Flyers cap turnaround with playoff-clinching win

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Flyers cap turnaround with playoff-clinching win

BOX SCORE

SUNRISE, Fla. -- They had been beaten up 4-1 by the Penguins a few days earlier. A few days later, on Oct. 21 at its practice site in Voorhees, N.J., team captain Claude Giroux boldly predicted the Flyers would make the playoffs.

They were 1-7 at the time, having fired coach Peter Laviolette and replaced him with Craig Berube just three games into the season.

“Eighty-two games is a lot of games, and it was only eight games and we had to believe in ourselves,” Giroux said Tuesday after his improbable prediction came true.

“When we started believing how good we were, we started winning games. [Someone] looked at me with crazy eyes when I said that, but it’s good to be in the playoffs. I just believed in our team. We had a good team.”

Berube’s Flyers clinched a playoff spot Tuesday with a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center (see Instant Replay).

A four-goal outburst in the second period made it 4-0 as Giroux scored twice.

“Last year, not making the playoffs, it’s Philadelphia and it’s unacceptable and we were aware of that,” he said. “For us to make the playoffs this year after the start we had, we got to be proud of ourselves and make sure we keep playing like that.”

Truth be told, the Flyers had a poor start to this game after a scoreless opening period, a great second period and then, in the words of goalie Steve Mason, a “terrible” third period when the Flyers -- knowing they had it clinched -- let up and allowed the Panthers back into the game at 4-2.

“Our third period was terrible and we all know it and we addressed it after the game,” Mason said. “Come playoff time, we’re going to have to be better with it.”

Several individual heroes besides Giroux contributed. Vinny Lecavalier scored a goal and had a nifty assist on Tye McGinn’s marker. Adam Hall had two assists.

And lastly, Mason had 38 saves, including 14 in the third period when the Flyers were a defensive wreck for long stretches.

“The last seven or eight minutes we played some pretty good hockey, but there might have a little bit of a letdown,” Lecavalier said.

“Overall, we played a good game. First period, both sides weren't all that great but we came out in the second and scored four goals and had a lot of good chances offensively and it paid off.”

Lecavalier, who turns 34 this month, has been on five previous playoffs teams, including with Tampa Bay where he won a Stanley Cup in 2004.

The Flyers could have clinched a spot last weekend, but a four-game losing skid ended that chance. Lecavalier admitted there was a sense of relief in the dressing room tonight.

“It’s nice. You always want to finish strong and the right way, but we accomplished a lot from the start of the year, the first 10 games,” Lecavalier said. “We have to be proud of what we’ve done. We have to finish strong and make sure we’re ready and confident for that first round.”

The Flyers remain likely to face the Rangers and open in New York next week. The Rangers (93 points) won, 4-1, over Carolina to stay two points ahead of the Flyers (91) in the Metro Division. Columbus won, 4-3, in overtime against Phoenix to remain two behind the Flyers.

Berube’s team almost has to win out to overtake the Rangers. The Flyers have a game in hand.

“I told the guys you should be proud of yourselves,” Berube said. “They went through a lot. They battled hard all year. They’re a good group of guys. Good character and they deserve a lot of credit for making the playoffs.”

Berube’s focal point of what was the turning point in the season wasn’t back in October, but after Christmas when the Flyers went on a 5-1 road trip through Western Canada -- sweeping Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary for the first time since 1996 -- then finishing up in the Western U.S. against Colorado and Phoenix and finally, New Jersey.

“That trip after Christmas was a very important road trip,” Berube said. “I believe we went there with a purpose on that trip and came back with five wins out of six. That made believers out of our team more than anything. It put us in a good situation.”

The Flyers were 4-1 in February, then 9-3-2 in March to solidly position themselves as a playoff contender. However, they recently lost four games in succession mostly because they couldn’t score a goal even though they weren’t giving up any, either.

They can’t relax if they want to catch New York.

“It’s a great accomplishment, but within this organization, it’s something that is expected,” Mason said. “It’s one goal achieved and now we have an even bigger one.”

