Flyers blank Red Wings to snap four-game skid

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Flyers blank Red Wings to snap four-game skid

BOX SCORE

One game won’t solve all the Flyers’ ills, but they did so many things so much better on Tuesday night, that you have to feel a tad better about this upcoming West Coast trip.

Steve Mason pitched his second shutout of the season.

The breakout struggled early, but opened up in the second and third periods, generating speed and chances.

Puck possession was strong and the Flyers actually dominated at times.

As such, the Flyers took a good Red Wings team that was injury-depleted and beat ‘em up -- 5-0 at Wells Fargo Center -- their first win in five games (see Instant Replay).

“From Mason out, this gives everyone a little boost,” said Flyers coach Craig Berube, as his club catapulted back into third place in the Metropolitan Division -- and back into a playoff spot.

“You can attack with the puck and just getting it out and giving it back in the neutral zone. You come out clean with the puck and attack the other team with speed.”

Did we mention Scot Hartnell had two goals, playing back on the top line for just the second time this month?

Or that Mason halted a streak of six games in which he had given up three or more goals?

“Any time you can play with the lead, that makes everyone calm down a lot,” Mason said of how the tension surrounding the Flyers eased up once Hartnell made it 2-0 in the second period with his second goal.

“I had the sense from the get-go it was going to be a game that was going to go in our favor. Every now and then, as hockey players, you have those feelings. The guys worked hard to get goals. Any time you have a five-goal output, normally, you come out on the right side of things.”

Hey, Sean Couturier scored for the first time in 10 games. Fourth line centerman Adam Hall, who is actually playing the wing but taking most draws, scored his second goal this month.

A lot went right as the Flyers brace for their toughest test yet -- three games against the top three clubs in the Pacific Division in Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles -- though not necessarily in that playing order.

“Tonight it was attention to detail and compete level,” Hall said. “A lot of times it’s not rocket science. It’s how much you want to compete. Any time you can have a game like that, it gives guys confidence.

“Defensively, for our goaltender and offensively, as well, everyone have that good feeling, especially going on a road trip that leads into the Olympic break.”

It was ugly at the start, as Berube noted, because the Flyers were still getting jammed on the breakout despite dropping three forwards back to the half-wall.

As their legs got moving, however, and players lent puck support in all three zones, it started to look like Flyer hockey from a month ago: Movement, speed, offensive chances and scoring.

“We did a better job getting out of our zone and had more chances offensively,” team captain Claude Giroux said. “The defense did a really good job of moving the puck to the forwards.”

A depleted defense, too, as Kimmo Timonen took a shot off the foot early, left in the second period and never returned.

“He’s fine,” Berube said, while general manager Paul Holmgren would only add that Timonen would be reevaluated Wednesday.

The rout broke a four-game losing skid (0-3-1).

“Huge, especially in front of our fans,” Giroux said. “At home, we need to have a better attitude and more passion and tonight it was that kind of win. We played smarter and put ourselves in better position.”

Indeed, the Flyers jumped from 10th in the Eastern Conference to seventh just like that.

Now the test is can they stay there or move back up to second place where they last were on Jan. 19?

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.