Flyers rally past Sharks to cap California trip

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Flyers rally past Sharks to cap California trip

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- There was a common thread to the Flyers' three-game road trip to the West Coast.

They skated with all three clubs -- Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. They were competitive in the one-on-one battles. And they had solid goaltending from Steve Mason.

All of that was evident in Monday’s 5-2 Flyers' victory over the Sharks that gave them four points in three games, a terrific road trip for Craig Berube’s club.

“A good trip,” Berube said. “We battled hard against all three teams. We got results.”

It was the Flyers first win here since Nov. 5, 1999, snapping a 13-game winless streak. Berube was a player on that Eric Lindros-led team back then.

“Feels pretty good,” Berube said. “I might have scored [in that one].”

He didn’t.

But the Flyers did in this one.

They trailed 2-1 going into the third period and you could feel they were on the upswing against goalie Antti Niemi, barely missing on two great scoring chances in the middle period.

When the final period began, the Flyers scored three goals over a 2:45 span to blow it open at 4-2.

It was a franchise-record 10th third-period comeback win for the Flyers this season, breaking their previous record of nine set in 1996-97.

“We stayed calm. It was awesome,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We knew we had ‘em. We were playing great. Tonight was one of our best games of the year, start to finish. Everyone was going, lines one through four.

“Our defensemen were going, Mase [Mason] played great. The third period we had a little outburst there, but that was because we stuck with the program.”

Matt Read, Michael Raffl and Claude Giroux scored quickly to open the period and chase Niemi from the game for backup Alex Stalock.

Raffl’s goal became the game-winner on a rebound in the slot off Erik Gustafsson’s point shot.

“This is a really good hockey team and to come back in the third period is huge for us,” Raffl said. “We played well the whole game.

“Sooner or later the goals were going to come. We kept putting pucks on the net. It worked out for us.”

Giroux posted his third multi-point effort in the last four games and fifth in the last nine games.

He had two goals and three assists for five points in the last two games (including Los Angeles) of the trip -- both Flyer wins.

“This was our best game,” said Giroux, who tied Simmonds with 18 goals as the club leaders. “We were down 2-1 pretty much the whole game, but we liked the way we played.

“We had chances and when we had them in the third, it went in. Our defense was coming in and we had chances to score. This was one of our best games that our defense played.

“When they broke out of the zone, going D to D, they were skating and it made our job easier. We weren’t spending time in our zone. We were breaking out as five guys.”

Indeed, Gustafsson and Luke Schenn -- who were a defensive pair on the trip -- were a combined plus-6. Mark Streit had a key goal early on to jump start the Flyers, as well.

“I didn't really see how it went in,” Streit said of his hard laser from the point that gave them a 1-0 first-period lead. “Simmer made a great screen in front and that definitely made a difference.

“Everything is so tight, and it was three tough games. We won two. We can be pretty happy with ourselves. Gives us a lot of confidence for the next two games before the Olympic break.

“Defensively, we have been playing pretty well. We close faster on guys in the corner and were getting help from second and third guys. And we were able to break the puck out, which makes a huge difference.

“We got to skate, got to skate. As long as we’re skating, we’re OK. Sometimes we were too passive in the past. We didn’t initiate games and we did that tonight.”

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

CHICAGO — Ron Hextall had no idea which way New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was leaning.

Would Shero take Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier with his No. 1 pick?

"I asked Ray 10 minutes before he picked and he wouldn't tell me," Hextall said. "I give him credit. That is what he should have done … I didn't have an expectation one way or the other."

Shero wanted a dynamic player to put bodies in the stands at Prudential Center. He chose Hischier.

That made it easy for Hextall at No. 2 to select Patrick (see story).

If rumors were true that Shero was scared off by Patrick's several injuries this past season at Brandon, well, the Flyers weren't.

"What I believe, we gather a lot of information," Hextall said. "There's some stuff out there you want to prove wrong and we did. We're comfortable with the injury part of it. He is a really good young man."

