Flyers Win Convincingly in Pittsburgh; You Breathe Sigh of Relief

Flyers Win Convincingly in Pittsburgh; You Breathe Sigh of Relief

Big breaths, nice and slow.

The Flyers not only dispensed of their division rivals in a fashion
that made the opponent seem rather ordinary, but they managed to gain a
point on the next closest conference rival. With a solid 5-2 victory
over the Penguins, the orange and black have all but solidified their
crown in the Atlantic Division, not to mention kept pace atop the
Eastern Conference.

The Pens came out with an unusual approach to open the game, hitting
everything that moved. Pittsburgh has gained a reputation in these parts
for being a soft team since Sidney Crosby became a household name, but
they were aggressive from the jump. Within two minutes, you could tell
one of the primary goals was to play a physical style of hockey.

It worked... for awhile.

Pitt definitely outplayed the good guys in the first period. They
were creating collisions, causing turnovers, and generally out-hustling
the Flyers. The good guys were lucky to get out of the gate tied at one.
As a Philly power play came to an end, Braydon Coburn flipped a shot on
goal from the point that hit the post. The ricochet kicked off of the
back of netminder Marc-Andre Fleury's skate, and into the goal to even
the score.

The Penguins continued to give Philly trouble into the second, with a
seemingly endless supply of odd-man rushes that eventually led to a 2-1
lead. It would be their last.

Signaling their power play struggles may be coming to an end against
one of the two best penalty killing teams in the NHL, the Flyers worked
the puck in the zone for the better part of a minute before Scott
Hartnell punched a wrap-around by Fleury to knot the game at two. At
this point, the game was getting chippy, as Brooks Orpik railed Harty
into the net well after the disc found twine.

The attitude wore off rather quickly. Less than a minute later,
Andrej Mazaros gained the zone on a feed from Sean O'Donnell, and found
Claude Giroux as he stormed the blue line. Giroux beat a Penguin
defender to his right, and sent a wrister the other way over Fleury's
blocker to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead in period two.

And that was all she wrote. The Flyers began to play conservatively,
and Pittsburgh appeared to get tired. Ville Leino added a pair of goals
in the final frame, and is one away from being the seventh club member
to reach 20 goals.

Meanwhile, the Capitals lost to the Hurricanes in a shootout, which
puts Washington three points behind the lead in the Eastern Conference.

Goes without saying this was an important win, but not just due to
the standings. The Flyers played a complete game tonight. They responded
to a team that wanted to play physical. They scored goals, on the power
play and from behind. Then when they finally got the lead, they shut it
down defensively while pouring it on at the other end.

It's almost time for some playoff hockey.

Flyers-Stars 5 things: Streaking like it's 2002?

Flyers-Stars 5 things: Streaking like it's 2002?

Flyers (16-10-3) vs. Stars (11-11-6)
1 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

Remember when it was a fight for the Flyers to simply sew together back-to-back wins?

Prior to this run, they had done it just twice in the first 22 games.

Now, they’re the hottest team in the NHL, winners of seven straight and trying to make it eight on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Dallas Stars to the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. The great eight?
Jeremy Roenick, Mark Recchi, John LeClair and Eric Desjardins.

Roman Cechmanek and Brian Boucher.

These are just some of the players that were wearing Flyers jerseys when the team last won eight consecutive games, back on Jan. 6-19, 2002.

It’s worth mentioning, before the 2004-05 season, winning streaks were a bit more challenging with a tie being the result if overtime went scoreless. The extra session was also not 3-on-3, like it is now.

Still, what the current Flyers are doing is impressive. They’ve gone to the shootout only once over the seven-game spurt and have outscored the opposition by 10 goals, 27-17.

2. Raffl winners
Dave Hakstol has called Michael Raffl a big-bodied, straight-line forward, which is certainly not off the mark.

But from time to time, Raffl will show the deceptive skill side of his game.

He did it Thursday night to win the Flyers’ 6-5 affair over the Oilers in the final minute and a half of regulation for his second game-winner over the last three contests.

"Raf has this stutter step that's undercover speedy," Steve Mason said postgame Thursday (see story). "He used it in Nashville to get a big goal and then here tonight.

"It looks like he's going to stop fully up, but he finds another gear and he really adds another element to that line that brings physical play.

"He has that sneaky talent, too, that can make you pay."

Raffl is quietly making teams pay. The Flyers are 4-0-2 in games that he scores a goal. Despite missing eight games because of injury, the 28-year-old Austrian is on pace for around 20 goals.

That’s much-valued secondary scoring and complementary play.

3. Not so bright
Before reeling off seven straight wins, the Flyers were in a similar spot to which the Stars are in now.

Dallas, which finished 50-23-9 last season — best in the Western Conference — after starting 19-5-0, can’t find consistency through 28 games this season. The Stars have won back-to-back games just once thus far and goaltending has been an issue as Dallas is surrendering an NHL-worst 3.18 goals per game.

The Stars do not lack offensive firepower, however. Center Tyler Seguin is tied for second in the NHL with 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists), while linemate Jamie Benn isn’t far behind at 24 (eight goals, 16 assists).

Also, veteran forward Jason Spezza is coming off a three-point game (one goal, two assists) in Dallas’ 5-2 win over the Predators.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: We’ve got to go Jakub Voracek after the winger’s one-goal, three-assist performance on Thursday night. Voracek has been an absolute monster on the seven-game winning streak, posting 11 points with three goals and eight assists for a plus-6 rating.

Stars: It’s hard not to say Seguin, a dynamic player who always gives the Flyers trouble. His 21 career points (nine goals, 12 assists) against the orange and black are his second most versus any team.

5. This and that
• Mason is on a career-best six-game winning streak in which he’s posted a 2.27 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Since Nov. 12, Mason is 9-3-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

• Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen is a dreadful 1-10-3 lifetime against the Flyers with a 3.49 goals-against average and .891 save percentage, while backup Antti Niemi is 4-1-0 with 1.48 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

• Dallas has won its last three meetings with the Flyers by a combined score of 7-3.

• The Stars have lost 11 of 15 on the road.

• Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last four games.

Penn State fan surprised with Rose Bowl tickets in heartwarming video

Penn State fan surprised with Rose Bowl tickets in heartwarming video

It's been a long road back to relevance for the Penn State football program. 

The Nittany Lions surprised just about everyone this season by finishing 10-2, winning the Big Ten title and claiming a spot in the historic Rose Bowl against USC on Jan. 2. 

For one fan, the surprise season went one step further.

Per ESPN's Instagram account ...

But wait, there's more. 

Not only was he surprised with Rose Bowl tickets in what could be the most touching video of the year, but he even got a personal call from Penn State head coach James Franklin thanking him for his support. 

Not a bad way to close out 2016.