Giroux's last-second magic gives Flyers OT win

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Giroux's last-second magic gives Flyers OT win

BOX SCORE

In the goal-scoring annals of young Claude Giroux, the Flyers’ captain admits this particular goal might have been the latest to ever come off his stick during a game.

There was roughly 10 seconds left in overtime when he began racing up the ice and just 4.2 ticks left on the clock after he scored the game-winner to give the Flyers a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

“When I went on the ice, it was maybe 15 seconds … I just wanted to shoot as hard as I can,” Giroux said. “Get it to the net. To be honest, I just shot it on net.”

He shot from a hard angle in the right circle for his 24th marker of the season. This goal has to be among the biggest because it comes during the Flyers' deadly-dozen march that is going to determine their playoff fate.

Did we mention the Flyers are 18-2-1 when Giroux scores? And that they own second place in the Metropolitan Division with 79 points -- one ahead of the Rangers with the Flyers having two games in hand?

“We did a lot of good things, traffic in front of the goalie (Antti Raanta),” said Giroux, who hit two posts earlier in the game. “When you hit a post, you can get momentum a little bit and we kind of got momentum from there.”

Honestly, while the Flyers played a perfect game against depleted Pittsburgh last Saturday in winning 4-0, this was a far more competitive game given the 'Hawks had all of their aces -- Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa -- in the lineup.

The Flyers took the fight directly to the defending Stanley Cup champs and beat them. Despite a rough four-minute start for goalie Ray Emery -- his first full game action since Feb. 8 -- the Flyers neutralized the 'Hawks the remainder of the night.

Toews had two shots and Kane had five as Sean Couturier’s shutdown line worked wonders again, just as it did against Sidney Crosby.

“That’s something we’ve focused on -- playing smart defense,” said Matt Read, a winger on that line. “Defense leads to offense and when we shut other teams down it gives us opportunities to win games.”

Emery faced 25 shots and did a very good job of anticipating some of the things his ex-Blackhawks teammates do -- like Toews on a sneaky wraparound in the third period to the far post where Emery had it sealed off.

By then, Emery was well into it and feeling his game legs after a rocky start.

“Ray did a great job,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “Probably read his old teammates very well. They had some wraparounds and stuff and he was over there. He was ready for it. He did a real good job of that. He stayed composed even though we were down 2-0 right away.”

A horrendous giveaway on the breakout by Brayden Schenn gift-wrapped Andrew Shaw’s goal at 2:29 of the first period. Then a bouncing shot from the point by Duncan Keith made it 2-0.

“Razor may have looked a little shaky, but after that he gobbled everything up,” said Scott Hartnell, who scored two himself before the first period ended. “He calmed things down. We started playing after that, got some goals and won.”

Berube’s clan looks at deficits as challenges, not adversity. Mentally, the Flyers seem playoff-ready for comeback challenges because they’ve been doing it so many months just to get into the race.

“We didn’t quit,” Couturier said. “Two little mistakes, they capitalized. It was still early in the game. We knew we could come back. We’re a pretty confident team right now. We can score goals.”

Hartnell scored twice to make it 2-2 and the game stayed that way into overtime as both teams settled into a contest in which neither wanted to make a mistake and yet, the Flyers were pressing on the attack at every chance, too.

“They skated, they won battles, they won draws," Toews said. "They did all the little things they needed to do to win the game. If you ask me, they deserve to win it -- and we didn’t.

"Antti played great. We had a horseshoe, you know, where at some moments where the puck didn’t end up in our net. We didn’t get anywhere close to Razor after the first 10 minutes of the game. It’s frustrating. We didn’t do the little things again. That’s what it comes down to, it’s pretty simple.”

Schenn atoned for what appeared to be the go-ahead goal in the third period, but it was waived off for a high-stick call to Vinny Lecavalier.

Instead of getting down, the Flyers came right back at the 'Hawks and peppered the net.

“The disallowed goal, yeah shoulders kind of relaxed and it was like, ‘You got to be kidding me,'" Read said. “We have good leadership in this locker room. Everyone was saying, 'Keep going.' 

