Improving Panthers Out for Revenge Against Volatile Flyers

Improving Panthers Out for Revenge Against Volatile Flyers

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Tonight is one of those nights when a loss really has the
potential to sway public sentiment over the boys in Orange & Black right as
fans are trying to feel good about the team again.

Coming off of a gigantic 2-1 victory on Tuesday against an
impressive Tampa Bay Lightning squad that’s had their number, the Flyers are searching
for their third win in a row, and perhaps more important, some momentum after a
slow start pinned them in the Atlantic Division cellar. Enter the Florida
Panthers, a sub-.500 opponent the Flyers completely destroyed by a final of 7-1
less than two weeks ago, and expectations for a W are understandably going to
be high.

Don’t expect the Panthers to be as submissive this time
around though. The group the Flyers pounded into submission back in January was
a shell of the current team, which has seen several key players return from
injury. Florida was without two-thirds of their top line in Stephen Weiss and
Kris Versteeg, but both are back in action, restoring some offensive punch to
the lineup.

Not surprisingly, the Panthers have looked like a much improved
team of late, posting a 2-0-1 record in their last three games. They were the
Southeast Division Champions just a season ago after all, so they should not be
taken lightly.

The Panthers remain one of the worst defensive teams in the
NHL however. Florida is tied for second in the league with Winnipeg with the
second-highest goals against average at 3.67 per game. Whether it’s Jose Theodore
or Scott Clemmensen, they simply haven’t been able to find the answer in net,
speaking perhaps to a larger personnel or philosophical problem.

Theordore will get the call tonight. He has a 3-4 record
with a 3.32 GAA and .896 SV% on the season. He started their last tilt against
the Flyers as well, but was pulled after allowing three scores in the first
period.

Philadelphia will turn to Ilya Bryzgalov again on the heels
of his sensational outing against the Lightning. Bryz stopped 21 of 22 shots,
including a few for the highlight reel, to bump his record to 4-5 on the
season. Some of that success against Tampa’s top-ranked top-ranked offense was due
to head coach Peter Laviolette’s strategic decision to use a left-wing lock on
the Tampa Bay forwards though, which the Flyers executed to near perfection.

Unlike their opponent though, the Flyers are not a lot healthier
for the match-up this time around, and are a little worse for the wear at that.
Wayne Simmonds is doubtful while managing a concussion, with Scott Hartnell and
Andrej Meszaros still on the shelf as well obviously. Simmonds lit the lamp
once and finished a +2 in the previous meeting.

The Flyers aren’t exactly in dire straits, but they still need
the points. They remain tied for last in the Atlantic with the New York Rangers
at eight points, and the Rags have a game on them. They’re also behind more
than eight other teams in the Eastern Conference standings, so even big picture
they’ve got work to do.

Which is why even though perception may not quite be reality
with the Florida Panthers, another loss might weigh heavy on the minds of some.

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Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

BOX SCORE

The Warriors are the blueprint of a total team in the NBA. They have a star-studded starting lineup and a top sixth man with the positional versatility that creates hard-to-combat matchups.

Yet, as the Warriors notched their 50th win of the season, 119-108, in a collaborative effort against the Sixers, they gave credit to the potential they see in their opponent, even when Brett Brown didn't have his key pieces on the court Monday (see Instant Replay).

"They play hard," Stephen Curry said. "They have some talent to work around. Hopefully they have some consistency with their roster going forward and getting guys healthy. One thing about them, you've got to compliment their energy and effort and fight every night they play."

Facing the Warriors with a full squad is challenging enough. The Sixers did it shorthanded without Joel Embiid, who is out indefinitely with a left knee contusion (see story). They also are less than a week removed from trading starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova and the defensive-minded Nerlens Noel.

"You've got to give this team a lot of credit," Draymond Green said. "They're going to be really, really, really good. I mean, they're missing Embiid and Ben Simmons and they're really on their way."

