10 observations from Flyers-Canadiens


10 observations from Flyers-Canadiens

Ten random observations from the Flyers’ 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

1. The Flyers started out strong Wednesday night. In fact, it wasn’t just one of their strongest first periods in a while, but they also scored in the opening period for the first time since Dec. 31 in Calgary. Sean Couturier’s goal at 6:27 wasn’t even the Flyers' first solid chance of the game -- had Brayden Schenn not whiffed on a shot a few minutes earlier, the Flyers likely could have been up 2-0 before the first 10 minutes had ticked off the clock. That’s encouraging; while it’s nice to see the Flyers fight back, they're not always going to be able to dig themselves out of early holes like they have recently.

2. It wasn’t pretty, but Zac Rinaldo’s goal was the result of some solid hard work in the Canadiens’ zone. He fought to get his initial shot, then regained control and held on long enough to get a shot off on the backhand. And sometimes, it doesn’t have to be a snipe to go in. The goal was Rinaldo’s first of the season. After two periods, somehow, he led the Flyers with four shots -- in just 4:22 of ice time.

3. What’s with the difference between the Flyers’ power play at home and on the road? It’s really striking. At home, the Flyers’ power play is 29th in the NHL. Away from the Wells Fargo Center, it’s sixth-best in the league. What could possibly make the same players play so well on the man advantage when they’re anywhere other than in Philadelphia?

4. Discipline, however, continued to be a problem for the Flyers on Wednesday. Even on the strongest nights during their recent six-game road trip, coach Craig Berube pointed to the needless penalties the Flyers have been incurring lately. He called them “bonehead plays.” The Flyers were very lucky that their penalty kill continued to be strong in front of the home crowd and that Steve Mason had yet another good game.

5. Danny Briere returned to the Wells Fargo Center for the second time as a Canadien, and hit the ice with some energy, which was nice to see. Briere’s struggles in Montreal are well-documented -- he hasn’t been able to figure out his role on the team, and he’s even been benched a few times. He had the first shot of the game on a partial breakaway, but remained off the stat sheet.

6. Andrej Meszaros is feeling comfortable, and that’s huge for the Flyers. Remember when Meszaros was somewhat of an offensive threat on the team’s blue line? It feels like ancient history, since the defenseman has spent much of this season as a scratch. He had his first three-assist game Wednesday since March 2, 2006. “It's not just me,” Meszaros said. “All the defensemen are trying to jump up into the play, whoever has the chance.”

7. With the victory, the Flyers won their 10th consecutive game on home ice for the first time since 2003-04. Fun fact: That year’s team went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m just saying …

8. Who turned the volume up at the Center? Lou Nolan’s announcements, the National Anthem and warm-up music were loud in 2013, but they’re even louder now. By the end of this season, the press corps might need hearing aids.

9. The Flyers got a loud round of applause from the crowd at the end of the first and second periods. How far we’ve come from October and November, when it seemed like nothing but boos rained down from the stands at the Wells Fargo Center.

10. Wednesday wasn’t Steve Downie’s best night. It was his turnover that led to Tomas Pleckanic’s second-period short-handed goal, and he also incurred a needless tripping penalty earlier in the game – exactly the kind of thing the Flyers know they need to cut down on. It’s not that bringing Downie in earlier in the season didn’t make sense, but the Flyers have reached a point where they need him to contribute in ways he hasn’t been. Or, at least, be more reliable.

Best of NHL: Shea Weber's PPG gives Canadiens' 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Shea Weber's PPG gives Canadiens' 5th straight win

NEW YORK -- Shea Weber's power-play goal with 2:57 remaining lifted the Montreal Canadiens to their fifth straight victory, 3-2 over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.

Paul Byron and Phillip Danault also scored to help Montreal improve to 6-0-1 and remain the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss. Al Montoya, who played for the Islanders from 2010-12, stopped 26 shots in his first start since Oct. 18 as the Canadiens beat New York for the seventh straight time.

John Tavares and Dennis Seidenberg scored for New York and Thomas Greiss had 26 saves in his second straight start and third of the season.

With the Islanders' Nick Leddy off for slashing, Weber fired a shot from the point for the tiebreaking goal. It was just the second power-play goal in 23 opportunities given up by New York's league-leading penalty-killing unit (see full recap).

Pirri, Rangers rally to topple Bruins
NEW YORK -- Brandon Pirri scored twice to help the New York Ranger beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey also scored for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots. The Rangers won their third straight game, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to improve to 5-2-0.

David Pastrnak and Austin Czarina scored for Boston. The Bruins have lost three straight to drop to 3-4-0.

Zane McIntyre made 26 saves in his first NHL start. He was called up prior to Boston's 5-0 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night to back up Malcolm Subban due to injuries to Tuukka Risk and Anton Khudobin (see full recap).

Pouliot scores twice, Oilers beat Capitals
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Benoit Pouliot scored twice, Cam Talbot made 34 saves and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Wednesday night to stretch their winning streak to four games.

Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic also scored for the Oilers (6-1-0). They have won four of five games at Rogers Place, their new downtown arena.

Alex Ovechkin scored for the Capitals (3-2-1). Braden Holtby made 25 saves (see full recap).

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Many, though not all hockey games, have a tipping point or pivotal moment that factors into the outcome.
Sometimes it’s obvious what it was and when the moment occurred. Other times, it’s overshadowed by something else on the ice.
Ask the Flyers which moment would define their come-from-behind 4-3 shootout victory over Buffalo on Tuesday and the response will be virtually unanimous: when Dmitry Kulikov leveled Jakub Voracek with a high hit that made contact to the head in the third period.
Voracek was forced off the ice under the NHL’s concussion protocol.
That hit incensed the Flyers, who went on to score two power-play goals and tie the game, 3-3. The comeback was on.
Yet there was a less obvious but significant point that happened late in the second period, and it concerned goalie Steve Mason.
Matt Moulson had given Buffalo a 3-0 lead on Michal Neuvirth at 15:43, when Flyers coach Dave Hakstol elected to make a goalie switch.
Rather than call a simple timeout to buy Mason some warm-up time and allow his team to collect itself on the bench, Hakstol challenged the goal, claiming “goalie interference.”
Replays won’t show any direct interference on the shot itself. Neuvirth was speared several seconds before the play developed.
Hakstol knew the goal would likely not be overturned, but his strategy was to buy time for Mason and his team. By using a challenge, he knew the review process would take a lot longer than the 60-second timeout.
Either way, he was going to use his only timeout.
“You know what, I think we needed a timeout at that time, anyway,” Hakstol said coyly. “Pretty low probability of it being successful. Everything worked out well in the end.”
Mason appreciated what his coach did, too. Buying extra time for you?
“Yeah, probably,” Mason replied. “Regardless of the situation, you’re sitting on the bench, you know? You’re not really gauged as much as when you’re playing, obviously. So, you just try and ramp things up as quickly as possible.”
Mason had two saves in that shortened period, five in the third period and one in the overtime to register his second victory.
“There’s a never-quit attitude in this room,” he said. “We showed in Chicago — we were just talking about that. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to close that one out.
“But guys have a belief that you get one [moment] and it comes. [Travis Konecny] got us going with his first NHL goal, which is great. The guys really pushed to capitalize on their chances.”