“We knew it was going to come. It’s fun playing hockey right now. We’re doing the easy and simple things out there … playing smarter defense and winning games.”

Three games into the deadly dozen, Berube’s Flyers are 3-0 with six points. The march continues Thursday against Dallas.

Best of NHL: Bruins snap 4-game skid, beat Islanders, move into playoff position

Best of NHL: Bruins snap 4-game skid, beat Islanders, move into playoff position

NEW YORK -- Riley Nash scored twice and backup goalie Anton Khudobin made 18 saves as the Boston Bruins beat the New York Islanders 2-1 Saturday night, snapping a four-game losing streak.

Nash broke a 1-1 tie with his second goal of the contest at 4:12 of the third period, beating Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss from the slot for his seventh goal of the season. Dominic Moore assisted on the decisive goal, which lifted Boston two points ahead of the Islanders for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

John Tavares scored for New York and Greiss finished with 16 saves.

Tavares had a golden chance to knot the score with just over six minutes left in the third period but rang the puck off the crossbar with the Islanders on their sixth power play of the game (see full recap).

Eichel, Sabres slow Leafs' push to clinch playoff berth
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored twice and set up another goal in the Buffalo Sabres' 5-2 win that slowed the youth-laden Toronto Maple Leafs' late-season surge to clinch a playoff berth.

Ryan O'Reilly and Dmitry Kulikov each had a goal and assist, and Evander Kane also scored in a game the Sabres took control of by scoring three straight times in the second period. Robin Lehner stopped 32 shots, and the Sabres continued their home dominance over their cross-border rivals by improving to 18-2-1 against Toronto in their last 21 games at Buffalo.

The Maple Leafs' hold on third-place in the Atlantic Division dwindled in having a three-game winning streak end and losing in regulation for just the second time in their past 10 (7-2-1). With 85 points, Toronto has a one-point edge over Boston after the Bruins beat the New York Islanders.

Auston Matthews scored his 34th to tie Toronto's single-season rookie record set by Wendel Clark in 1985-86. Connor Brown also scored for Toronto (see full recap).

Marchessault's hat trick helps Panthers blow out Blackhawks
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Jonathan Marchessault scored his first career hat trick, James Reimer stopped 25 shots for his first shutout of the season and the Florida Panthers routed the Chicago Blackhawks 7-0 on Saturday night.

Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and three assists, and Aleksander Barkov added a goal and two assists for Florida. Reilly Smith and Nick Bjugstad also scored to give the Panthers their largest margin of victory since an 8-0 win over Toronto on Feb. 5, 2008.

Marchessault had two goals in a 3-1 win over Arizona on Thursday. He has nine goals over his last nine games and leads the Panthers with 28.

Corey Crawford stopped 21 shots for the Blackhawks before being lifted at 4:59 of the third for Scott Darling, who allowed three goals on six shots.

Already leading 3-0, the Panthers poured in four goals in the third (see full recap).

Caps top Coyotes as Ovechkin reaches 30 goals for 12th straight season
WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin recorded his 30th goal of the season and Daniel Winnik scored two goals, including the game-winner late in the third period, as the Washington Capitals overcame listless stretches to beat the lowly Arizona Coyotes 4-1 on Saturday night.

Ovechkin became the third player in league history to score 30-plus goals in each of his first 12 seasons, joining Mike Gartner (15) and Wayne Gretzky (13).

Winnik scored with 4:39 remaining, Justin Williams added another goal not long and Winnik sealed the Capitals' fourth consecutive victory with an empty-netter.

Braden Holtby made 28 saves for Washington, which has won five of six to reach an NHL-leading 106 points and keep pace atop the competitive Metropolitan Division. The Capitals are three points up on the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Mike Smith stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced and Peter Holland scored the lone goal for Arizona (see full recap).

