Flyers' offense comes alive in wild win over Habs

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Flyers' offense comes alive in wild win over Habs

BOX SCORE

MONTREAL -- If this is what “playing for pride” looks like, then perhaps the Flyers ought to have been playing for pride all along.

With their playoff hopes all but officially over, the Flyers hit the ice hard at Bell Centre Monday, using a wild second period to thrash the Montreal Canadiens, 7-3.

Scott Hartnell had his seventh career hat trick, Jakub Voracek tied his career high for goals in a season and Claude Giroux tied his season total for points in a game. They didn’t look like a team in need of a miracle to reach the postseason.

“It feels great,” Hartnell said. “It’s been a tough year for goals, especially the last few games. But that offensive outburst by the top couple lines, the power play was great, you never know.”

He added, simply, “It was a great game.”

Monday’s effort was a far cry from what the Flyers have executed consistently over the past week, during which they lost four in a row and watched their conference rivals climb further ahead of them in the standings.

This, they said, is how they know they’re capable of playing -- how they should have been playing since January, and how they will continue to strive to play, despite being seven points out of playoff contention in 12th place in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re still playing for a lot of pride,” Luke Schenn said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to throw in the towel. These [final] games, we’ve got to compete hard. Losing can’t become accepted, that’s just the mentality you’ve got to have around here.”

On just their second shot of the game -- and before the Canadiens had registered one of their own -- the Flyers took the early lead. Wayne Simmonds’ slapshot bounced in front of goaltender Carey Price, and a net-crashing Simmonds was able to push the rebound past him.

And only 2:03 later, the Flyers added to their lead. Erik Gustafsson’s shot from the high slot beat a screened Price, giving the Flyers their second goal of the night on only five shots.

But the Canadiens responded -- just not on the scoreboard.

Behind the play, Canadien Ryan White threw an ugly hit on Kent Huskins, who went down hard on the ice and left the game with a concussion (see story).

“It didn’t look good when he was on the ice,” Giroux said. “We don’t like to see those kind of hits.”

As the final minute of the first period ticked toward a close, the Canadiens cut the Flyers’ lead in half. Max Pacioretty scored on the power play, thanks to a redirection that Ilya Bryzgalov probably ought to have stopped.

The Flyers carried their 2-1 lead into the intermission, but once the puck dropped to start the second period, it didn’t take long for things to open up in a big way. The four goals they scored were more than they’d scored in the four games that preceded Monday’s effort combined (three).

“It was good to score some goals,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We haven’t scored a lot of goals lately. To be able to throw some in the back of the net, I think it always helps your confidence. But I think they worked for it, too. They really put them in position to score goals with their work ethic.”

It was the Canadiens, however, who kicked off the second-period flurry, scoring just 1:02 into the stanza to tie the game, when Brendan Gallagher beat Bryzgalov for the Canadiens’ second power-play goal of the night. The tie was short lived, however, as 28 seconds later, Voracek returned the Flyers their lead -- the tally was his 18th of the season, the team lead.

The Flyers struck again, when Hartnell added to their lead as the midway point of the second period approached, besting Price with a quick snipe that snapped the team’s 0-for-17 stretch on the man-advantage.

That two-goal lead was short-lived, as the Canadiens answered right back. Alex Galchenyuk brought the Habs back to within one, scoring to make it 4-3. But it was Giroux who regained the lead at 10:46.

“A lot of goals,” Voracek said. “I think that was the way we played last year, score a lot of goals. Offense won us the game today, and Bryz was good when he needed to be. He made a couple of big saves in important parts of the game, and I think we deserved to win today.”

The Flyers answered back for a boarding hit by Alex Galchenyuk on Ruslan Fedotenko, too, when Hartnell scored again to give them the 6-3 lead they carried into the second intermission. And it was Hartnell, once again, who scored the lone goal of the final period.

A single orange and black Hat was tossed to the ice from the stands, as Canadiens fans hastened toward the exits.

