Flyers notch first victory in Berube's debut

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Flyers notch first victory in Berube's debut

BOX SCORE

Updated: 11:30 p.m.

Sometimes you win ugly in hockey.

And when your team is 0-3, with a discombobulated power play, has fired its coach, torched itself with bad penalties, and yet somehow managed a win … well, Craig Berube will take it.

Thanks to goalie Steve Mason, who was unconscious in net (see story), the Flyers were able to overcome their own shortcomings with a gut-check 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center for “The Chief’s” first NHL victory as a head coach.

“He played great,” Berube said of Mason’s 33 saves. “His composure in net, he looked real solid, right on top of things. Saw all the pucks. Just looked big in net.”

Mason kept the Flyers in the game, helping them erase a four-minute Panthers' power play with a couple of saves and four huge blocked shots from the penalty kill units, which were superb as well.

“It was good -- guys are getting on the same page and Mason making some big saves when we need it,” Braydon Coburn said. “We really needed him to play good. He really stuck out his head for us. That’s been a strong point for us right now.”

Clutching a 2-1 lead that last period, Jay Rosehill picked up a roughing call behind the play. A scrum broke out as Rosehill, headed to box, then turned around and darted across the ice to knock down Tomas Kopeck from behind as teammate Zac Rinaldo was surrounded by Panther jerseys.

Rosehill drew a double minor and 10-minute misconduct.

Along with that, Rinaldo and Kopecky had minors to cancel each other out, leaving the Panthers with a four-minute power play.

That could have been the game right there. Instead, the Flyers rose to the occasion.

“It’s a fine line. You don’t want to be in the box all the time, but at the same time, when he’s surrounded by four other guys, I feel a need to get in there,” Rosehill said.

“If I had to do it over again, I might not have gone in there the same way or I would have tried to take someone with me.”

Berube, a fierce enforcer himself as player, said that turning around when you’re just about to step into the box and picking up those extra minutes were “unacceptable.”

He’s been preaching better team discipline. Yet when a newspaper columnist asked whether Rosehill would be disciplined, Berube fired back, “You want me to spank him? Get lost.”

As bad as that was, Eric Gudbranson’s five-minute boarding of Scott Hartnell later was worse, giving the Flyers a five-minute power play.

The Flyers had three quality chances from Mark Streit, Vinny Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn but no goals. In all, five shots on goalie Jacob Markstrom.

They were 0 for 5 on the power play and are just 2 for 19 on the season.

“Our penalty kill was great,” Hartnell said. “Blocking shots, defensive play … Our power play was awful again, especially our unit.

“We worked to get it into the zone, they pressured us and we were a step behind. We had some shots, but perimeter shots.”

There was a first for the Flyers on the season in this game. Not just scoring two goals, but actually having a 2-0 lead.

Panthers goalie Tim Thomas had trouble with puck caroms off the back boards on both those goals and appeared to injure his groin defending on them, as well, because he left the game after the second goal at 7:31 and never returned.

“They’re lucky goals and that happens,” Berube said.

Jakub Voracek’s shot off the left boards bounced ahead of Thomas’ reach into the slot for Schenn’s easy rebound at 4:49. He now has two goals and three points in four games.

“It’s still early,” he said. “I just want to keep on contributing and get the opportunity to play with Vinny Lecavalier and Jake Voracek right now. You have to make the most of those opportunities and that is what I am trying to do.”

The second goal saw Sean Couturier line one off the boards that had Thomas moving awkwardly. He was well out of position for the crazy carom that ended up on Braydon Coburn’s stick, making it 2-0.

Thomas removed himself from the game for Markstrom.

“Anytime you put pucks on net or shooting the puck, you know things can happen like a bounce, rebound or going off the boards,” Coburn said. “You just have to play the pucks. There is no other way about it.”

Thomas came into this game with a career 8-0 record in Philadelphia with a 1.86 goals-against average and .947 save percentage. So, this was a rather huge loss for the toothless Panthers.

The second period was all Mason with 12 saves among breakdowns with uncontested shots.

