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.”

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

PITTSBURGH -- There's a bit of tragic irony to how the Flyers' season will end over the next two-plus weeks.
 
They have seven games left on the schedule. Six of them are teams residing in the Metro Division. Tuesday's opponent, Ottawa, is the lone exception.
 
There are so many reasons why the Flyers are scrambling now, clinging to the desperate belief they can still make the playoffs -- mathematically, they're alive -- against all rational thought.
 
They're six points behind Boston for the second wild-card spot, but they still have to hurdle Carolina, Tampa Bay and the Islanders just to get to Boston.
 
Yet one major reason for the Flyers' dilemma seems pretty obvious: They've been simply awful in head-to-head play against their own division.
 
The Flyers have a winning record against both divisions in the Western Conference.
 
That's not the case, however, in the East where the Metro Division is the only division with three teams over 100 points and where the Flyers have failed miserably to challenge from within.
 
Sunday's 6-2 rout of the Penguins in Pittsburgh left the Flyers with a poor 9-13-2 record against the Metro. It's the only division they have a losing record against.
 
Last season, Dave Hakstol's group finished 14-10-6 against their own division. That was a critical factor in enabling the Flyers to make the playoffs.
 
"We know where we are in the standings and it's not going to be easy to make the playoffs," Jakub Voracek said. "We all know that. We have to work off results of the other teams and try to play relaxed and loose."
 
Against the Eastern Conference overall, the Flyers are close to .500 (21-22-4) yet realize they should be better.
 
These two records represent a very large reason why the Flyers are sitting on the outside looking in as the playoffs near.
 
Right now, at least four clubs from the Metro -- half the division -- will make the playoffs. That says a lot about why games within your section are so pivotal at season's end.
 
"The numbers don't lie," Hakstol admitted on Sunday. "It's a tough road every single night. You've got to do a good job within your division, within your conference.
 
"We've played a lot of tight, hard games. The reality is, we're a number of points out of the playoffs and those points within your division are very valuable."
 
It's something the Flyers have to greatly improve upon next season if they want to be sitting in a playoff spot a month before the season ends instead of playing catch-up when the odds are hopelessly against them.
 
Pens killers
Every team in the NHL has a couple players who have fairly impressive career numbers against other teams.
 
Voracek averages better than a point against the Penguins. His goal Sunday gave him 17 goals and 34 points in 32 career games against Pittsburgh.
 
Voracek admitted after the game he's not sure why.
 
Claude Giroux also has excellent numbers against the Pens -- his two assists in the win left the Flyers' captain with 41 points (14 goals) in 40 career games vs. Pittsburgh.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere has been around a fraction as long as either Giroux or Voracek -- eight career games vs. the Pens -- yet has two goals and nine points in those games.
 
Brayden Schenn doesn't average a point a game against the Pens, but he's close. His assist on Sunday left the winger/center with 20 points (8 goals) in 26 games.
 
The only Flyer who has solid numbers against Pittsburgh and didn't make Sunday's score sheet was Wayne Simmonds. He has 23 points in 28 games. 

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. ... Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. ... Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. ... Weise has three goals in his last seven games. ... Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.