Flyers begin crucial road trip with wild-card hopes in jeopardy

Flyers begin crucial road trip with wild-card hopes in jeopardy

From five teams to three teams.
 
That's how many clubs the Flyers now need to leap frog over to put themselves into the second wild card spot after Sunday night's huge win over the Hurricanes (see story).
 
Even though they are just five points out, because they have just one head-to-head game against a team ahead of them, the odds remain daunting as they begin a four-game road trip Tuesday night in Winnipeg.
 
"We've given ourselves a chance," Jakub Voracek said. "We got to get some points and hope for other teams to lose some games."
 
That said, if the Flyers can harness the emotion, the positive energy and strong play from Sunday's 4-3 overtime win against Carolina, perhaps they can do the unexpected and win out their final 11 games.
 
They will need at least nine wins to grab that wild card.
 
"We have to, we have no choice," said goalie Steve Mason, who will be in net Tuesday in Winnipeg. "This trip will probably determine the outcome of the season. Just based on this trip, there's very little room to make up ground. Four tough tests and it would be ideal to come away with four victories.
 
"Everybody understands the position we're in and what it's going to take in order to come out on top. We have to find that consistency. That is the biggest thing right now."
 
Toronto has 12 games left with 79 points. The Flyers blew their chance at a four-point game against them when they lost 4-2 on March 9 in Canada.
 
The Islanders have 11 games left with 78 points. The Flyers have one game left with them. Tampa Bay has 77 points and the Flyers have no games left with the Lightning. Three of the Flyers toughest games down the stretch come during this trip.
 
The two games against Columbus between now and the end both require wins.
 
"A big win last night but we have to forget about it and think about tomorrow night," Sean Couturier said. "Another big game. We have to win.
 
"If we lose, what we did yesterday is probably worth nothing. We've got to get streaky here and get going a little bit."
 
There was a ton of positive energy in the Flyers dressing room after Sunday's game. Same thing today at practice after their team photo at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
"It's coming off a good win," coach Dave Hakstol said. "We have a pretty strong group in here, mentally. Guys have showed up with a great mind frame all along. 
 
"We talked a little bit about the entire trip. Four games, that's an easy segment. Most importantly, look at the Winnipeg game."
 
If the Flyers win 10 of their final 11, they'll finish with 94 points. The Maple Leafs have a half-dozen tough games left, including facing Columbus twice, Pittsburgh and Nashville. They also face Tampa Bay which hurts the Flyers because someone -- maybe both teams -- will earn points.
 
The Isles? Just five tough games left on their schedule, including the meeting here against the Flyers on March 30.
 
What has to happen? Toronto, Tampa Bay and the Isles need to go on a losing skid with the Flyers nearly winning out.
 
"Nobody knows," Hakstol said. "We don't have a whole lot of margin, that's for sure. I won't worry about the next 11. You can't start looking that far down the road right now. We've got to be very ready to play a hockey game tomorrow night."

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).

Ron Hextall on landing No. 2 overall pick: 'This is a big day for our franchise'

Ron Hextall on landing No. 2 overall pick: 'This is a big day for our franchise'

You remember the 2007 NHL draft?

The Flyers were robbed that year in the draft lottery and were forced to settle for the No. 2 overall pick later that June.

They chose James van Riemsdyk and the Chicago Blackhawks — drafting first — tabbed Patrick Kane.

Well, the Flyers got some needed payback Saturday night in Toronto at the 2017 draft lottery.
 
While the Flyers didn't win the top overall pick in this year's draft, they pretty much won the lottery just the same, moving from 13th overall to the No. 2 selection (see story).

"This is a big day for our franchise," said general manager Ron Hextall, who was an assistant general manager with Los Angeles in 2007 when it was Paul Holmgren's team in Philadelphia.

"When the 13th pick went by there and we knew we were one, two or three, that was a huge move for our franchise. We couldn't be more excited."

New Jersey will pick No. 1 and Dallas will pick third. Neither Colorado, the worst team in the NHL, nor Vegas, the newcomer to the NHL, made the top three.

The Flyers bucked enormous odds to advance from 13th to No. 2. They had a 2.4 percent chance of pulling it off. They were nearly 89 percent certain to remain at 13.

Maybe their luck is changing.

"We had a lot of bad luck this year," Hextall said. "I'm hoping this is a turning point for some of that to be turned around. This is a big point for our franchise. We're obviously going to get a very good player and hopefully in years, we'll look back on this as a turning point for us."

Depending on what the Devils do, the Flyers, who need offensive pop, are expected to select either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, both promising forwards who are considered impact players.

While this draft is nowhere near as deep as last year's with Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine, it still holds quality in the first round and the Flyers are guaranteed a player who should make a difference.

"This isn't as bad as a draft as people say it is," Hextall said. "We felt with the 13th pick, we would get a good player. It's probably an average draft.

"The last couple drafts have been bumper but this is a good draft. Obviously, moving up to No. 2, we're going to get an even better player."

Patrick, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, played for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League and was named the top skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau despite missing parts of the season with a lingering groin/abdominal injury.

The 6-foot-2, 198-pound center had 20 goals and 46 points in 33 games and still was a consensus No. 1 or 2 player by most scouts. His lineage is excellent, as his uncle, James Patrick, played 1,280 games.

Hischier is trying to become the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history. Nino Niederreiter was taken fifth overall by the New York Islanders in 2010.

The 6-foot, 176-pound Hischier led the QMJHL rookie class with 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games this season.

Can either Patrick or Hischier play right now?

"I don't know who that player is going to be," Hextall said. "Any player, as you know from my history, they've got to come in and earn it.

"If we draft a player at No. 2 and he comes in and earns it, then he'll be on our team. If he needs more time, he needs more time."

That said, Hextall admitted his scouting staff had paid attention to pick anywhere from No. 1 to 13th or worse, especially after things started going south for the Flyers in late winter and the playoffs began slipping away.

Hextall would not compare this year's draft-eligible players, talk about them individually or indicate which player he felt might be available at No. 2.

For now, Hextall envisions keeping the second pick but wouldn't rule out trading down if the right offer was there.

"You can't say no to anything because you don't know what will come your way," Hextall said.

The Avalanche, who had the best shot at winning the No. 1 pick, will draft fourth. Vancouver is fifth and Vegas will pick sixth.

Hextall watched the draft lottery on TV after returning home from Finland.

"Sometimes you get some good luck and sometimes you get some bad luck," Hextall said. "This was a fortunate day for our franchise. This was a big one."