Flyers Erase Three-Goal Deficit to Beat Sabres, Giroux Nets OT Winner

Flyers Erase Three-Goal Deficit to Beat Sabres, Giroux Nets OT Winner

In their first meeting with the Buffalo Sabres this season, the Flyers got to Ryan Miller early and often, sending the netminder to the bench in favor of Jhonas Enroth. Enroth slammed the door, and the Sabres nearly came back from being down 3-0, losing 3-2. Wednesday night in Buffalo was basically the opposite, aside from the fact that the Flyers still won.

The Sabres owned the early stages of the first period, and Miller looked dialed in and ready to give shooters fits all night. At the other end of the ice, Ilya Bryzgalov was shaky on a few shots, and the Sabres netted three unanswered in the first period. The Flyers probably saved Bryz's night with a Max Talbot goal in the waning seconds of the frame, and Peter Laviolette stuck with his #1.

After that, the Flyers owned most of the rest of the game, scoring three more to go up 4-3 in the second period. The Sabres tied it late in the third though, and seemed to have the momentum in overtime before Claude Giroux struck with the winner.

Below, a look at the goals and highlights, with links to video of Ville Leino headhunting and a pair of Flyer Fights.

Giroux had a superstar All-Star shining star star of the game night. He assisted on three second period goals as his line dominated with pressure in all three zones, then took over the NHL scoring lead with his overtime winner. G passed Phil Kessel for the moment with his 36th point.

As much as huge momentum swings, turnovers were the defining element of this game for both sides. There was some sloppiness for sure, but to pin it entirely on the team turning the puck over would be to neglect some very nice work by both defenses to cause them.

GOAL SUMMARY
Sabres Gash Flyers for Three in a Row
Braydon Coburn's TO on the first goal of the game wasn't one of them though. That was pretty much all on him. On their second kill of the night, Coburn paused a moment too long as he looked for a breakout pass, perhaps forgetting that there were two Sabres between him and his own net. One of the two, Luke Adam, picked his pocket and started a pretty nice tic-tac-toe play that saw him feed Zack Kassian, who put a soft drop back to Ville Leino. Yes, the game opened with the former Flyer finding the back of the net for just the third time all season.

On the previous kill, the Flyers nearly scored after taking advantage of a great shorthanded counter attack. Looked like Coburn was hoping to spring another. The downside of having a dangerous kill…

The Sabres would score a pair of goals within the last 1:05 of the first period, both of which Bryzgalov probably wishes he can have back. The Sabres' second goal was a blistering shot by Kassian past Marc-Andre Bourdon, who probably screened it for a second. The third appeared to be deflected, but Bryz still appeared to have it before it fell in behind him. It came on a Sabres power play after a fairly dumb Andrej Meszaros penalty (easy for me to say, not always as easy as it looks to hit a man in motion before he's past you).

Neither goal was terrible, but it began to look like we might see Bob for the second period.

Flyers Find Twine, Life
But despite seeing two goals in the last 65 seconds of the period, we hadn't seen them all yet. Max Talbot scored with 1.5 on the clock, and even THAT wasn't the last of the first period action. Perhaps in an effort to wrest momentum control back to the Sabres before heading into the locker room, Corey Tropp tangled with Zac Rinaldo, and beat him pretty soundly.

Unfortunately for the Sabres, the fight didn't have the desired effect.

The Flyers, perhaps further inspired by birthday boy (47!) Peter Laviolette's intermission speech, came out swarming in the second. The G Line in particular was just nasty, but they weren't alone despite owning the scoring.

Miller's Run
Miller was once again run into, only this time it wasn't by an opponent. Amidst pressure by Wayne Simmonds, defenseman Brayden McNabb crashed into Miller, stripping him of his mask (which we're pretty sure is spring-loaded). Scott Hartnell tried to fire home the loose puck, but ended up catching Miller in the face with it. Miller was shaken up and bloodied, and the Flyers would take advantage for the rest of the period.

Marc-Andre Bourdon and War
Bourdon nearly cost them another man-advantage opportunity when he boarded Nathan Gerbe, drawing an easy call. However, Gerbe's teammate Matt Ellis quickly came to his defense, goading Bourdon into a fight. A damn good one at that. Noble as it was, and we'd have had our guy do the same thing were the jerseys reversed on the hit, Ellis was assessed an instigator penalty, negating Bourdon's minor. [View Fight Videos Here]

G Liners Take Over
A moment later, the Flyers scored their second goal, bringing them within a goal on a deflected shot. Kimmo Timonen put a knuckler on net, and rookie stud horse Matt Read deflected it past Miller, who was again pressured by Simmonds in the paint.

The Flyers kept the pressure up throughout the period, and Scott Hartnell tied the game with five minutes left in the frame. The goal came after Giroux stripped Tyler Ennis of the puck along the boards, then sent it over to Hartnell, who fired a shot off of defenseman Christian Ehrhoff's skate and past Miller.

