Floundering Devils 'want it more' in win over Flyers

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Floundering Devils 'want it more' in win over Flyers

BOX SCORE

It was almost like men playing against kids.
 
Those are Scott Hartnell’s words after a numbing 3-0 loss by the Flyers on Thursday night to the New Jersey Devils. The defeat reduced the Flyers' elimination number to two points.
 
A Rangers’ victory Friday at Buffalo will officially knock the Flyers out of playoff contention.
 
“There have been other nights like this,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “I have always said that after the game, you come into the locker room and you sit here, you come in the next morning ... and the players care.
 
“The organization cares. It’s not a comfortable spot. There have been other nights like this as well, but you’ve gotta keep pushing forward.”
 
All the more reason why there should have been a little more urgency in the second period when the Devils won every battle in sight and gained control of the game.
 
“If you want to look at puck battles and who wanted it more, the second and third period, they totally took over the game,” Hartnell said.
 
“It was almost like men playing against kids. We pretty much lost every battle. You do that, you’re not going to win games.”
 
When you’ve reached the end of the regular season, you don’t seek many comparisons to previous games, but this had a familiar look about it.
 
Tight defense. Some big saves. Lack of scoring -- both ways. For a period, anyway.
 
Sort of like the 1-0 loss the Flyers suffered in Buffalo last weekend except the Flyers battled hard all the way through.
 
Not this one.
 
“They’re frustrating to play against,” Hartnell said. “And when you get frustrated, you start doing things that aren’t in the game plan.
 
“Whether it’s a turnover or one try to make a play other than chipping it in, not supporting each other on the breakout, they come hard. They skate hard. They want it more.
 
“It’s always a frustrating game to play the Devils. They probably circle every time they play us and say, ‘This is gonna be a fun game.’ They’re winning and we’re not.”
 
Since Game 2 of last year's playoffs against the Devils, the Flyers have just 14 goals in nine games against New Jersey to go with a 1-8 record. The Rangers aren't the only team that owns the Flyers these days.
 
The Flyers were the Devils’ tonic to end a 10-game losing streak (0-6-4) in which they had just 14 goals to show for it.
 
New Jersey made the most of a 1-0 lead earned early in the second period.
 
Soon after Marty Brodeur denied Claude Giroux off the rush, Jacob Josefson stole a puck off Flyer rookie defenseman Oliver Lauridsen for a breakaway goal by Matt D’Agostini that iced it.
 
The first period was very competitive with neither team having anything to show for it.
 
As usual, New Jersey’s tenacious forecheck caused the Flyers problems on the breakout, while Brodeur continually thwarted dump-ins by playing pucks up the forwards quickly and catching the Flyers in transition.
 
The Flyers’ best chance in the period came with eight minutes left when Mike Knuble briefly was alone in the slot with the puck on his stick and no one but Brodeur in front of him.
 
Devils defenseman Peter Harrold, however, blocked Knuble’s shot.
 
While the Flyers were getting some chances off the rush, Brodeur was either making routine saves or the Devils' defense was stifling the play.
 
A three-on-one into the Devils' end saw it turned right around as New Jersey mounted a two-on-one the other way off a turnover.
 
The play culminated with Ryan Carter’s wrister from the left circle that beat Ilya Bryzgalov high short side for a 1-0 lead at 5:36.
 
Two of the Devils' goals came off turnovers.
 
“The second period there was a little bit of a letdown on our part,” Danny Briere said. “The biggest problem is we don’t know how to play a patient game. The last two years, we have struggled against the Devils because they’re patient.
 
“They wait for their chance. We didn’t give them much. You look at the two goals we gave up five-on-five, they were bad turnovers in the neutral zone where we had complete control of the puck.
 
“They don’t make those mistakes. Whenever they get in that position, they just make a safe play and wait to live another day. That’s what we need to learn.”
 
Carter’s goal broke the Devils' scoreless streak at 146:13. Also, New Jersey had not enjoyed a lead in a game since the final 30 seconds against Florida on March 30.
 
Talk about droughts.
 
