Flyers embrace spoiler role in win over Bruins

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Flyers embrace spoiler role in win over Bruins

BOX SCORE

In the grand scheme of things, it was a victory without reward for the Flyers. But from the Boston Bruins side of things, it could be a major headache.

The Flyers routed the Bruins, 5-2, on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center and may have done some serious spoiler damage to the Bruins, who are tied with Montreal with 59 points.

Boston had the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Montreal was the fourth seed.

Essentially, this was a game the Bruins needed to win to secure that seed.

“It’s almost something that is fun to do,” Simon Gagne smiled. “It’s not fun where we are at in the standings.

“There was a lot of expectations with [us] this year. Everything we’re doing right now maybe shows management what kind of team we will have next year.”

Goalie Steve Mason again looked sharp with 39 saves, while Jakub Voracek scored his 21st goal of the season.

Mason was making his fifth start in eight games. He had six critical saves in the final four minutes of the second period with the Flyers ahead 3-1 that made a statement.

“A team like that, they have some great offensive talent and myself, it was a great challenge,” said Mason, who is now 3-0-1 lifetime against Boston.

“We got [to] talk about the way the guys played, the goals they scored for us to respond.”

Coach Peter Laviolette said he wanted to “flip flop” Mason for Ilya Bryzgalov and not to read anything into Mason playing against Boston.

“He’s been pretty good for us since being here,” Laviolette said. “You start to see things in practice. You see his glove. He has a real good glove and that kills a lot of plays when there is no rebounds.

“You see his puck skills and his ability to move pucks out of our end or up to a defenseman or winger.

“His athleticism when he makes a save and gets over to another position to make a save. You start to see things in his game that are real positives.”

Mason got more goal support in the final period from Voracek and Gagne, sandwiched around a David Krejci goal.

“I’m not really looking toward next season yet,” Mason said. “I just want to finish off with a strong note.”

Mason had to be sharp, too, because the Flyers again played without another key defenseman, this time Kimmo Timonen, whose season is over with a foot injury (see story).

“Just part of the challenge,” Mason said. “Obviously, losing Kimmo is a huge loss. One of our top defensemen and on the power play. Guys are having ice time right now and doing a great job with it.”

Guys like Eric Gustafsson, who logged a team-high 23:56.

Backed by an emotional “Boston Strong” tribute to the city of Boston and its people (see story), it didn’t take the Flyers long to grab a lead on backup goalie Anton Khudobin.

“Yeah, of course, you know it’s been hard to see what’s been going on in Boston,” Voracek said.

“But it’s obviously a great thing that we kind of think about it and do what we did, you know. And it’s over and they did a great job with it.”

Not even two minutes into the game, Krejci threw a lazy puck off the board into the high slot.

Scott Hartnell all but tripped over it. He couldn’t believe how it was just sitting there. Hartnell roofed a high shot into the net for his eighth goal.

“What an emotional video to start the game,” Hartnell said of the Flyers' “Boston Strong” pregame video tribute. “We wanted to come out with a big start. It couldn’t have worked out better.

“I came on to the ice from a change and just kind of worked my way to the slot. I don't think their guy knew I was there. I was able to get the turnover and get a shot off.”

Three minutes later, the Bruins charged the net hard, making rather obvious contact with Mason.

They were in pursuit of Jaromir Jagr’s shot off Mason that Wade Redden put into the net to make it 1-1.

Redden, who was in the middle of that scrum, is fighting five other players to make the Bruins’ playoff roster.

The Flyers chased Khudobin for Tuukka Rask just before the midway point of the second period after two bad goals.

Khudobin left a fat rebound in the right slot for Matt Read at 11:24 to break the tie. Seven seconds later, another sloppy clear by the Bruins came back to bite them.

This time, former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara cleared a dump-in from Oliver Laurdisen into the slot from behind the net and the puck went off his goalie’s stick into the net, which infuriated Khudobin.

Then Bruins coach Claude Julien pulled him.

“Awesome, absolutely awesome,” Lauridsen said of his goal. “I mean, it wasn't the dream goal but I'll take it. It was just a dump-in and a lucky bounce but it's my first NHL goal, so I'll take it.”

Now, the second half of that period saw the Flyers get rather sloppy, forcing their penalty killers out there for a brief five-on-three kill that they survived.

Actually, Mason was the reason for the survival. He has a 2.08 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in six overall appearances as a Flyer.

“His confidence is getting bigger and bigger every game,” Gagne said. “It’s something we were talking about on bench. You can see it every practice he is getting better. It’s tougher to score in practice on him. He was really solid for us again tonight.

“As a team, even if you are out of the playoffs, you want to get ready for next season. Show what you can do as a team. Right now, we like what we see from him.”

Flyers-Oilers 5 things: Winning streak meets Connor McDavid

Flyers-Oilers 5 things: Winning streak meets Connor McDavid

Flyers (15-10-3) vs. Oilers (14-10-4)
7 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com, Pregame Live at 6:30

The hottest team in the NHL will meet the hottest young star on Thursday night when the Flyers host the Edmonton Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. McDavid and Co.
The Flyers are going for their seventh consecutive victory, which would tie their longest winning streak since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when they also won seven in a row.

In order to do so, they’ll have to slow down transcendent talent Connor McDavid and the prolific but streaky Oilers.

