Flyers' third line sparks victory over Sabres

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Flyers' third line sparks victory over Sabres

BOX SCORE

Were it not for a concussion and eye injury, who knows what kind of stats Steve Downie might have at this point.

He came here in a trade from Colorado for Max Talbot, got into a fight and missed four games.

Since he's come back, well, he’s been an assist machine for the Flyers. Downie added two more assists Thursday night during the Flyers' 4-1 win over the hapless Buffalo Sabres (see Instant Replay).

That’s five assists in six games as a Flyer and 11 assists overall this season. Both his assists were first assists, setting up two Matt Read goals that helped the Flyers erase a 1-0 deficit and never look back on Buffalo.

“We just got a couple openings,” Downie said, downplaying his role on Sean Couturier’s third line. “Matt Read had a great shot.

Flyers coach Craig Berube feels Downie is a perfect fit on this line.

“He creates offense for that line,” Berube said. “He’s got very good vision and he’s strong on the puck. Makes a lot of little plays. Your checking the other team’s top line with [them] and it’s nice to get some offense, too.

“He provides that. He’s a good player along the walls. He doesn’t panic with the puck on the wall. He’s strong. He’ll eat it [if necessary] and do the right things.”

Couturier’s line had six points in the game with those two goals.

“Yes, we are getting comfortable together,” Downie said. “We’re getting to know each other now and where we are going to be. Tonight, it worked out and we are getting better. If we want to get into playoffs, we have to keep pushing.

“I’m just trying to do my job. I play similar every night. Some nights you get points and some you don’t. We got bounces tonight.”

Couturier was impressed.

“He’s a smart player out there,” he said of Downie. “He’s creating some plays and creating some space for us, me and Reader. Ever since he’s gotten here, it’s been easier. He’s all over the ice and it’s nice to play with him.

“Downs is creating a lot of space out there. It’s fun, I mean, we’re having some good chemistry now and hopefully we can keep having success.”

There really wasn’t a whole lot going on with the Flyers peppering goalie Ryan Miller with some tough shots for almost 30 minutes.

“The first period we got away from our system,” mused Read. “We were playing pond hockey. We weren’t playing smart, physical hockey, getting pucks deep.

“We talked on the bench, Downie, Coots and I about keeping it simple, getting pucks deep and going to work. And it happened in back-to-back shifts and we got a couple lucky bounces and couple lucky goals.

The first goal saw Downie pass from behind the net into the high slot where Read shot.

“I didn't get all of it,” Read said. “I don't know what happened, I think Miller might have fell down. But, luckily, I'll take that to tie the game up.”

A little over a minute later, Read gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead with his sixth goal overall and second of the game off a faceoff in the Buffalo zone.

“I was forechecking their [defense] and I saw Coots get the puck,” Read said. “I just stayed in front of the net and he fired the puck to me. I caught it and had all the time in the world and put it upstairs.”

Yep, high under the crossbar after Miller committed.

Facing long NHL draft lottery odds, Flyers land 2017 No. 2 pick

Facing long NHL draft lottery odds, Flyers land 2017 No. 2 pick

The Flyers are movin' on up. W-a-a-ay up.

The NHL held its annual draft lottery Saturday night in Toronto to determine the first 15 picks in the first round of the 2017 NHL draft and the Flyers shocked everyone.

They came into the lottery in the 13th position and despite l-o-n-g odds, managed to catapult themselves into the No. 2 pick.

New Jersey won the top pick with Dallas taking the third. Neither Colorado, which had the worst record in the league, nor the Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team, finished in the top three.

It's sweet revenge for finishing last in 2007 and not getting the top pick (Patrick Kane), which went to Chicago. The Flyers chose James van Riemsdyk that draft.

Suddenly, the Flyers have a shot at picking from among the top-five forward prospects, as ranked by NHL Central Scouting for this draft. They are: Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, Casey Mittelstadt, Gabriel Vilardi and Michael Rasmussen.

Obviously, not making the playoffs has its rewards.

Dave Hakstol's club had a 2.2 percent chance to capture the first overall pick, as well as a 2.4 percent chance and 2.7 percent chance at the second and third overall pick, respectively.

They beat the odds.

The highest percentage saw them remaining at 13th overall (84.3 percent).

Because of the rules of the lottery, the 12 clubs not selected in the NHL draft lottery will be assigned NHL draft selections four through 15, in inverse order of regular-season points.

Hence, the Flyers could not pick fourth-12th and could only pick in the 1-3 positions, or fall to 14th (8.3 percent) or 15th (0.1 percent).

As was the case last year, the first three picks are decided by a lottery, but this year also included the newest NHL franchise, the Golden Knights, as part of the group.

Vegas was given the same odds as the team finishing with the third-fewest points during the 2016-17 regular season and held a 10.3 percent chance at winning the first overall pick.

The best chance at No. 1 overall going in was the Colorado Avalanche (18 percent) followed by the Vancouver Canucks (12.1 percent). Vegas and the Arizona Coyotes were next (10.3 percent).

Vegas was guaranteed to pick no lower than the sixth overall selection but held a 30 percent chance to finish with either the first, second or third overall pick.

The draft is June 23-24 in Chicago.

NHL Playoffs: Cam Talbot, Pat Maroon lead Oilers to 2-0 series lead over Ducks

NHL Playoffs: Cam Talbot, Pat Maroon lead Oilers to 2-0 series lead over Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Cam Talbot made 39 saves, Patrick Maroon scored a power-play goal and the Edmonton Oilers moved halfway to the Western Conference finals with a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 of their second-round series Friday night.

Andrej Sekera scored an early goal for the Oilers, who took the first two games on Pacific Division champion Anaheim's home ice. Talbot was the difference in Game 2, making all manner of impressive saves while Anaheim dominated the last 30 minutes.

Jakob Silfverberg scored and John Gibson stopped 21 shots for the Ducks, who had gone 18 games without a regulation defeat before this series. Anaheim has never recovered from an 0-2 series deficit, losing all seven series after digging that early hole.

Game 3 is Sunday in Edmonton (see full recap).

Tarasenko scores twice as Blues beat Predators
ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal with 3:51 left to give the St. Louis Blues a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 2 on Friday night to tie the Western Conference semifinal series.

Jori Lehtera also scored for the Blues, and Jake Allen stopped 22 shots -- including 14 in the third period.

Ryan Ellis had a goal and an assist and James Neal also scored for the Predators, who had their franchise-high five-game postseason winning streak snapped. Pekka Rinne finished with 17 saves.

Game 3 is Sunday at Nashville, Tennessee.

Tarasenko's game-winner came on a lucky bounce. Jaden Schwartz led the rush and initially tried to pass it to Carl Gunnarsson, but the pass was off the mark and bounced off of Gunnarsson's foot right to Tarasenko's stick.

It was the first lead for St. Louis in 116:09 of the series (see full recap).