Flyers hit new low with another head-scratching loss to Devils

Flyers hit new low with another head-scratching loss to Devils

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. -- Call it "The Nightmare in Newark."

A film directed by the Flyers and one you've already seen before.

Needing just about every game left on the regular-season slate, the Flyers walked into the Prudential Center on Thursday in favorable position, at least one would think on this specific night.

After all, the Devils had lost 10 straight games and were virtually playing for nothing, unlike the Flyers, clinging for dear life onto their playoff hopes.

In actuality, none of that meant a darn thing. The Flyers were manhandled, yet again, by New Jersey, this version a 6-2 embarrassing loss (see Instant Replay). For Dave Hakstol's team, that's now three losses in three tries against the Devils this season by a combined score of 14-3.

What gives?

"For whatever reason, we don't perform to our capabilities in this arena," Brayden Schenn said. "I don’t know what it is. They were hungrier right from the start tonight and they deserve this win."

How can the Flyers fall so badly in such dire circumstances?

The scary thing is no one really had an answer.

"We were flat," Jakub Voracek said. "No idea why. We knew it was another big game for us."

The Flyers scored first with three minutes left in the opening stanza when Claude Giroux and Voracek created a wide-open shot for Michael Del Zotto.

From there, it was all downhill as the plot turned ugly.

New Jersey scored the next three goals to grab a commanding 3-1 lead in the second period. The Flyers got one back, but then allowed a bad breakaway tally to Taylor Hall early in the third that resulted in Steve Mason's exit because of an injury sustained on the play (see story).

The Flyers went quietly into the final buzzer while the Devils never let off the gas.

It was a listless finish by the Flyers, who had four shots in the third period of which their effort was questioned afterward.

"No, I don't think anybody's giving up," Giroux responded.

"That doesn't mean we're giving up. No one is going to give up here until the end of the season. We're going to keep working and keep working on our game."

Can they be angrier?

"Yeah, we're angry," Giroux said. "We know we're a better team, we know we can be in a better position. That's not the case and we need to keep working, keep working to be a better team."

Hakstol didn't see quit in the third period.

"No, the team didn't give up.

"We didn't win enough of the races and battles tonight. That's the bottom line."

When asked for reasons why that was, why the Flyers were so thoroughly outplayed and slower, Hakstol wouldn't expand.

"I'm not going to get into it," he said. "We're on the second night of a back-to-back, but at this time of year, none of us are going to make excuses for that. It's a fact of life.

"The fourth goal against early in the third period kind of took the wind out of the sails. … Not a real push once we got down by two."

The Flyers are now further down and nearly out in the Eastern Conference playoff race. On Thursday, the Maple Leafs (78 points) beat the Lightning (77) to jump them and the Islanders (77) -- who lost to the Jets -- for the current grip of the second wild-card bid.

The Flyers, at 72 points, have 12 games remaining -- including two more against these Devils.

"We're in a bad position," Voracek said. "Every game we go into, we have to win.

"We just didn't have it today, which is weird battling for the playoffs."

Puzzling, indeed.

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

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John Boruk/CSNPhilly.com

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.  

NHL Notes: Penguins sign defenseman Brian Dumoulin to 6-year contract

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USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Penguins sign defenseman Brian Dumoulin to 6-year contract

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin has turned his steady play for the Stanley Cup champions into a new contract.

Dumoulin and the team agreed to a six-year deal on Monday that will run through the 2022-23 season and will pay him an average of $4.1 million per year.

The 25-year-old Dumoulin had three goals and 11 assists during Pittsburgh's run to the Cup this spring and hasn't missed a playoff game during the team's sprint to back-to-back titles.

Dumoulin averaged a team-high 21:59 of ice time this postseason, and his plus-9 rating was best among Penguins defensemen. Dumoulin was forced to take on a larger roll this spring after injuries forced Kris Letang to miss the playoffs.

Predators: Watson signs 3-year, $3.3 million deal
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year $3.3 million deal keeping him under contract through 2019-20.

The Predators announced the deal Monday.

Watson will earn $1 million this season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in the third year.

The 25-year-old forward is coming off his best season yet with Nashville. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound Watson had a career high with five goals and seven assists in 77 games this past season. Watson scored four goals and had nine points in 22 playoff games helping Nashville reach the Stanley Cup Final.

The 18th pick overall in the 2010 draft, Watson had three goals and 10 points in 57 games during the 2015-16 season.

Now, center Ryan Johansen is Nashville's lone restricted free agent awaiting a new deal.

Sabres: Okposo says he’s healthy after concussion
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sabres winger Kyle Okposo said he is fully healthy after a concussion led to sleeping trouble, significant weight loss and a trip to intensive care last March.

Okposo missed the final few weeks of Buffalo's season with a previously undisclosed illness. In a letter posted on the team's website Monday, Okposo said a routine hit in practice caused his mood to change and other problems that required hospitalization.

The 29-year-old said he lost his appetite, had a negative reaction to sleep medications and that at one point he weighed less than 200 pounds. He spent time in the Neuro Surgical ICU at Buffalo General Hospital to be stabilized. Okposo's playing weight is listed at 218 pounds.

Okposo played in a 4-on-4 summer league game in Minnesota with other NHL players last week and reported feeling great. New general manager Jason Botterill said Okposo was on track to be ready for training camp.

"I've worked with a lot of different people -- concussion experts and people who have dealt with concussions themselves -- and I feel confident in the fact that I can play hockey again," Okposo said in the letter. "In fact, I know I can play again. I know I can play and not worry about hitting my head, which is a major hurdle for someone who's dealt with this. If I didn't feel 100 percent right now, that probably wouldn't be the case."

Okposo's last NHL game was March 27 against Florida. He had 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points in 65 games during his first season with Buffalo. He signed a $42 million, seven-year contract with the Sabres last summer.

NHL: Gamble to get back Hall of Fame ring
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A scuba-diving treasure hunter who found an American Hockey League Hall of Fame ring in one of New York's Finger Lakes is returning it to its owner.

Gary Gavurnik, of Auburn, New York, plans to return the prized ring to former AHL star Dick Gamble on Monday. Gavurnik found it with a metal detector in Canandaigua Lake over the Fourth of July weekend.

The 88-year-old Canadian-born Gamble starred for the AHL's Rochester Americans and retired early in the 1969-70 season. He was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2007.

Instead of wearing the ring, though, he gave it to his son, Craig, who wore it every day for seven years before losing it in the lake. He never told his dad and ordered a replacement.