Patrick is a two-way player and a natural center. The Flyers have seven centers right now (see story), including Patrick, who is expected to play now. 

Hextall said he doesn't envision switching Patrick to the wing.

"I would rather have too many centers rather than five wingers on each side and no one to go in the middle," Hextall said.

Interesting that German Rubtsov, last year's top pick for the Flyers, has already been converted to a left winger since coming to North America to play junior.

Will Patrick be a No. 1 center as scouts project?

"Nolan has to answer that," Hextall said. "We see a kid with a big body, extremely high hockey sense, really good skill set. You get drafted today? The work starts now and Nolan has to put the work in.

"This is another level … this is the National Hockey League. In September, he comes to camp. He needs a big summer."

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

CHICAGO – The Flyers already have a familiar problem coming out of this NHL draft and heading training camp next fall: they’re too deep at center.
 
Friday night, they added three centers and traded another.
 
Brayden Schenn was sent to St. Louis for the Blues’ 27th pick in the first round, plus a conditional 2018 first-round pick and veteran utility center Jori Lehtera (see story).
 
General manager Ron Hextall wanted to trade back into the first round late and he did so by tabbing Morgan Frost at No. 27 with that Blues’ pick.
 
NHL Central Scouting had Frost ranked 31st among North American skaters. He is a 6-0, 170-pound forward from Aurora, Ontario.
 
He has raw speed and skill, but scouts say other parts of his game will need time to fill out. Frost had 20 goals and 62 points for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL this past season.
 
Friday’s other first-round pick, Nolan Patrick, is a natural centerman. Patrick is expected to play in the NHL this season. So right now, the Flyers’ centers are Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Vecchione, plus Patrick and now Lehtera.
 
Lehtera had 30 goals and 100 points in 218 games with the Blues. He was both a first- and second-line center for the Blues this past season despite weak numbers — seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.
 
He is a decent playmaker and two-way player, who has centered Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.
 
“He is utility guy with a well-rounded game and can play in the middle,” Hextall said. “We like the player. Gives coach more options.”
 
Best option: Lehtera can move to left wing if needed.
 
“Someone has to play the wing,” Hextall said. “He can play the wing. Our scouts have seen him play the wing, but he plays center most games. I am assuming he prefers center like most of them. Someone has to play wing.”
 
Schenn had improved every year he was with the Flyers, but too much of his scoring is on the power play and not five-on-five. He had 109 goals and 246 points in 424 career games for the Flyers.
 
This deal seems strange unless you consider the Flyers got another first-round pick (Frost) and a top-10 protected, conditional first-rounder next year. The Blues have the option to defer the 2018 first-rounder to 2019 but if they do so, the Flyers will also receive the Blues' 2020 third-round pick.
 
“It was a combination,” Hextall said of the advantages’ from the Flyers side. “It was one of those [trades] that came out of nowhere. Not like we were shopping Brayden.
 
“This deal came along and we really like the draft next year. We like the late pick this year and Jori. It made sense and we got a couple more young players.”
 
Young players like Frost, whom the Flyers are excited about.
 
“Our whole staff really liked the guy,” Hextall said. “He’s an extremely intelligent player, his No. 1 asset. Really smart. Reads the ice well. He has a very deft touch moving the puck.
 
“Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing. We believe he is a kid with a lot of upside. Good speed, but he dissects the game better than most players.”
 
Frost’s father Andy was the longtime former Toronto Maple Leafs PA announcer.
 
“I talked to them a couple times,” Frost said. “I’d say I had a bit of a gut feeling. I wasn’t too sure, but they took me and I’m super happy about it.
 
“I think first and foremost I’m a playmaker. I think I’m a high-skilled player that likes to use his vision and hockey sense to create plays. I’m working on becoming more of a two-way forward. That’s more of the player I want to become.”