Three minutes later, the line struck again to give the Flyers a 4-3 lead. They were active on the back-check, forced a turnover, and G and Hartnell fought hard for the puck in the neutral zone. Harts got the puck to Giroux, who found Jaromir Jagr before the Czech could leave the ice for a line change. Jagr put a nice move on, then ripped a wrist shot high on Miller to make it 4-3 good guys.  

Oh No...
The Sabres continued to wilt after that, and the Flyers went into protect mode in the third period. It looked like they had it won, but Lindy Ruff pulled his goalie for the extra skater with about a minute and a half left. Buffalo went on the attack, and the Flyers didn't match their pressure, standing flat-footed while Drew Stafford scored a back-breaker.

OT...
Fortunately, the Claude Giroux wasn't done impregnating the net just yet. Once again, a turnover led directly to a great scoring opportunity, when Marc-Andre Gragnani let loose a terrible pass in the back end of the Flyers zone with none other than Giroux in the vicinity. Is there anythi
ng better than the sight of G skating down the ice with nothing between him and a goalie?

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg wins 14th as Nationals down Indians

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg wins 14th as Nationals down Indians

CLEVELAND -- Stephen Strasburg shut down Cleveland for seven innings and bounced back from his only loss this season, leading the Washington Nationals to a 4-1 win over the Indians on Wednesday.

Strasburg (14-1) began the season with 13 straight wins before he was beaten by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 21. The powerful right-hander shook off that blemish, holding the Indians to only three hits as the Nationals recovered after blowing a two-run lead in the ninth and losing on Tuesday night.

Washington rookie Trea Turner drove in three runs and Daniel Murphy hit his 20th homer off Carlos Carrasco (7-4), who nearly matched Strasburg but was done in by one bad inning.

Nationals reliever Blake Treinen stopped Cleveland's threat in the ninth, getting a game-ending double play for his major league save.

Strasburg walked one and struck out seven (see full recap)

Cardinals snap Familia's saves streak, rally past Mets 5-4
NEW YORK -- Yadier Molina and pinch-hitter Kolten Wong each stroked an RBI double in the ninth inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals ended Jeurys Familia's streak of 52 straight saves in rallying past the New York Mets 5-4 on Wednesday night.

Yoenis Cespedes hit a go-ahead homer off Adam Wainwright to cap a three-run comeback in the seventh that gave the Mets a 4-3 lead. But then Familia, who hadn't blown a regular-season save opportunity since July 30 last year, finally faltered.

Jedd Gyorko drew a one-out walk in the ninth and was replaced by pinch-runner Randal Grichuk. Molina hit the next pitch to deep center field, and Grichuk scored standing up to tie it.

Molina was thrown out at third by Familia (2-2) on pinch-hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker's comebacker, but Hazelbaker stole second and scored when Wong lined a double just inside the left-field line.

Familia's franchise-record saves streak was the third-longest in major league history behind Tom Gordon (54) and Eric Gagne (84).

Jonathan Broxton (3-2) tossed a scoreless eighth and Seung Hwan Oh got three quick outs for his sixth save (see full recap)

Padres hit 3 HRs to extend streak, beat Blue Jays 8-4
TORONTO -- Adam Rosales hit a two-run home run, Alex Dickerson and Brett Wallace each hit solo shots and the San Diego Padres beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 on Wednesday, avoiding a three-game sweep.

San Diego extended its club-record streak of games with at least one home run to 25. It's the longest run since the 2002 Texas Rangers set a major league record by homering in 27 straight.

Luis Perdomo (5-4) allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings to win back-to-back starts.

Wallace reached base three times. He was hit by a pitch and scored on Rosales' homer in the third, connected off R.A. Dickey in the fifth and hit an RBI single off Joe Biagini in the sixth.

Dickerson homered for the fourth time in four games when he connected off Franklin Morales in the eighth. He is first Padres rookie to homer in four straight games.

Dickey (7-12) allowed seven runs, six earned, and four hits in 5 2-3 innings. The knuckleballer is winless in three starts and has allowed six home runs in that span (see full recap).

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Earlier this week, Doug Pederson admitted cornerback Eric Rowe had some “hiccups” during the spring, and seemed to indicate they stemmed from learning a new defense. 

Rowe says that wasn’t the problem at all.

“It wasn’t the new defense that was giving me whatever hiccups [Pederson] was talking about,” Rowe said on Wednesday as he reported for his second training camp (see Day 3 observations). “It was just, I was having trouble breaking on top of the routes, specifically the curl routes. But fade ball, deep post, digs, I didn’t have any trouble there. It was just curl routes. I just knew I had to work on it after the OTAs.”

Rowe, 23, said the problem was technical; he just needed to get his feet down quicker.