If that goal didn’t hurt the Flyers enough, Jakub Voracek’s 20th of the season was disallowed four minutes later because of a “distinct kicking motion.”
 
Voracek did just that and it was denied on review, too.
 
Some time around 10 p.m. Friday, the Flyers' season will likely officially end.
 
“Well you know what, it’s a disappointing season ... still a couple games left, but it’s frustrating the way we played this game,” Giroux said.
 
“They won more battles than us, that’s the thing.”
 
It's been like this most of the season, too.

2017 NHL draft prep: Options for Flyers at No. 2

2017 NHL draft prep: Options for Flyers at No. 2

The Flyers' long-term landscape changed Saturday night with a stroke of luck.

Facing long odds, the Flyers nearly won the NHL draft lottery, but will have to settle for the No. 2 pick (see story). Considering where they were projected to pick, this is a major win for the Flyers.

"We had a lot of bad luck this year," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Saturday night. "And I'm hoping this is a turning point. This is a big point for our franchise."

The Flyers came into the lottery most likely to draft 13th at 84.3 percent. Lottery rules dictated that they could only draft in the top three, stay at 13 or fall to 14 or 15th. They had a 2.2 percent chance at the top pick, 2.4 percent at the second pick and 2.7 at the third pick.

And the hockey gods were on the Flyers' side Saturday. Because of their current prospect picture — heavy on defensemen and goaltenders — the Flyers will have an opportunity to add an impact forward to their prospect pool, an immediate hole they will be able to fill.

Here are five prospects the Flyers could target with the No. 2 pick come June 23-24 at the NHL draft in Chicago.

(Note: Because the Flyers are heavy on defensive prospects, we're not including Miro Heiskanen, the consensus top defenseman in this year's draft class.)

Nolan Patrick, C, 18, 6-2/198, Brandon (WHL)
Patrick finished as the top-rated skater by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau, a spot he has been in all year long despite dealing with a groin/abdominal injury throughout the 2016-17 season. He is touted as a two-way, right-handed center who does everything well but doesn't possess any one specific elite skill. Sportsnet's Jeff Marek wrote in March, "think Jonathan Toews-lite." Patrick has NHL blood in his veins, as his father, Steve Patrick (250 games), and uncle, James Patrick (1,280 games), both have played in the league. In 33 games with the Wheat Kings this season, Patrick scored 20 goals and 46 points. He missed 39 games. During the 2015-16 season, Patrick registered 41 goals and 102 points in 72 games. He played two seasons in Brandon with Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov.

Central Scouting director Dan Marr's take: "He has more than proven over the last three years that he is the real deal and will be an impact NHL player. The poise, the presence, the attention to detail, the way he processes and executes plays — everything has been far more precise, far more accurate and a lot quicker this season."

Nico Hischier, C, 18, 6-1/176, Halifax (QMJHL)
With Patrick the projected top pick in June's draft, Hischier checks in as the early favorite to become a Flyer on June 23. Hischier had a breakout performance as an underage player — he was 17 at the time — for Team Switzerland during the 2017 IIHF World Championships, posting four goals and three assists in five games. He will likely become the highest-drafted Swiss-born player in league history. Nino Niederreiter (fifth overall, 2010) currently holds that title. Per hockey guru Bill Meltzer, Hischier would qualify for the AHL because he was loaned to Halifax this season from Bern, a professional Switzerland hockey team. In his first season in the QMJHL, Hischier led all rookies with 38 goals, 48 assists and 86 points in 57 games, earning himself the league's Rookie of the Year award and winning the Mike Bossy Trophy, awarded to the league's best pro prospect.

Central Scouting director Dan Marr's take: "Hischier is definitely worth the price of admission. He has a high skill level, but what's most impressive is the way he competes, his drive and work ethic. He is a player who is first on the forecheck forcing a turnover and when the play transitions, he's the first player back. He's in that category as a special player."