McDavid, a generational player, has thus far lived up to all the hype surrounding him as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. In just his second NHL season — and first with a healthy start after an injured-shortened rookie year (45 games) — the 19-year-old leads all of hockey in points with 36, while no other player has yet to eclipse 30.

His 25 assists also rank atop the NHL, while his 11 goals are among the top 22 and his plus-8 rating is tied for ninth best between all centers.

“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said Wednesday. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice.”

And he has help.

Linemates Leon Draisaitl (11 goals, 11 assists) and Milan Lucic (eight goals, 12 assists) can do damage, as can Jordan Eberle (eight goals, 13 assists).

2. Defense wins games
The Flyers are playing better and cleaner in front of their goaltender — who has been great (see below) — and the results are showing.

The orange and black have gone five straight games of allowing two or fewer goals.

Why were they so up and down before this run? Well, they had surrendered two or fewer goals in just five of their previous 23 games.

“That’s unbelievable for us,” Wayne Simmonds said after Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Panthers. “At the beginning of the year, to say we’d have five straight without giving up more than two would be a stretch.

“We’ve locked it down defensively and Mase has played unbelievable. We’ve been pretty good as five-man units.”

3. Mase the man
A confident Steve Mason is a dangerous Steve Mason.

Right now, Mason has the net and is gaining steam by the game.

Over his past five outings, the 28-year-old is 5-0-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

Just as impressive, since Nov. 12, Mason is 8-3-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

“I've said it numerous times, I want to be playing lots of hockey,” Mason said Tuesday. “This is a position that I'm used to being in and where I'm most comfortable. So just have to keep continuing to put my work in and whenever [head coach Dave Hakstol] calls my name, be ready."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: You always have to watch Simmonds, but especially now with the winger coming off back-to-back two-goal games. Simmonds leads the NHL with eight power-play goals and is second in man-advantage points (13) to only teammate Claude Giroux (14).

Oilers: With all the attention zeroed in on McDavid, we’ll go with the 21-year-old Draisaitl, who has seven goals in his last nine games and 14 points in his past 12. The No. 3 overall pick in 2014 is an intelligent playmaker capable of hurting you.

5. This and that
• Mason is 8-4-0 with just a 3.49 goals-against average and .872 save percentage in 13 career games against Edmonton.

• Oilers goalie Jonas Gustavsson will make his fourth start of the season. He’s 1-1-1 on the year with 84 saves on 91 shots faced, but is 0-4-1 lifetime against the Flyers with a 3.57 goals-against average and .865 save percentage.

• The Flyers are fourth in the NHL in goals per game (3.11), while Edmonton is seventh (2.93).

• The Oilers have lost 10 of their last 15 games (5-7-3).

Flyers skate update: Wayne Simmonds, power play key to beating Oilers

Flyers skate update: Wayne Simmonds, power play key to beating Oilers

Todd McLellan saw a lot of Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov as a junior player in the Western Hockey League whenever the Brandon Wheat Kings would turn up in Edmonton.

“I watched him play in junior and had a chance to see that Brandon team play in Edmonton twice last year,” said the Edmonton Oilers coach.

“Obviously, a smooth, confident [player] with great vision. He has patience with the puck. Those are his offensive assets. 

“But he also positions himself well, defensively. He accepts that responsibility. For a young d-man, he is ahead of a lot of others because he can play on both sides of the puck.”

Provorov rattled Jaromir Jagr Tuesday when Florida was here (see story). Tonight he gets his first NHL taste of Connor McDavid.

McLellan said the Oilers' biggest challenge against the Flyers will be stopping the NHL’s second-ranked power play. Edmonton has the 11th best penalty kill.

His concern is Wayne Simmonds (8 power play goals) and Claude Giroux (14 power play points). 

“That power play is deadly and it really hasn’t changed — it’s just clicking,” McLellan said. “It has a couple trigger points. Obviously, Simmonds has the most goals in the league  and Giroux has the most points. But there’s other pieces to that power play, which are exceptional. 

“Our penalty kill has been taking it on the chin and I had to ask our guys today, 'Is it the penalty kill or the penalties?' In my opinion, it’s as much the penalties as the penalty kill. We have to stay out of the box.  

“This is a confident Flyers team. They feel very good in the offensive zone and make things happen. Their goaltender [Steve Mason] has been making saves for them that keeps them confident going the other way. It’s a team on the rise.”

The Streak
The Flyers are looking to make it seven straight wins tonight against the Oilers. The last time they won seven in arrow was Dec. 2-15 in 2011. They did not have a morning skate.

On Mason
Tuesday’s win against Florida was Steve Mason’s 88th as a Flyer, moving him past Pelle Lindbergh into sixth in franchise history. Mason needs six wins to move into third place in franchise history. 

Debut
Defenseman Dillon Simpson will make his Oilers debut tonight in Philadelphia. He is the son of former Oiler Craig Simpson. 

The oddity? Last year, Keegan Lowe made his Oilers' debut here in Philadelphia. He is the son of Kevin Lowe, longtime coach and front office executive for the Oilers. 

Colors
The Oilers wear three colors during their morning skate. Their defensemen dress in orange; their third and fourth lines dress in white and their top six skaters dress in blue. Now that’s an NHL hierarchy.