Whatever the problem, whatever the hiccups, it seems as though Rowe’s standing within the organization and on the depth chart isn’t what it once was.

Many thought he would be a starter in 2016, like he was at the end of 2015, but that wasn’t the way things were in the spring. Instead, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks took those positions, and it looks like Nolan Carroll, returning from an injury, and rookie Jalen Mills, who hasn’t yet practiced in pads, are vying for playing time, too.

In back-to-back days earlier this week, Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz failed to mention Rowe’s name while listing players at the cornerback spot. Coincidental omissions or a vocalized unofficial depth chart?

Rowe could possibly go from starter to deep bench player, but that’s not what he’s planning on.

“I know I had a little ups and downs in OTAs, but now the pads are coming on,” Rowe said. “I feel like it’s a fresh start for me and I’m just ready to get out here.”

Pads go on Saturday.

“Right now, I think I still stand in a good position (with the team),” Rowe said. “Football is about the game with pads on. Now we’re really about to see in a couple days when we put the pads on.”

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

He looks like a small back. He's built like a small back. He wants to play like a big back.

Wendell Smallwood, trying to make the Eagles as a reserve tailback, stands 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, but he said he’s got a surprise for defenders that think he’s one of those itty-bitty backs that dances around looking pretty … until they get hit.

“I think that’s what most people expect,” he said Tuesday. “But when I actually put my head down and fight for those extra yards and get under guys, guys start to say, ‘Hey!’ They start to feel me a little bit.

“So I definitely think that started to show my last year in college, and I started becoming more of an inside zone type of runner instead of an outside runner.”

None of this should be a surprise considering Smallwood’s position coach is Duce Staley, who during his 10-year NFL career was much more interested in running over people than around them.

Smallwood is nowhere near as big as Staley, who played at about 235 to 240. But that’s the kind of back he wants to be.

“It’s definitely important to me and it’s definitely what Duce wants me to do,” Smallwood said. “He wants me to hit the holes and hit ‘em hard and that’s the reason he got me here.

“Duce, he doesn’t like small backs. He doesn’t. I don’t think he believes in those guys. He was a big boy. Running dudes over left and right. That’s what he wants.”

Smallwood played sparingly as a freshman at West Virginia, shared time with Rushel Shell as a sophomore, then took over last year when he led the Big 12 with 1,519 rushing yards and added nine touchdowns, 26 catches and a 6.4 rushing average.

The Eagles plucked him out of Morgantown in the fifth round, and in an uncertain running back picture, he’s got a realistic chance to not just make the team but also play a role.

Just don’t expect him to play like a typical guy his size.

“I don’t consider myself a small back anymore,” he said. “People have always said that and I kind of started to agree, but then I looked at some of the guys who are around and I’m not a small back at all.

“I’m not little and the running style I like to do is suited for a big back, and my catching kind of throws people off. I definitely think I’m a mixture of both.”

Smallwood ranked 13th in Division I in rushing yards last year, and his 6.4 average was tied for ninth among backs with at least 200 carries.

He said a lot of defenders expect him to be a finesse back, a guy who likes to juke safeties and linebackers instead of bowling them over.

“Get me going downhill and I’ll get you what I can get you,” he said. “A lot of [defenders] kind of take the easy route and think it’s going to be easy and then the rest of the game they’re going low and trying to take my legs out.”

Look at the Eagles’ running back picture.

The starter is Ryan Mathews, who is talented but injury-prone. The backup right now probably is Kenjon Barner, who has 34 career carries. Then there’s Darren Sproles, whose 3.8 average last year was his lowest since 2009 and second lowest of his 11-year career.

With a strong camp, there’s no reason Smallwood can’t work himself into that picture.

The last frontier for the Northern Delaware native is blitz pickup. Something he was never asked to do at WVU.

“I don’t think I did basically any in college,” he said. “They didn’t ask me to block at all. I was mainly running routes.

“But as soon as I got here, Duce emphasized, ‘If you want to get on the field, you’re going to block. If you’re not going to block, you’re not going to play.'”

Staley’s No. 22 wasn’t available, but Smallwood is happy to wear the jersey number of another one of his favorite backs growing up, Correll Buckhalter’s No. 28, who he seems quite similar to.

It’s not fair to compare Smallwood to Staley, Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook or any other former Eagles back until the pads go on and we see what he’s really made of.

But Smallwood said he’s thrilled Staley is his coach and said there’s nobody he’d rather be playing for.

“I think he’s a great fit for me as a coach,” Smallwood said. “I need a kind of guy who drives me, tough guy, who’s not going to let up, who’s going to keep his foot on my back. I definitely need that kind of coaching.

“Just being around him growing up and seeing what he did when he was here and how he runs and him being one of my favorite backs, I was kind of star-struck to be around him, and now he’s my coach. It’s definitely a great situation for me.”