900 games is a lot, but Hartnell isn't satisfied

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900 games is a lot, but Hartnell isn't satisfied

DALLAS -- Not many hockey players can say this, but Scott Hartnell can.

His first two NHL games were in Tokyo, Japan. They counted in the standings, too.

“I don’t think many people even know that,” Hartnell said. “We started against Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr and those [Pittsburgh] guys in Japan, which was really cool.”

Come Saturday, that will have happened 900 career NHL games ago when Hartnell takes the ice against the Stars.

“It’s amazing how time flies,” Hartnell said. “It’s been an unbelievable journey. A lot of great stories, a lot of great times. We live a great life to play this game we love.”

Quick, what comes to mind first among memories?

Because Hartnell was from Regina, Saskatchewan, the first time he went to Edmonton, he had to pony up with tickets. Twenty-five for his relatives and friends.

“That was a neat trip to Edmonton,” he recalled.

What next?

“Signing in Philadelphia was a treat and this great organization,” he replied without hesitation. “The whole Stanley Cup run in 2010. Coming back against Boston. That was definitely in my top five, for sure.”

Hartnell knew this milestone was approaching. He saw it in the media notes. He’s spent 13 years in the NHL -- seven with the Flyers.

“It’s gone very quickly,” he said. “We just finished up in Nashville where it all started for me. That brought back memories. Six or seven years, I was there. I’ve been in Philly longer than I had been in Nashville.”

It would have been cool to have played No. 900 in Music City. Or even at the Wells Fargo Center, but oftentimes milestones such as these occur on the road.

“I look back and remember I was sick one game at age 18,” he said. “A healthy scratch once at 21. Couple injuries here and there. It is what it is.

“Kimmo [Timonen] played his 1,000th last year on his birthday. I don’t think that has ever happened.”

Indeed, Timonen’s milestone came on March 18 in Tampa Bay.

“We started a long way ago,” Timonen said. “In 2000 … we became friends right away and roommates. We’re really tight buddies right now.”

Look around the NHL and you see the Sedin twins playing together for one team only. You see Patrik Elias and Marty Brodeur in New Jersey and you have Hartnell and Timonen, not with one club but two.

“I don’t think there is a couple who played on two different teams,” Timonen said. “I’m happy to see him get 900.”

Hartnell and Timonen came to the Flyers in an offseason trade in 2007. Hartnell has spent all 900 games playing with Timonen.

“That doesn’t happen very often,” Hartnell said. “He’s my best friend. This could be his last year. We talk about being on the road and seeing cool cities and when will ever go back to Nashville and play them again.

“It’s a pretty cool milestone for me, obviously. A thousand games would be even more special. I’ve played a lot of games in this league trying to win a Stanley Cup and we haven’t been able to do that. Games are fun, but it counts when you get into the playoffs and play for the Cup.”

Incidentally, he has another milestone coming up, as well. Hartnell needs four points for 500 in his career.

At 31, he openly admits that he realizes that the only thing that matters at this stage of his career is winning a Cup.

Which is why Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals still lingers like a bad dream that won’t ever go away.

Patrick Kane’s short-side goal clinched the Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime.

“That game is still crushing to me,” Hartnell said, trying to laugh it off when you know inside he was crying.

He’s not the first immensely popular Flyer to feel that pain.

In 2004, when Ken Hitchcock’s Flyers lost Game 7 at Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals, Jeremy Roenick, banged up and concussed, wobbled out of the trainer’s room and sobbed.

“We came so close and I’ll probably never get another chance,” Roenick said at the time.

It was devastating. Roenick was right. He never got another shot.

Hartnell wonders whether 2010 will be as close as he ever gets.

“You walk the hallways of Detroit and see those Stanley Cup teams and how great this team has been since the NHL started,” Hartnell said, referring to the outside walls in the bowels of Joe Louis Arena where the dressing rooms are.

Detroit’s Cup years and players' names are painted on the walls.

“To have your name up on a wall and be remembered forever is pretty neat,” Hartnell said. “The money is great, the fame, and everything that comes along with hockey, but if you don’t win a Stanley Cup, there is something missing from the whole deal.

“I’ve come to realize that in the last few years. The Cup is what it is all about. It’s not about scoring goals. It’s about winning it. That’s the bottom line.”

One thing saddens Hartnell. Timonen has talked of this being his last year in the league.

“We’re trying to make this a great year for him,” Hartnell said. “And obviously, a great year would be to win the Cup. We’ve got a lot of work to do and games to win between now and then.”

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

DETROIT -- Nikita Kucherov scored 3:28 into overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night.

Situated on the edge of the crease, Kucherov redirected a hard pass from Brayden Point into the net.

The Lightning are one point behind the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point (see full recap).