With 10 available players, including Justin Anderson, who has had just one shootaround to actually get a run in with the team, the Sixers fought until the final buzzer sounded. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 21 points and seven assists, while also collecting seven rebounds. Gerald Henderson scored 16 and both Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes added 15 (see feature highlight). Covington also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

"They play the right way," Klay Thompson said. "They made it tough on us tonight. I'm excited to see their team when Embiid and Simmons are healthy. It should be a scary frontcourt, and with Saric. They're heading in the right direction. They'll only get better this June because they have some high picks. It's a bright future in Philly."

The Sixers held the Warriors to 6 for 29 three-point shooting (20.7 percent), including an 0-for-11 outing by Curry. This was the third time this season and only the 37th time in his career Curry missed all of his three-point attempts.

"I think he had an off night," Brown said. "I think at times we got lucky with them as a team. They didn't shoot it the way the team normally would shoot it. Some of it is I give our guys credit."

Curry took his uncharacteristic performance, which included a pair of air-balls, in stride.

"The weatherman said it was a low-pressure system that was coming and I forgot to adjust," Curry said. "One thing, [I] don't ever get down on myself. Obviously that's why I got 11 of them up and not make one. You still have confidence the next one's going in."

Still, the Warriors turned to team basketball to pull away with the win. While they struggled from long range, they found other ways to run up the scoreboard, including shooting 33 for 39 at the free throw line.

Kevin Durant led all players with 27 points to go with eight rebounds. Green recorded a 14-point, 11-assist double-double and six boards. Thompson scored 21 points and Zaza Pachulia added 16. And at the end of the night, Curry still finished with 19 points in spite of his three-point woes.

"We've been doing this for a while together now and just try to find ways to get it done," Green said. "Obviously you've got to do a lot more on the defensive end to get stops, and try to create more offense. I think it was a good effort from everybody tonight to chip in."

Added Curry: "For us to still have the moxie to withstand that and still pretty much have the lead the whole game and allow our defense to get us a win tonight was kind of our M.O."

The Warriors are a perennial title contender thanks to their balanced roster and depth of weapons. The Sixers are in the beginning stages of working toward that goal. After Monday's game, the NBA's strongest example of "team" appreciated the direction in which Sixers are moving.

"Putting this franchise back together," Green said, "it's amazing to see."

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Mikael Granlund beat two defenders to find open ice and wrap the winning shot around goalie Jonathan Quick just 12 seconds into overtime, giving the Minnesota Wild a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

Granlund's 20th goal of the season gave goalie Devan Dubnyk his NHL-leading 33rd win and the Wild their 15th comeback victory. They answered all four goals in regulation by the Kings, from Nick Shore, Tanner Pearson, Jake Muzzin and Marian Gaborik.

Jason Zucker's spinning wrist shot midway through the third period tied the game for the Wild, who also had goals from Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Schroeder and Ryan White in his debut. White and Martin Hanzal were acquired in a trade with Arizona the night before (see full recap).

Kucherov's hat trick carries Lightning past Sens
TAMPA, Fla. -- Nikita Kucherov scored three power-play goals in the second period and the Tampa Bay Lightning kept their fading playoff hopes alive with a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

Kucherov had the second hat trick of his career and added an assist in the third period. Jonathan Drouin assisted all three of his goals and Victor Hedman assisted on two.

A day after trading goaltender Ben Bishop to Los Angeles and just hours after trading forward Brian Boyle to Toronto, the Lightning improved to 6-1-2 over their past nine games.

The Senators, who won at Florida on Sunday night, are 6-6 over their past 12 games (see full recap).

Galchenyuk lifts Canadiens over Devils in OT
NEWARK, N.J. -- Alex Galchenyuk scored on a power play at 2:54 of overtime and the Montreal Canadiens rallied from a two-goal third-period deficit to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Monday night.

Max Pacioretty scored twice in the final 11:23 of regulation to tie the game and Alexander Radulov added a goal for the Canadiens, who won consecutive games for the first time since early January. Al Montoya had 34 saves for Montreal.

Kyle Palmieri, John Moore and Travis Zajac scored for the Devils, who have lost four straight games (0-2-2), the past two in overtime. Cory Schneider made 29 saves.

Galchenyuk beat Schneider with a shot from between the circles less than a minute after Damon Severson was penalized for hooking (see full recap).