Four days ago, the Canadiens -- currently in second place in the East -- clinched the playoffs. They have been a strong team all season, but never truly had a chance against the suddenly invigorated Flyers.

That the Flyers could take them down so convincingly further demonstrates the fact that they ought to be faring better than they have.

“It’s almost a little embarrassing that we’re not making the playoffs,” Giroux said. “We’re a team that expects to be in the playoffs and we have a team that should be in the playoffs. It’s just frustrating, but we have some games left here, so we’ve just got to keep working hard here.”

Best of NHL: Red Wings' 25-year playoff streak snapped in loss

Best of NHL: Red Wings' 25-year playoff streak snapped in loss

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Lee Stempniak and Joakim Nordstrom scored about five minutes apart in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 Tuesday night in the teams' second meeting in two nights.

Jordan Staal and Elias Lindholm also scored for Carolina and Cam Ward stopped 21 shots. The Hurricanes have earned a point in 12 straight games (8-0-4) to move four points out of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.

The Red Wings beat the Hurricanes on Monday in a makeup game rescheduled from Dec. 19 when a Freon leak at PNC Arena made for unplayable ice. Tuesday's contest was regularly scheduled.

The postponement resulted in three games in the three days for the Red Wings. They won the first two but visibly struggled with their energy in the finale to snap a four-game point streak.

Tomas Nosek scored his first NHL goal and Jimmy Howard made 28 saves for Detroit (see full recap).

Rask backstops Bruins to important win over Predators
BOSTON -- Tuukka Rask made 24 saves in his return from a one-game absence and the Boston Bruins beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 on Tuesday night, boosting their playoff chances.

Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Noel Acciari and David Backes scored for the Bruins, who moved three points ahead of idle Tampa Bay for the second Eastern Conference wild card with six games remaining. Boston began the night a point behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Rask was sidelined with a lower-body injury for Boston's 2-1 road win against the New York Islanders on Saturday.

Bergeron's goal was his 18th of the season, and Krejci got his 22nd. Acciari scored his first career goal in 43 NHL games, Backes netted his 17th of the season and Zdeno Chara earned his 600th NHL point with an assist on Boston's first goal (see full recap).

Matthews sets rookie scoring mark in Leafs' win
TORONTO -- Auston Matthews broke Wendel Clark's 31-year-old franchise rookie record with his 35th goal of the season, and the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

The victory kept Toronto (87 points) one point up on the Boston Bruins (86) for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and four up on the Tampa Bay Lightning (83).

Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves to earn the win for the Leafs. Leo Komarov and Zach Hyman also scored for Toronto.

James Reimer allowed two goals on 14 shots for Florida before he was knocked from the game with an injury and replaced by Reto Berra, who made 10 saves. Reilly Smith and Jaromir Jagr scored for the Panthers (see full recap).

Oshie's OT goal for Caps beats Wild after Ovi hat trick
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- T.J. Oshie scored his second goal of the game 1:42 into overtime to bookend Alex Ovechkin's hat trick, Braden Holtby earned his 40th win and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory.

After Eric Staal's goal for the Wild tied the game with 26.6 seconds left in regulation, Oshie took a pass in the left circle from Marcus Johansson and beat struggling Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk with a wrist shot. Johansson had four assists.

Martin Hanzal and Jason Pominville had a goal and an assist apiece, but the Wild lost for the eighth time in nine games and fell to 3-11-1 in March after forward Zach Parise exited early with an injury (see full recap).

Flyers win game over Senators, but fail to gain ground in wild-card race

Flyers win game over Senators, but fail to gain ground in wild-card race

BOX SCORE

It was a special night as 24-year-old Jordan Weal hoisted his team upon his young shoulders, saving the Flyers in regulation and then winning for them in the shootout.
 
Yet in the end, even though the Flyers defeated Ottawa 3-2, they still lost (see Instant Replay).
 
Lost where it counts most -- in the wild-card standings.
 
Boston's 4-1 win over Nashville kept the Flyers six points behind in the wild card, but more significantly, reduced the Flyers' tragic number to six.
 