“There’s always work to be done and right now it’s a difficult game because there is new stuff being thrown our way because of the coaching change,” Mason said.

“At the same time, our own end is going to take care of itself eventually. Just a matter of keep working at it.”

His pad stop on Shawn Matthias' shorthanded breakaway that period stood out.

“He was on his game,” Matthias said.

What hurt the Flyers in the second was the same thing that harmed them in Montreal -- penalties. They took consecutive ones to wipe out whatever momentum they were generating five-on-five.

Hence, they seemed tired at period’s end when Luke Schenn blocked a shot from Aleksander Barkov, but the puck went onto Brad Boyes’ stick for an easy rebound, setting up a tense final period.

“The players are squeezing their sticks -- everybody can see that,” Berube said. “I really liked our third period. We did a lot of good things without the puck.

“And I thought we did a lot of good things with the puck ... Overall effort, I have no problem with it.”

Ugly or not.

Michael Raffl's power moves impressing Flyers, adding another element to top line

Michael Raffl's power moves impressing Flyers, adding another element to top line

He did it last Sunday in Nashville.

And he did it again Thursday night against Edmonton.

Michael Raffl displayed power and speed to send the Flyers to their seventh straight victory and longest winning streak since 2011 Thursday with a 6-5 win over the Oilers.

"Raf has this stutter step that's undercover speedy," goalie Steve Mason said. "He used it in Nashville to get a big goal and then here tonight.

"It looks like he's going to stop fully up, but he finds another gear and he really adds another element to that line that brings physical play.

"He has that sneaky talent, too, that can make you pay."

Raffl received a bank-pass off the wall from Jake Voracek, stutter stepped and then blew by Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom, protecting the puck along the way before flipping it over goalie Jonas Gustavsson for the game-winning marker with 1:29 left in the game.

It was his sixth goal of the season and his second game-winner in three games.

"Jakey has been hard on me for three years now," Raffl said, referring to Voracek's pass, "and it's actually the first time it worked out.

"He wants me to make that play all the time. He's been hard on me. I threw a little fake in there, got around their D-man and chipped it up high."

Voracek, who tied a career-high with four points (one goal, three assists) said after the game his pass was not as perfect as it appeared on tape, as it didn't hit Raffl in stride.

"I think we should use it a little bit more to be honest," Voracek said, "because if their D wants to have a gap on that, you know you put it off the boards, it's tough to handle for the defenseman. (Raffl) had to slow down a little bit, so next time I got to put it better."

Juggling his lines in an attempt to find chemistry, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol moved Raffl up from the third line to the top line with Voracek and captain Claude Giroux on Nov. 27. Coincidentally, that was the start of this seven-game winning streak.

On Thursday night, Raffl showcased the reasoning behind the move to the top line, a spot he's familiar with, having played with Giroux and Voracek in seasons' past.

"He's good from coming off either way as he enters the zone," Hakstol said. "He's got the ability to take it to the net. 

"Obviously at a critical time of the hockey game. But, that's Raffl when he's at his best. He's a power forward that can do those type of things offensively."

In his fourth season with the Flyers, the 28-year-old doesn't possess jaw-dropping skill. He's better suited for a third-line role, but drives play at 5-on-5 and is strong on the puck to move up into the top six. His style complements Giroux and Voracek's game well.

"(Raffl) complains a lot on the bench," Giroux quipped. "Nah, he was fired up there in the third. He is so strong on the puck. That's a big goal for us. He's been playing some great hockey right now for us. I think me and Jake are lucky to play with him right now."

"He does every little thing right," Voracek said. "He wins the battles. He wins so many puck battles in the corners and on the boards and gives me and G a lot of space to work with. He knows what to do to have success with us and he's been doing that."

Against the Oilers, Raffl was one of two European free agents the Flyers found to contribute to their win, with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare slowing down Connor McDavid.

It's been an avenue the Flyers have found some success in recent years. Raffl was a Paul Holmgren signing, while general manager Ron Hextall plucked Bellemare from the SHL.

"Since we signed him, I think he surprised everyone," Voracek said of Raffl. "He's got a lot of talent. He's a strong guy on the puck. He's skating well. He's got a great shot.

