Flyers' road trip ends with SO loss to Jets

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Flyers' road trip ends with SO loss to Jets

BOXSCORE

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- As bad as it was to see a point the Flyers had fought hard to get to complete a perfect road trip, they'll feel pretty good about themselves this weekend.

Five out of six points on the road is outstanding. Things are falling in place for Craig Berube’s club, which is 6-3-2 in its last 11 games after Friday’s 3-2 shootout loss (see Instant Replay).

“It was a good road trip,” Berube said. “I would have liked to get that one tonight. I thought we sat back too much in the third period.”

Team captain Claude Giroux thought the trip was good and bad.

“You look at the big picture and [the trip] was something to be proud of,” he said. “At the same time, we need those points to climb back into the playoffs.

“We didn’t play well for two periods. We had the lead and sat back too much.”

The Flyers remain four points out of a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

The Jets had the Flyers backpedaling in the third period, as the Flyers seemed to be relying too much on goalie Steve Mason bailing them out.

Even though the Flyers dominated the overtime period, it wasn’t to be.

“Anytime you can get five of six points, it’s pretty good,” Mason said. “Moving forward we put ourselves in a good position.

“We got to find ways to close out hockey games going into the third period with a lead. Time winding down, you have to close things out. We need a better third period.”

You could look at the penalty Steve Downie took (see story), or you could blame the penalty killers for giving up two power-play goals or the entire team for trying to protect a one-goal lead instead of going for the jugular.

Berube thinks all three were factors but …

“The third periods this year, in general, are not where they need to be,” he said. “Tonight is one of those periods. I didn’t see enough.”

What he has seen, though, is an abundance of confidence from this club suddenly that wasn’t there last month.

“Team confidence,” Berube said. “They believe they can win games. They play like it. I still think we need to push more. We had that lead in the third. Whether we sat back or tired, I just think we can be more aggressive.

“You got to go and force the issue and attack the other team. You can’t sit back like that. We had a power play there and it wasn’t very good, and we could have put the game away.”

Mason said the Flyers scoring goals has changed the atmosphere in the locker room.

“When guys finally get to score, you feel good about yourself,” he said. “When you are able to keep rolling over and play lots of games, guys will have that momentum carry over in a positive way.

“In the big picture, it was a good trip. But we could have had the six points and that’s the frustrating thing.”

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."