Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers' offense comes alive in wild win over Habs

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Flyers' offense comes alive in wild win over Habs

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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.”

Forcing the Flyers' hand? Travis Sanheim's chances at roster spot grow in preseason loss

Forcing the Flyers' hand? Travis Sanheim's chances at roster spot grow in preseason loss

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NEW YORK — Is starting the season with three rookie defensemen asking too much?

Travis Sanheim might be making it possible.

“We got another good night of information," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said Monday after a 3-2 overtime preseason loss to the Rangers (see observations). "Those two young guys (Sanheim and Robert Hagg) played pretty well — Sanheim had a real impact on the hockey game tonight. We’re going to let these guys make those decisions.”

If the brain trust of Hakstol and Ron Hextall was expecting two of their three rookie defensemen to separate themselves during the preseason test run, well that hasn’t quite happened, as the 21-year-old Sanheim has displayed an offensive element that would give the Flyers a much-needed weapon from the blue line. Sanheim’s NHL-caliber slap shot, coupled with his mobility and ability to read plays in the offensive zone have set him apart from fellow rookies Hagg and Sam Morin.

“I’m slowly starting to build my game, get a lot more confidence and get comfortable playing with the guys around me,” Sanheim said. "I’m getting more comfortable with the team, systems, and players around me. It’s been good so far. Obviously, we wanted a different outcome tonight, but I like where my game’s at.” 

If it wasn’t for Sanheim, the Flyers would have been shut out in each of their last two games, as he’s provided their only offense in overtime losses to the Bruins and Rangers. A week ago, it appeared all signs were pointing to Lehigh Valley and another year of AHL seasoning, but that’s when Hakstol noticed a change in Sanheim.

“I learned more about him five to six days ago,” Hakstol said. “He didn’t have a great night (preseason opener against Islanders). Sometimes you learn as much about a player and where he’s at coming off a night like that. It didn’t shake him. He came back and had a great practice the next day and he carried that into the next game. To me, that showed maturity on his part.”

Sanheim has continued to rise up the charts coming off a strong performance against the Islanders in Allentown, Pennsylvania, last Wednesday, and he’s rolled that over into the past two games, playing mostly with NHL regulars. What’s even more impressive is that Sanheim is having a tremendous offensive outburst despite seeing very little time on the team’s power play, as he logged just 36 seconds with the man advantage, a unit that came up empty once again and is now 0 for 14 over its last two games.

Still, captain Claude Giroux can’t see any reason why three rookie defensemen can’t make this team out of camp.

“You’ve seen them play. They can play,” Giroux said. “We have a lot of young D that are ready to play in the NHL, and they’re competing right now for a spot. For us, it’s fun to see because every day they’re doing stuff and it’s pretty amazing. It’s a long season — whoever’s hot, whoever’s playing good will have the opportunity to play.”

With Morin receiving his first night off from preseason action, Hakstol had Sanheim paired with Radko Gudas, while Hagg was working with Flyers top defenseman Ivan Provorov. Outside of a slow start and an unfortunate bounce on the Rangers' second goal, Hagg continued his steady play.

“I thought he didn’t have the cleanest start to a hockey game, but to his credit, he worked his way into the game,” Hakstol said. “The goal against — there’s a couple of things that happened before that that led to that play, but he had a hard-working night.”

You can be my wingman
Giroux’s much-anticipated left wing audition could be described as a good first night and worthy of a callback, whether that comes Tuesday night against the Rangers or Thursday against the Bruins.

Unofficially, the top line of Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek saw 15 shifts together at even strength, and then chemistry appeared to grow as the game progressed.

“It was good," Giroux said. "As the game went on, I started to feel more comfortable. We had a lot of chances, just some mistakes that you don’t see during the season, like a 2-on-0 with Jake, usually our chemistry is better than that. As the game went on, our chemistry got better and we were able to find each other a little bit more."

Giroux and Voracek had a prime scoring opportunity in the opening period, but Giroux’s shot from the right side went just wide of the net. Combined, the Flyers' top line finished the night with a minus-2 rating and six shots while winning 67 percent of its faceoffs.