Gabriel Vilardi, C, 17, 6-3/202, Windsor (OHL)
Vilardi battled a knee injury and appendicitis in 2016-17 with Windsor, but still finished more than a point-per-game player with the Spitfires. He recorded 61 points in 49 games this season. His 29 goals led Windsor and his 61 points were second on the club. Vilardi is an excellent puck-possession forward, which drives his and his linemates' scoring. Skating is an area he can improve upon. He is a right-handed shot with good size, something that could intrigue the Flyers. He compares his game to John Tavares, the New York Islanders' star captain. He finished as Central Scouting's fourth-best rated North American skater.

Central Scouting director Dan Marr's take: "Vilardi is a high-end possession center with excellent hockey sense and puck-handling ability. He plays a very composed game with the puck, using his vision and playmaking ability to influence the game in all three zones. Vilardi excels below the dots in the offensive zone, where he utilizes his size and reach to control the play and generate scoring opportunities."

Owen Tippett, RW, 18, 6-0/200, Mississauga (OHL)
What would intrigue Flyers fans about Tippett is his shoot-first mentality, a trait not many current Flyers own. A right wing with size, Tippett positions himself in scoring areas and has a desirable shot. He's described as a strong skater with great breakaway speed. He led the Steelheads with 44 goals and 75 points in 60 games this season. His 44 goals were fifth in the Ontario Hockey League. With Patrick and Hischier the cream of this year's average crop, Tippett at No. 2 might be a reach, but he fits the mold of what the Flyers need.

Michael Rasmussen, C, 18, 6-6/215, Tri-City (WHL)
Rasmussen is a centerman with above average skating for a player his size and a knack for knowing how to use his size to his advantage. He suffered a wrist injury this season and played in just 50 of Tri-City's 72 games. He netted 32 goals and 55 points and led the Americans with 15 power-play goals, an attractive trait for the Flyers. He compares his game to Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov and former Maple Leafs superstar Mats Sundin. He finished fifth among North American skaters in Central Scouting's final rankings.

Central Scouting director Dan Marr's take: "He's playing with much more confidence this season. He's adapted to playing a bigger role and playing heavy minutes against opponents' top lines and defense. The game has slowed down for him a little bit and he's just that much more poised. He can take that extra bit of time and understands he can take that time to make plays and score goals."

NHL Playoffs: Penguins chase Holtby, beat Capitals to take 2-0 series lead

NHL Playoffs: Penguins chase Holtby, beat Capitals to take 2-0 series lead

WASHINGTON -- Phil Kessel scored twice, Sidney Crosby set up more goals and the Pittsburgh Penguins chased Braden Holtby on the way to a 6-2 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 2 Saturday night that gave them a commanding 2-0 lead in their second-round series.

Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant again in stopping 34 of the 36 shots he faced for Pittsburgh, which also got goals by Matt Cullen, Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins scored three goals on 14 shots on Holtby, who was pulled in favor of Philipp Grubauer after the second period.

Grubauer didn't fare much better, allowing two goals on nine shots. Matt Niskanen and Nicklas Backstrom scored for the Capitals, who outshot the Penguins 36-23 but still face an uphill task of trying to become just the 19th team to win a series after losing the first two games at home.

Guentzel added an empty-net goal to seal it for the Penguins, his playoff-best seventh (see full recap).

Pageau gets 4th goal in 2OT to lift Sens over Rangers
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Jean-Gabriel Pageau got his fourth goal of the game in the second overtime after scoring twice late in regulation, lifting the Ottawa Senators over the New York Rangers 6-5 Saturday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Ottawa leads the series 2-0 despite trailing by two goals after Brady Skjei's score with 14:50 left in the third. Pageau cut it to 5-4 with 3:19 left in the period, then tied it with 1:02 remaining.

Pageau scored again 2:54 into the second OT, snapping in a shot during a 2-on-1 rush alongside Tommy Wingels. Pageau is the first Senator ever with four goals in a playoff game.

Marc Methot and Mark Stone also scored for Ottawa, and Craig Anderson had 43 saves.

Skjei had two goals for New York and Michael Grabner, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan also scored. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 28 shots.

The series heads to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday night (see full recap).