"I think he's one of the good players."

The Flyers described Raffl as a sneaky talent, someone who may not demand the respect from defensemen but has the ability to surprise and make them pay for playing lax against him.

But it's really simpler than that, according to Raffl.

"Just puck possession," he said. "Just focus on being the first on forecheck, digging out pucks. It's not a fun job to do, but somebody has to do it.

"They're two great players with the puck, I try to dig it out and get it to them and get in an open area and they'll find me eventually."

And they found him Thursday night when it mattered most.

This time, Steve Mason bailed out by Flyers' teammates

This time, Steve Mason bailed out by Flyers' teammates

Steve Mason was not his sharpest Thursday night and he's the first to admit it.

"There's nights where you're not feeling as sharp as you'd like to," Mason said. "This is a situation the guys in front never quit. They earned the two points for sure."

Mason yielded five goals for the third time this season, but made enough saves to secure the Flyers' seventh straight win, a 6-5 victory over the Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

The win streak is the longest the Flyers have had since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when "Mr. Universe" Ilya Bryzgalov was their goaltender. Mason finished with 28 saves.

"The guys bailed me out," Mason said, "When your goalie is not making the saves that you need, but the guys keep battling in front, from a personal standpoint, it's huge to see."

Making his 16th start in the Flyers' last 17 games, Mason appeared to show signs of fatigue against Edmonton. He's started the last six games, winning all six.

His current six-game win streak is a career-high, and the five goals allowed Thursday is the first time he's allowed more than two goals during this current streak. 

Entering Thursday, Mason was 5-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in his previous five starts, and 8-3-1 with a 2.11 GAA and .930 save percentage since Nov. 12. So Thursday is just a small blemish on Mason's impressive résumé of late.

"I didn't think he looked tired," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "This win's a little bit indicative of the type of team we have. A couple nights ago, Mason was the best player. He picked up a lot of guys around him and tonight maybe wasn't his best.

"But it was pretty good. The guys battled hard. They picked up some of the slack. That's what it takes. Every guy's not going to be at their best every night.

"You'd like them to be, and I know the guys want to be at that level, but when one piece isn't working, the other part has to pick it up."

The Flyers' offensive outburst came two days after Mason stole two points against the Florida Panthers, and nine days after the goalie stole another two points against Boston.

Twice on Thursday the Flyers faced two-goal deficits, and both times they found a way to erase them. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time in Flyers' history they were able to win a game in which they were down two goals twice.

"Once we got it to 5-4," Mason said, "I tried to lock it down as best I could. There's nights where you're not feeling as sharp as you'd like to.  … Coming back in a couple of days, from a personal standpoint, I got to be more sharp."

After going falling behind 2-0, the Flyers tied it, 2-2, with three goals in 72 seconds in the second period, the quickest three-goal burst since Feb. 14, 2009, vs. the Islanders. 

Then, the Flyers fell behind 5-3 before Voracek sparked a three-goal third period with his 10th of the year at 6:31. Claude Giroux tallied his second of the game, and Michael Raffl pushed the Flyers to victory with his sixth of the season at 18:31 of the final stanza.

"It's a great feeling to come back from behind," Flyers rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov said. "You never want to be in that position, but that's the way it sometimes go. We stuck with it and came from behind and won the game. It's a great effort."

Of the five goals allowed Thursday, the first goal Mason allowed was the only one that can be pinned on the netminder. It was not a great goal to give up, on the second shot of the game, too. Afterward, he said the read was the backdoor play, but Leon Draisaitl slipped it through Mason's five-hole for his fifth goal in as many games.

"Some nights you can be better than the other nights," Provorov said. "And that's what the team's all about. We play for each other. If someone has a mistake, we all help him out and play for each other. That's why we win games."

"That's how you become a great team," Voracek, who tied a career-high with four points, said. "Mase playing the last six games the way he did, it wasn't his night.

"We came big for him. It's how you get into the playoffs, and it's how you have success in the playoffs. It's a good thing we won the game and get rolling now."