“Maybe there was a tendency to make one more pass instead of putting it on net and stopping at the net and looking for one of those greasy goals,” Hakstol said. “But overall, there’s some good things there. There were enough positives to see if it can grow.”

Nolan's night
The No. 2 pick continues to settle into his role as the Flyers' No. 2 center. Once again, Nolan Patrick centered a line that included Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Patrick’s defense has been a steady component of his game since camp began, and now the rookie is sprinkling in some offense. Patrick contributed the primary assist on Sanheim’s first goal, which came during 4-on-4 play in the first period.

“Those are the kind of things he can do,” Hakstol said. “That’s hockey sense. That’s knowing what’s around him and being a step ahead. He’s building. As the speed of the games go up, there’s always more to learn. I think over the last week, he’s done a little more offensively. Each and every night he’s impacted the game offensively in our last three games, and that’s been a real positive.”

Flyers-Rangers preseason observations: Travis Sanheim's push to make team heats up

Flyers-Rangers preseason observations: Travis Sanheim's push to make team heats up

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NEW YORK — Dave Hakstol conducted some garden variety experimentation Monday night against the Rangers, by moving Claude Giroux to left wing for the first time in his Flyers career.

"It's definitely a change but you know I'm just trying to be in good position and make the right play," Giroux said. "Slowly, I'm feeling more comfortable."
 
The line combination of Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek failed to generate a point, but it was the play of rookie Travis Sanheim that took center stage off Broadway.

Sanheim notched a pair of goals, but the Flyers fell, 3-2, in overtime at Madison Square Garden. Ryan McDonagh scored the game-winner for New York in the 3-on-3 OT.

"It's really high right now," Sanheim said of his confidence. "Obviously, I don't want it to get too high. I just have to try and keep an even-keel here and finish up strong."

Sanheim has now scored the Flyers' last three goals of the preseason.

• For the fourth time in five preseason games, the Flyers went to overtime. The Rangers finished the job Monday, as the captain McDonagh collected his own rebound and pushed the puck past Michal Neuvirth for the game-winner with 1:09 remaining in OT.

• New York scored on its first shot on net, when Rick Nash deflected McDonagh's shot from the point to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 3:16 into the game.

• Sanheim tallied his first just 2:23 after the Rangers' first goal. The defenseman ripped a rocket past Henrik Lundqvist from the top of the left circle. It was his team-leading second of the preseason with assists from Jordan Weal and Nolan Patrick, who picked up his second assist in four preseason games.

• Sanheim added his second goal in the final moments of the second period, when he pinched behind the Rangers' defense and corralled Radko Gudas' shot from the point and backhanded it past Lundqvist with four seconds remaining in the period.

"I'm just trying to play my game,” Sanheim said. “All along I play that offensive side. I'm just trying to keep it simple defensively and trying to make smart plays and make good reads to get in the play and it's been working so far."

Sanheim has continued to make significant strides and show improvement throughout the preseason, and his offensive upside has to give Hakstol some serious consideration to how he wants his defense to look when the regular season begins (see story). There have been few lapses defensively since the preseason opener against the New York Islanders.

• The Rangers tied the game at 2-2 when Neuvirth knocked away Mika Zibanejad’s wrist shot with his blocker, but the rebound hit Robert Hagg, deflected off Neuvirth and just over the line for a goal.

• The Flyers' power play continues to work out the kinks. The team worked on the PP structure for the first time over the weekend. That unit is now 0 for 14 over the last two games. The Flyers finished Monday’s game 0 for 5.

• Scott Laughton continues to be a valuable asset on the Flyers' penalty kill. Laughton broke up several passes on the Rangers' early power play of the second period.  
  
• Gudas fell to the ice late in the first period and then appeared to be holding his hand in obvious pain. Gudas didn’t miss any time and made a pronounced statement in the third period when he unloaded an open-ice hit on Rangers center Filip Chytil. Mats Zuccarello rushed to Chytil’s defense, which resulted in a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a Flyers power play.

• The two teams will continue their preseason home-and-home series Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center as Brian Elliott is expected to play the entire game in net. Elliott turned aside all 18 shots in two periods of action last Thursday in Boston.

Lines, pairing and scratches:

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Sam Morin, Taylor Leier, Mike Vecchione, Dale Weise, Oskar Lindblom