Six Bruins points or six points lost by the Flyers moving forward will eliminate Dave Hakstol's club from the playoffs.
 
"The last five or six games, we've been playing pretty good," Wayne Simmonds said. "After I looked up and saw Boston win, it sucks."
 
These last four games -- including the loss to Columbus -- have seen the kind of consistency the Flyers have craved and not gotten enough of during the second half of the season.
 
Had they been playing this type of sound, focused hockey in late January through February, they'd own a playoff spot right now.
 
"Even before that, we were losing games we should have been winning," Michael Del Zotto said. "That's the beauty of the game: there's no easy games.
 
"Consistency is the biggest factor. The teams at the top of the standings have been consistent all year long … not stringing three or four losses in a row, which is tough to come back on, especially this year with our division playing so well."
 
These days, one Flyer playing with every-night consistency is Weal, the kid the LA Kings sent to the Flyers as part of the Vinny Lecavalier deal.
 
Ottawa's Kyle Turris broke a 1-1 tie with 7:25 left on a goal that Steve Mason never saw through a thick screen. It was a deflating moment given how hard the Flyers worked defensively.
 
Two minutes later, Sens goalie Craig Anderson tried to clear the puck from behind the net and Weal intercepted, then scored on empty net to tie, 2-2.
 
Ottawa challenged that Simmonds interfered at the net and lost. Simmonds skated to the post and effectively prevented Anderson from getting there in time.
 
"It's my ice. I got there before him. It doesn't matter so long as I'm not in the blue paint," Simmonds said. "He touched me. It's my ice. He ran into the back of me."
 
That set up overtime and a bunch of missed opportunities before Weal beat Anderson once more during the shootout to clinch it. He's 2 for 2 here in shootouts.
 
Weal has six goals in 18 games. He is playing aggressively above his 5-foot-8 or so height. He seems to have earned his keep for next season as a regular and not a call-up, which he's been since early February.
 
Asked if he felt he's cemented his position as a Flyer, Weal replied, "Not at all. No, this is one of the best leagues in the world. Nothing is given to you here. You've got to keep working all the time, year to year. Your position is never guaranteed."
 
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol likes what he has seen, but won't talk about Weal's future.
 
"He's earned everything he's got and continues to do that on a daily basis," Hakstol said. "I wouldn't say he's brought a different vibe or energy. He's brought energy in his own way and has been a good two-way player. He's scored some big goals for us. He's a reliable player, who generates and creates offensively."
 
Weal's play on Valterri Filppula's line with Simmonds has had a trickle-down effect on the lineup, creating better matchups for the Flyers. He's taken pressure off Claude Giroux's line, and particularly, Sean Couturier's unit with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn.
 
"They've been good together," Hakstol said of the Filppula unit. "Simmonds is playing some of his best hockey of the year, in terms of a power forward game.
 
"He's very tough to handle down low and that's adding an element for Fil and Wealer there. They seem to have chemistry here in the very short amount of time they've been together."
 
It's something for Flyer fans to look forward to next season. No one is talking about next season yet, but deep down inside, the players realize some of them need to make lasting impressions with the season running out on them.
 
The consistency in effort the Flyers have shown recently is exactly what they should have shown when it counted most -- right after the All-Star break.
 
"Yeah, you know we're competing hard," young Travis Konecny said. "We're not going to quit until the end of the season. That's the way we are. It's the character of our team. It's the things we've shown all year.
 
"Our games may not show it at times, our scores, but I think each and every night we always compete, we always battle. I think things are starting to happen for us. Pucks are starting to bounce the right ways for us and we're getting on the score sheet and it's helping us a lot."
 
What's not helping is all those teams ahead of them, especially Boston, are posting wins. Every two points Boston gets puts another dagger in the Flyers' side.
 
"Watching what other teams are doing is more stressful," Mason said. "Teams are going to win, teams are going to lose. But we obviously have to win and that's really all that matters."