Two Hat Tricks, Two Former Penguins Score, Flyers Up 2-0 After Historic Night

Two Hat Tricks, Two Former Penguins Score, Flyers Up 2-0 After Historic Night

What more can we ask from this series, from this game?!
The Flyers once again allowed an early—and we mean EARLY—lead, yet came back and won a see-saw game of pond hockey. Rookie Sean Couturier scored his first, second, and third career playoff goals, Claude Giroux added a hat trick of his own and set a new Flyers franchise record for points in a game. To make it all the more sweet, a pair of former Penguin playoff legends scored huge goals for the Flyers en route to an 8-5 Philadelphia win. 
Now up 2-0 in the series, the Flyers bring games 3 and 4 back to Philadelphia. They have never lost a series after being up 2-0. They're 17-0 after winning the first two games of a series. But don't think the Penguins are afraid of stats and trends. 
More in a below on one of the most entertaining games of hockey we've ever seen, won by one of the most likable groups of Flyers...
If anyone was worried about the Flyers' chances of winning the game after Sidney Crosby scored 15 seconds into the game, they probably haven't seen much Flyers hockey this season. Kulp broke down the degree to which that was just par for the course in this matchup for the season and so far in the playoffs, and it didn't stop there. After letting up three Penguins goals in the first period of game 1, they did it again in game 2. This time the Flyers at least managed a first period goal of their own, but just as they did in the series opener, they let up a Pens tally in the final minute of the frame. 
That kind of thing is so often a back-breaker. Not with this Flyers team. 
It's obviously still not ideal, but in the context of the complete game, it's not at all troubling either. The Flyers were outscored by only one team in the NHL this season—the Penguins. In these two games, we've seen what happens when the league's elite offense square off. It's not a matter of starting quickly the way it is in a game where teams are more prone to lock down and control tempo defensively. This is a battle of endurance, longevity, and depth from forwards to defense. 
And so far, the Flyers are winning it at every level. Outscoring a team that boasts a pair of Hart Trophy winners and NHL leading scorers? That's saying something. 
We're not going to get into a play-by-play breakdown of this one. There were so many goals it'd be pointless. Here's a look at the key elements in brief. 
LAVVY UPThe game got off to a frenzied start. The Flyers had their chances, but were outplayed; the Penguins took every opportunity to finish checks, and made the most of their opportunities. Peter Laviolette was PISSED at the intermission (photos and video of that here), and whatever he said once again helped turn things around. In the second period, the Flyers reversed the scoring trend, winning the frame by a 3-1 count and sending the game into the third tied. 
IT WAS ALL A DREAM...Sean Couturier has been tasked in this series with muting the other team's top scoring line. Juicy may be just 19 years old, but Peter Laviolette has trusted him from the beginning. He's played some important shifts since the beginning, and down the stretch, given even greater responsibilities. So far, he's not only kept Evgeni Malkin from lighting the lamp, he's also scored three goals of his own and assisted on another. Plus/Minus can be a misleading stat, but it's telling that Malkin was a MINUS FOUR in the game. 

MVP-NESS... AND FLYERS HISTORYCouturier wasn't the only Flyer with a hat trick... Giroux's empty netter to ice the game was his third marker of the night, the first two coming on opposite ends of the special teams battle.   Along with Couturier, the Flyers' French Connection was in full effect. Giroux assisted on a Max Talbot short-handed goal in the first period, then scored a shorty of his own in the second, this time assisted by Talbot. 
While it was great to see the Flyers win game 1 with G kept quiet, the Flyers were going to need his offense to win this series. He certainly came alive in this one. The Flyers rarely miss the playoffs, and they've had a number of outstanding scorers. On Friday night, Giroux took his place as the most prolific in a single night, setting a new record for points in a playoff game with six. Reggie Leach, Bob Dailey, and Mark Recchi each posted five. 
Flyers PR relays that Couturier's four-point night is the most for a Philly rookie in the playoffs since Peter Zezel did it on April 13, 1985, exactly 27 years ago. 
The Flyers have never had two hat tricks in a playoff game, which isn't surprising because it's f*cking amazing. 
SALT IN THE WOUNDIn addition to Talbot scoring once and assisting a Giroux shorty, he was a plus-5. Meanwhile, Jagr scored what would prove to be the game-winner when he spun around a defender and used his size to beat Marc-Andre Fleury. He must know how it feels when Flyers fans boo Crosby only to have him score huge goals in our building. Of course, Crosby never won us a Cup.
PEACHES AND BRYZGALIADon't let the goals against/shots on goal (5/28) numbers fool you. Ilya Bryzgalov was a monster for the Flyers in net. His glove was amazing, and he absolutely outplayed Fleury. 
Watch this. 
THE HOCKEY GODS ARE WATCHINGThe Pens may have scored two of their goals on the power play, but karma bit them as well. We saw that in the form of two shorties, but also a diving call on Kris Letang for acting like he'd eaten an explosive when given a little love tap. No penalties were called in the third period after the refs apparently decided to put their whistles away. 
That's about all we have energy for tonight, though there was plenty more action in the game. No recap will do that one justice, and we can't wait to see what these teams have for us on Sunday. 
HIGHLIGHTS

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.