Facing long NHL draft lottery odds, Flyers land 2017 No. 2 pick

Facing long NHL draft lottery odds, Flyers land 2017 No. 2 pick

The Flyers are movin' on up. W-a-a-ay up.

The NHL held its annual draft lottery Saturday night in Toronto to determine the first 15 picks in the first round of the 2017 NHL draft and the Flyers shocked everyone.

They came into the lottery in the 13th position and despite l-o-n-g odds, managed to catapult themselves into the No. 2 pick.

New Jersey won the top pick with Dallas taking the third. Neither Colorado, which had the worst record in the league, nor the Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team, finished in the top three.

It's sweet revenge for finishing last in 2007 and not getting the top pick (Patrick Kane), which went to Chicago. The Flyers chose James van Riemsdyk that draft.

Suddenly, the Flyers have a shot at picking from among the top-five forward prospects, as ranked by NHL Central Scouting for this draft. They are: Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, Casey Mittelstadt, Gabriel Vilardi and Michael Rasmussen.

Obviously, not making the playoffs has its rewards.

Dave Hakstol's club had a 2.2 percent chance to capture the first overall pick, as well as a 2.4 percent chance and 2.7 percent chance at the second and third overall pick, respectively.

They beat the odds.

The highest percentage saw them remaining at 13th overall (84.3 percent).

Because of the rules of the lottery, the 12 clubs not selected in the NHL draft lottery will be assigned NHL draft selections four through 15, in inverse order of regular-season points.

Hence, the Flyers could not pick fourth-12th and could only pick in the 1-3 positions, or fall to 14th (8.3 percent) or 15th (0.1 percent).

As was the case last year, the first three picks are decided by a lottery, but this year also included the newest NHL franchise, the Golden Knights, as part of the group.

Vegas was given the same odds as the team finishing with the third-fewest points during the 2016-17 regular season and held a 10.3 percent chance at winning the first overall pick.

The best chance at No. 1 overall going in was the Colorado Avalanche (18 percent) followed by the Vancouver Canucks (12.1 percent). Vegas and the Arizona Coyotes were next (10.3 percent).

Vegas was guaranteed to pick no lower than the sixth overall selection but held a 30 percent chance to finish with either the first, second or third overall pick.

The draft is June 23-24 in Chicago.

NHL Playoffs: Cam Talbot, Pat Maroon lead Oilers to 2-0 series lead over Ducks

NHL Playoffs: Cam Talbot, Pat Maroon lead Oilers to 2-0 series lead over Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Cam Talbot made 39 saves, Patrick Maroon scored a power-play goal and the Edmonton Oilers moved halfway to the Western Conference finals with a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 of their second-round series Friday night.

Andrej Sekera scored an early goal for the Oilers, who took the first two games on Pacific Division champion Anaheim's home ice. Talbot was the difference in Game 2, making all manner of impressive saves while Anaheim dominated the last 30 minutes.

Jakob Silfverberg scored and John Gibson stopped 21 shots for the Ducks, who had gone 18 games without a regulation defeat before this series. Anaheim has never recovered from an 0-2 series deficit, losing all seven series after digging that early hole.

Game 3 is Sunday in Edmonton (see full recap).

Tarasenko scores twice as Blues beat Predators
ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal with 3:51 left to give the St. Louis Blues a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 2 on Friday night to tie the Western Conference semifinal series.

Jori Lehtera also scored for the Blues, and Jake Allen stopped 22 shots -- including 14 in the third period.

Ryan Ellis had a goal and an assist and James Neal also scored for the Predators, who had their franchise-high five-game postseason winning streak snapped. Pekka Rinne finished with 17 saves.

Game 3 is Sunday at Nashville, Tennessee.

Tarasenko's game-winner came on a lucky bounce. Jaden Schwartz led the rush and initially tried to pass it to Carl Gunnarsson, but the pass was off the mark and bounced off of Gunnarsson's foot right to Tarasenko's stick.

It was the first lead for St. Louis in 116:09 of the series (see full recap).