Flyers hope to carry over momentum on road trip

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Flyers hope to carry over momentum on road trip

They have transformed themselves on home ice.

They’ve gone from a team that lost seven of its first nine home games to a team that has won nine straight at the Wells Fargo Center, matching their win streak of October 2005, following a 4-1 win over Minnesota on Monday night (see Instant Replay).

It’s a big reason why the Flyers go into the Christmas break over .500 at 17-16-4 and with a hold of a playoff spot as the third team in the Metropolitan Division.

“We wanted to end this Christmas break off with a big win -- a lot of smiles on our faces,” Scott Hartnell said. “We have a lot of pride to wear the orange jersey in this building. We came out flying, came out hard.

“Two games ago, we had an epic win here [over Columbus]. We’re finding different ways here. We came out tonight and played a solid 20 minutes where we were hard on the puck and didn’t stop. We kept going.”

The Flyers' home record is now 11-7 -- a far cry from what it was a while ago.

“In the beginning, I think we played better on the road than at home,” Jakub Voracek said. “But it switched. Now we have to find that level to get some points on the road. It’s what we got to do. Make teams earn wins here.

“When I came here a long time ago with Columbus, this was a tough building to win in. That’s what we got to do. Make them a little bit scared before the game. Make sure they earn that win.”

Goalie Steve Mason notices the difference at home.

“There definitely is a sense of confidence playing at home," he said. "First, you are staying at your own house, sleeping in your own bed, so that is nice to get a little better rest.

"And you play in front of home fans and you don’t have to deal with the opposition’s fans. You have that sense of confidence, and we have been able to take advantage lately and that’s probably the reason we have been able to climb out of the hole we were in. We just have to make sure we are carrying it onto the road trip.”

Indeed, the Flyers haven’t been very good away from home, going 6-9-4 on the season with an ongoing five-game losing streak (0-3-2) on the road.

“We’ve obviously changed some things up,” Hartnell said. “I think it took a little while to learn how to play the right way and I know no one doesn’t want to let anyone down in here. Turning the puck over, making soft plays and you’re accountable to your teammates, the guy next to you in the dressing room. You play hard, you play smarter.

“We have to eliminate some simple penalties that we’ve been taking lately. It’s been a lot of fun here at home and we got to take this show on the road.”

Coach Craig Berube isn’t quite sure what changed on home ice, but clearly the Flyers' focus to generate some home momentum seems to have carried over along with the fact they’ve started to score goals here. That’s boosted the confidence factor all-around.

“I look back on some of the games and they were there to be won, and we just didn’t do it,” Berube said.

“I look back on that road trip coming back, coming out of Dallas and coming out of Chicago we were up 1-0 and things are fine, and all of a sudden come out for the second period and have a collapse.

“On the road, we tend to not push the issue enough at certain times and end up letting our guard down a bit and getting down a goal or two and that’s tough on the road.

“We got to do a better job of keep playing and doing the same things. Don’t get away from the system or what you are doing. Stay on it. Play a little smarter and stay out of the penalty box. We still have to do a better job at that, including tonight.”

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.