Akeson: 'Nothing good' came from double-minor

ap-jason-akeson-flyers-rangers.jpg

Akeson: 'Nothing good' came from double-minor

NEW YORK -- Jason Akeson’s night went from a dream come true to a nightmare. And quickly.

Akeson had suited up for his first-ever NHL playoff game, and was playing well. He’d registered a few shots, blocked one and caused a giveaway, too. For a 23-year-old with only two career games with the Flyers under his belt, he looked like he belonged.

And then he took a third period high-sticking double-minor. The New York Rangers scored twice while he waited in the penalty box on their way to a 4-1 Game 1 victory (see game story).

“I guess you could say that [it was like a nightmare],” Akeson said. “But it’s not like I went out there and tried to take a four-minute penalty. It’s part of the game. It is what it is.”

Akeson, playing on the Flyers’ third line with Matt Read and Sean Couturier, was having a good night. He was playing aggressive and smart, putting three shots on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist -- good enough to tie Michael Raffl for the team lead.

The first few minutes of the game had been “nerve wracking,” Akeson said, but he had calmed himself down. He remembered it was just hockey, and had put the fans and the stakes of the game out of his mind. He’d gotten into a groove.

That is, until he went for a hit on Rangers winger Carl Hagelin at 7:35 of the third period.

“I went to hit him and my back leg kind of swung out,” Akeson said. “I don’t know what happened, I think I got hit or something, and my stick came up. It was obviously unfortunate, but it happened.”

Akeson said he had no idea at first that his stick made contact with Hagelin’s face. He had no idea he’d drawn blood and was surprised when he was handed the double-minor.

He watched Brad Richards score after the first minute of the Rangers’ power play to break the game’s 1-1 tie. And then he saw Derek Stepan add an insurance goal to the lead about 50 seconds later.

What was going through his mind as he watched the Rangers’ two quick goals?

“Nothing good,” he said. “That’s for sure.”

When Akeson returned to the bench, his teammates immediately did their best to pick him up. They told him to put it out of his mind. They reminded him that six games remained for the Flyers to get a series victory, that he shouldn’t dwell on his mistake. Their playoff hopes weren't over.

They were all “good to me,” Akeson said. They were all professionals.

“Those kinds of things happen,” Andrew MacDonald said. “As a team, you’ve got to get together and kill that off. He made a huge block earlier on that shift, sliding out to block it at the point.

“I hope he doesn’t feel too bad about it. Those kinds of things happen. He was making a good backcheck, and his stick just happened to come up.”

Akeson played 13:07 Thursday night and had even spent some time on the Flyers’ second power-play unit -- both of which were earned through strong play. His three hits added to a team total of 37, one of the few areas of the game in which the Flyers actually outplayed the Rangers.

And though he made a critical error, his coach didn’t ignore those positives. Craig Berube, though, said Akeson must improve.

“He’s got to be better with his stick,” Berube said. “Ake played a pretty good game, but you’ve got to control your stick.”

The series resumes Sunday afternoon in New York, an eternity in the realm of playoff hockey. The key for Akeson, his teammates agree, is to forget about the penalty and move on.

He’s just going to have to use it as a learning experience.

“Obviously I didn’t mean to do it,” he said. “I’ve just got to move on from here.”

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane scored three goals for his third career hat trick to lead the surging Chicago Blackhawks past the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night for their third straight win and eighth in nine games.

Kane has 23 goals to lead Chicago, which closed within three points behind first-place Minnesota in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Rookies Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and assist. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival scored his first goal of the season in his first game since Jan. 15.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews added two assists to extend his points scoring streak to five games and increase his output to 22 points in his past 13.

Jakob Chychrun, Ryan White and Radim Vrbata scored for the Coyotes. Chychrun and Vrbata each scored for the second straight game (see full recap).

Rangers outlast Maple Leafs in shootout
TORONTO -- Mika Zibanejad scored the shootout winner and the New York Rangers continued a strong February with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves and J.T. Miller scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who improved to 8-1-1 this month.

New York moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points.

Connor Brown scored for Toronto, which fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season. Frederik Andersen had a stellar performance in defeat with 37 saves.

The Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (68 points), two points back of Ottawa (70) and four back of Montreal (see full recap).

Islanders shut out Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Rookie Anthony Beauvillier scored in the first period, Thomas Greiss made 24 saves, and the New York Islanders beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Thursday night.

Anders Lee scored in the second period and John Tavares added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the Islanders' third straight win. New York has won the first two games on a crucial nine-game road swing and improved to 12-4-2 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano.

Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had two assists, and Greiss got his third shutout of the season.

Carey Price finished with 21 saves as the Canadiens lost coach Claude Julien's 1,000th NHL game. Montreal is 1-2-0 since Julien replaced Michel Therrien last week and has totaled just 14 goals while going 2-7-1 in the last 10 games, including four shutouts (see full recap).

Flyers' outdoor game vs. Pens different because of football stadium

Flyers' outdoor game vs. Pens different because of football stadium

VOORHEES, N.J. -- He grew up as a youngster in Judique, Nova Scotia, as a Toronto Blue Jays fan even though the Boston Red Sox were closer geographically.

“My brother was the Red Sox fan,” Andrew MacDonald said.

While hockey was his passion, MacDonald loved to watch baseball. Joe Carter’s walk-off home run in the 1993 World Series clinched it for Mac, then a 7-year-old.

“Didn’t see it for a while though because we only had two TV channels,” MacDonald laughed.

“Yeah, I was Blue Jays fan from Canada.”

On Saturday, the Flyers visit Heinz Field for an outdoor game against their most bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 Stadium Series.

MacDonald was a starter for the Islanders during the 2014 Stadium Series game held at the new Yankee Stadium against the Rangers. He likes outdoor games in baseball stadiums even though that is not where this game will take place.

“When I had been to New York, I had gone to a few Yankee games at Yankee Stadium,” MacDonald said Thursday after practice. “Obviously, I got to take in the experience of being a fan there. It’s a pretty great stadium. To be on the field, although it’s a different sport and setting, it was pretty special.”

Michal Neuvirth was the backup goalie for Washington in the 2011 Winter Classic held at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

“It’s just as big as if you played inside for two points,” Neuvirth said. “I just backed up that game there but it was awesome. The big crowd and we won the game with Washington. A good feeling afterward.”

MacDonald said his experience at Yankee Stadium was similar.

“It was great,” he said of the Bronx affair. “Not everyone gets to play in one of those games, so it was special. Just being in that outdoor environment and the capacity of the crowd. Really like a center stage, special experience.”

In both previous Winter Classics involving the Flyers, they were held in baseball stadiums -- Fenway Park in 2010 and Citizens Bank Park two years later. Incidentally, Claude Giroux is the only Flyer to have played in both of the franchise's two Winter Classics.

This “Stadium Series” game will offer a different “look” for players and fans because it occurs in the Steelers’ football stadium.

“Obviously, the setup of the ice surface will be right in the middle of the field as a rectangular field as opposed to baseball where it’s kind of on a different angle,” MacDonald said.

“It’s good. We’ll get a good skate in. A family skate. Yeah, I hope [weather cooperates]. It might not be the best ice, but hopefully, it goes according to plan and go off without a hitch.”

Hot temperatures Friday followed by heavy rain on Saturday could make things difficult.

“Tough to say as to what to expect,” said Neuvirth, who will start in goal. “For me, I am going to prepare myself for 8 o’clock and play my game.”

The most unusual thing that players say affect them during outdoor games is not having fans on the glass. They’re far away in the stands.

Yet in a baseball stadium, some of those fans are a lot closer to the ice than the setup in a football stadium.

“Yeah, it was kind of unique and took a while to get used to,” MacDonald said. “There’s no fans on the glass. You are kind of isolated by yourself there on the middle of the field.

“It’s not until the TV timeout where you can look around and take it all in. It's almost a practice-type mentality when you are first on the ice and then you get acclimated.

“Obviously, once the puck drops you are ready to go and know what to do. It’s definitely a unique experience once you get going.”

When he played at Fenway Park as a freshman at Union College, Shayne Gostisbehere said his only regret was not taking time out to just stop and absorb what was happening around him.

He was so focused on the game against Harvard that day in 2012, he forgot to cherish the moment.

MacDonald said that is something NHL players sometimes forget to do, as well. Take it all in because it might never occur again.

“Everyone is a little different,” he said. “You do have to play it as if it’s like every other game. There is a little adjustment period there with the fans so far away.

“That being said, you have an opportunity to embrace the moment. At the same time, you have to focus on what we’re trying to accomplish out there. Try to get the win like any other time.”

Loose pucks
• Flyers forward Jakub Voracek left the ice early Thursday with a slight limp. He was not available after practice but general manager Ron Hextall confirmed Voracek is fine and will play Saturday. The Flyers' leading scorer was hit with a deflected puck earlier this week in practice in his groin area but played without incident during Wednesday's game against Washington. 

• The Flyers left for Pittsburgh this afternoon.