Flyers-Blue Jackets 10 observations: Strong effort not enough to overcome Sergei Bobrovsky

Flyers-Blue Jackets 10 observations: Strong effort not enough to overcome Sergei Bobrovsky

From Winnipeg to Minnesota to Columbus, the Flyers' final long road trip made its third stop Saturday afternoon in Ohio against a rather imposing Blue Jackets team.

The Blue Jackets clinched a playoff berth earlier in the week and in this one, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky earned his seventh shutout with a 1-0 victory -- his 40th this season, which is a career-high and a Columbus franchise record (see game story).

Dave Hakstol's team played a ferocious game -- two in succession now -- and demonstrated the urgency needed, even though its playoff odds took another turn for the worse.

The overall impact on the wild card remained temporarily unknown because of the Bruins-Islanders game to be played later Saturday night, but regardless of who wins, the Flyers will fall eight points out of the wild card.

The Flyers end their four-game road trip Sunday night in Pittsburgh in the back end of the back-to-back, where Steve Mason is expected to start in net.

Here are 10 things I think, I think.
 
1. Nationwide Arena hasn't been kind to the Flyers, who are now 0-5-5 in the building since December 2008. To say the Blue Jackets own the Flyers would be an understatement given they've won 13 of the last 15 games going back to Dec. 21, 2013.
 
2. Hakstol dusted off Michal Neuvirth for the front end of this back-to-back. Neuvirth's only start before Saturday was March 9 in Toronto, when Hakstol came under criticism for using him instead of riding Mason, who was on a 3-0-1 hot streak at the time. Saturday was just Neuvirth's third appearance in March, including in relief at New Jersey on March 16. He's been understandably rusty, yet he was very good in this game.
 
3. Hakstol, as he often does after a win, stuck with the same lineup he used during Thursday's 3-1 victory in Minnesota, which meant that rookie Travis Konecny -- who played less than 10 minutes against the Wild -- was again buried on the fourth line. He finished with 12:17 against the Blue Jackets.
 
4. Hakstol has pulled his goalie many times in the past with almost two minutes left on the clock. Why did he wait until the final 48 seconds Saturday to pull Neuvirth? What did he have to lose with a playoff berth on the line?
 
5. There is little question the Flyers' trading of Bobrovsky ranks among their top five worst trades in club history orchestrated just because of the team's enormous monetary commitment to Ilya Bryzgalov, who is chasing bears in the woods of South Jersey these days. All "Bob" has done in Columbus is win a Vezina Trophy and is the favorite for the award again this season. He is also among the candidates this season for the Hart Trophy. Bobrovsky came into the game 7-1 against the Flyers all-time with a 1.85 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. Bobrovsky had three saves on Wayne Simmonds alone in a scoreless first period and finished with 36 overall.
 
6. Nick Foligno has always been a Flyers killer over his career. The talented winger came into play with 21 points (14 goals) in 28 career games against the orange and black. The flyers shut him down Saturday, as Foligno had just two shots in the game.
 
7. The Flyers' penalty kill units were active with their sticks and attacking the puck on Columbus from all sides -- not allowing the Jackets a good setup. Ian Laperriere's PK units improved toward the end of this trip. The Blue Jackets were 0 for 2.
 
8. An unfortunate break of the stick for Simmonds led to Columbus' only goal late in the second period off an Alex Wennberg redirection. If Simmonds had his stick, Kyle Quincey doesn't outreach him for the puck near the blue line. Instead, it's a shot on net that's deflected for the eventual game-winner.
 
9. The Flyers' second power-play unit with Jordan Weal and Konecny produced four shots in the closing minutes of that second period, but again Bobrovsky was the ultimate difference then and in the final eight seconds with a save on Jakub Voracek and subsequent rebound scrum in front. Joey Mullen's power play has collapsed at the end -- 3 for 43 during the month of March. It was 0 for 3 in this game.
 
10. No criticism of the Flyers in this one. They did everything they could to win. That's all you can ask against a goalie that outright owns you. Again, however, the level of desperation they showed in this and the Wild loss should have been exhibited over a month ago.