:52 combined." Hope Nick Grossmann makes it back for Sunday's game 6. 
Riemer was eased back in, playing sparsely early but showing some legs late. He still played just 7:31 in the game. 
At least Malkin put a huge hit on Crosby. Yes, really. 
Game 6 will be at noon on Sunday. 
I've about had it with talking about that pair of losses. Not the end of the world, but the Pens earned their way back into the series, winning the least laughable game of the series to date. The Flyers rebounded in the third though, showing they're nowhere near ready pack it in. 
Photo: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks, 1-0, in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story).