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.

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Pockets of NBA players have increasingly started to speak up about what they believe to be racial and social injustices taking place in the United States.

With San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem sparking protests from other players around the NFL and various sports, now the NBA as a whole is preparing for potential protests prior to games.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association union executive director Michele Roberts came together last week to formulate a joint letter to players to express how the two sides plan to take "meaningful action."

Whatever that action is, Sixers veteran Elton Brand is all for it and the overall discussion of issues going on around the country.

"There are e-mails and direct texts from the NBPA. We’re working with the NBA. They’re going to talk to us soon,” Brand said. “My thing is if you want to stand up for something, that’s a good thing. Especially in America, the tensions and the injustices that are going on right now. 

“Even in our locker room we’re discussing who feels like this, who feels like what and ways that we can display how we feel about things. I’m all for it. I stand behind it and stand with other athletes and people that want to stand for a cause. Whatever their cause is, they want to stand for a cause. Our cause may be different.”

The NBA is significantly more diverse than the NFL, and Brand even admitted it’s been an eye-opening experience having talks about issues affecting African Americans inside a locker room with players from around the globe.

“We have a lot of international players,” he said. “I’m looking around the room and there are seven people that aren’t from this country. So you talk about the flag, talk about the constitution and to them it’s like, ‘I represent America because I’m working here, but I’m pro-Spain and I have problems there, too.’ We’re all sorting it out. We’ve had discussions internally also. I’m looking forward to what the NBPA and the NBA have to offer."

What the league and players association come up with will likely serve as something other than protesting during the actual anthem. Unlike the NFL, the NBA has a rule in place that explicitly states players, coaches and trainers must stand on the foul line or sidelines in a dignified posture during the playing of national anthems.

If Sixers players do ultimately decide on some sort of protest before games, they will have the support of the organization to express their rights.

"We haven't been together collectively long enough to have a real robust discussion about it," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said. "I think we just addressed it briefly this morning with the players in an opportunity to say the following. Basically, we as an organization are going to be supportive of the views of our players. As the league and the players association formulate perhaps an approach, they've already circulated some information to teams. Things are probably still at the discussion phase. I hope to think that's where things are with our players, that they're still at the discussion phase. 

"Once again, I'm assuming that there will be a desire to express an opinion or viewpoint. I've always been supportive of people in society having freedom to express a viewpoint. Again, going back to the league and the players association, in a positive way I think they've always been out in front of some of these social issues and if they can affect social change in a positive way they probably will. You can just anticipate that there's still some unknowns to this, but you can estimate that we will be supportive as an organization as to how our players want to express their views."

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

CAMDEN, N.J. — The long wait could be over next week.

Joel Embiid expects to play in the Sixers' first preseason game Oct. 4 at UMass-Amherst against the Celtics, he said Monday at media day.

“The first thing for me is just get back on the court,” Embiid said of his expectations this season. “It looks like in a couple days I’m going to have the chance to do that.”

Embiid has missed the past two seasons since being drafted third overall because of foot injuries. Even though he is taking his rookie year one step at a time, he has a positive long-term outlook given how healthy he feels. 

“I’m confident that I’m going to have a long, successful career,” he said. “From what it looks like right now, I’m going to have a 20-year career.”

Embiid has grown as a player and a person during his recovery. He noted had he been competing in an 82-game season, he would not have had as much time to dedicate on his development. As a result of the specialized workouts and the hours he has spent in an individual practice format, he has improved his shooting and gained strength and speed. 

“What I was two years ago, I’m not even close to what I am right now,” he said. “My game has gotten so much better ... I’m not the same guy. I’m different.”

Embiid has been following a well-mapped out rehab plan during which he has had to adhere to restrictions, and will continue to do so this season. He admits the restrictions have been frustrating, but he now understands they are being implemented for his best interest long term. The lengthy recovery has forced him to change his outlook on maintaining his health. 

“The main thing I learned about myself is, I could be patient,” Embiid said. “When I was first doing my rehab, going through that, the only thing I thought about was getting back on the court. I would try to get back on the court and play more than I was supposed to. After the doctor [said] you had to heal well and I needed the second surgery, that’s when I told myself be patient and do whatever I can and make sure I listen to what people have to say.”

Head coach Brett Brown wants Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense. Embiid, who stands at a towering 7-foot-2, 275 pounds, is ready to embrace those expectations. He has studied tape of Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, among others. Embiid likes the game of Marc Gasol and appreciates how DeAndre Jordan communicates as a big man. 

“I love playing defense,” he said. “I hate when the other team scores.”

Embiid's debut will be the culmination of years of work. Now that the season is approaching, he is eager to count down the days. 

“I’m really excited,” Embiid said. “I’ve gone through a lot and it’s been two years. The fact that I’m healthy now and ready to get back on the court, I just can’t wait.”