Islanders notch shootout win over Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- John Tavares and Anthony Beauvillier scored in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.

Beauvillier opened the shootout with a goal, and Tavares snapped a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the next round. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh, but Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since Dec. 29, stopped Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.

Anders Lee scored his 28th goal of the season, while Brock Nelson got his 17th and Casey Cizikas his eighth for the Islanders, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is tied with Boston at 82 points, but the Islanders have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have 18 wins in 31 games since Doug Weight was named interim coach on Jan. 17, replacing Jack Capuano.

Halak, a former All-Star, made 37 saves (see full recap).

Cracknell nets first hat trick in Stars' win
DALLAS -- Adam Cracknell got his first hat trick in seven NHL seasons and the Dallas Stars handed the San Jose Sharks their fifth straight loss, 6-1 on Friday night.

Cracknell opened the scoring in the first period, capped a three-goal flurry in the second and beat goalie Aaron Dell on a short-handed breakaway in the third for his career-high 10th goal of the season.

The Sharks entered two points ahead of Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division despite their longest losing streak of the season. San Jose has been outscored 16-5 during the stretch.

Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars.

Joe Thornton scored for San Jose on the power play in the second period. Dell had 23 saves.

Dallas' Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves four nights after shutting out San Jose (see full recap).

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

You know Dave Hakstol has reached crisis measures when he takes a skill player in Travis Konecny and throws him onto the fourth line while promoting Matt Read to the top line.

This was risk-taking at its craziest to generate some enthusiasm and life into a Flyers squad that didn't show much of a pulse a few nights earlier in Winnipeg.

Guess what?

It worked during a 3-1 victory on Thursday, the Flyers' fifth straight win over the Wild going back a few years (see Instant Replay).

Their playoff hopes still flicker.

As much as the fan base hated the lineup moves, consider this: general manager Ron Hextall was very explicit this week in saying that the roster Hakstol has right now is what it is. Hextall is not going to promote any young Phantoms into a bad situation when they are headed for what could be a decent playoff run in the AHL.

Therefore, as my former colleague Bill Lyon would say, here are 10 things I think, I think …

1. The Flyers began the game as they have so often this season with yet another turnover and scoring chance against them. Rinse and repeat. The Flyers had three turnovers in less than five minutes to start the game.

2. Minutes later, Steve Mason coughed up a bad rebound off his stick and Zach Parise burned him with a gimme goal for a 1-0 lead. Mason had issues in this one with rebounds that were looking like grenades, but he settled down with a strong final two periods with 24 saves. This was Mason's 100th win as a Flyer (see game story).

3. You had to see it to believe it. Sean Couturier with a nice backhand shot through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to make it a 1-1 game near the end of the opening period (see feature highlight). I haven't seen that kind of offensive move from Couturier in quite some time. Question is, why can't he do that nightly instead of semiannually? That's the offensive spark you know Couturier is capable of providing.

4. The Wild were very aggressive in this one as they were trying to clinch a playoff spot, so the Flyers had to match that intensity. The Flyers more than matched it. This was far, far better than what Hakstol's team brought to the ice in Winnipeg. Not even close, as the Flyers dominated.

5. Matt Read had a quick stick -- no other way to explain it -- on his goal in the second period off a series of Wild turnovers that came about because of a play set up by Jakub Voracek. That goal seemingly stunned Dubnyk. It was Read's second goal in the last two games. He was all over the ice in this one. Many nights this season, Read was invisible. Not this game.

6. The Flyers had some genuine scoring chances in this game. You had to wonder where this desire to skate, create and score was all through the month of February and into March. The Flyers had strong forecheck pressure and a rebound-attack mentality the entire second period. If that had happened with regularity down the stretch, this team would be sitting in the wild card right now.

7. While the shake-up of the lines obviously benefited Read, it did little for Konecny and actually set him back. He was invisible. No shots. No hits. Invisible with little ice time. Really can't figure this move out but obviously, Hakstol is upset with him for some reason.

8. Minnesota went all in at the NHL trade deadline to get Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, forking over four draft picks, including a first-rounder. The Wild were leading the Central Division before losing six straight (and eight of nine) that allowed Chicago to regain the top spot in the division. The Wild don't look like the same confident, surging team it was a month ago in the Western Conference.

9. Minnesota had a strong push in the final five minutes and the Flyers had some initial difficulty answering that until the final minute when Wayne Simmonds picked up his 300th point as a Flyer on Voracek's empty-net goal to seal the deal. A nice way to finish off a complete effort by everyone involved.

10. The Flyers picked up two points on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and are six behind the Bruins in the wild card. They still remain a l-o-n-g shot to make the playoffs, given the sheer number of teams ahead of them that they need to climb over.