Instant Replay: Flyers 2, Penguins 1

usa-emery-slideshow.jpg

Instant Replay: Flyers 2, Penguins 1

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- If Brayden Schenn was supposed to be tired playing in his second game in 24 hours, he certainly didn’t get the memo.

Schenn scored both of the Flyers’ goals in their 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. His contributions (offensively, at least) were all the Flyers needed to win their third game in a row.

But as strong as Schenn -- and certainly his linemates Vinny Lecavalier and Wayne Simmonds -- looked Wednesday night, the Flyers are lucky to have escaped the CONSOL Energy Center with a victory. They started out slow, and trailed significantly in shots and chances through most of the game.

In fact, had Ray Emery not been so adept at handling the torrent of Pens shots he faced, the game’s outcome could have been very different. Emery remained composed early, when the Penguins peppered him for minutes at a time, and he continued to be calm later when challenged by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pens’ other big guns.

Schenn opened the Flyers’ scoring in the closing minutes of the opening period, thanks to some hard work in the corner by Simmonds, who dug the puck out and dished it perfectly to the slot.

Crosby answered back for the Penguins midway through the second period, but the tie game lasted only until 18:40 of the stanza, when Schenn once again capitalized -- he, too, on the man advantage.

Flyers fans, certainly, will take joy in the fact that the game wasn't just the Flyers' third consecutive win -- it also marked the Pens’ third loss in a row, and sixth in their last 10 games.

The reset button
The Flyers got lucky -- very lucky -- right at the start of the game. The Penguins launched three quick shots in on Emery right after the first puck dropped, bypassing a Flyers defense that didn’t put up any kind of a fight. The third shot beat Emery just 19 seconds in, but was ruled to have been kicked in by Pens winger Chris Kunitz.

Schenn’s success
Brayden Schenn’s goals represented the winger’s fourth and fifth points (and second and third goals) in three games. He now has six goals on the season, good for second on the team behind Vinny Lecavalier, who has seven.

Streak snapped
The Flyers bid farewell to their shutout streak of 95:04 when Crosby scored in the second period to tie the game at 1-1.

Turning point
The Flyers had a coveted two-man advantage for 21 seconds as the second period ticked toward a close, thanks to penalties called on Deryk Engelland and Pascal Dupuis. They didn’t score during it, but Schenn tapped home his own rebound did before the Flyers’ time on the five-on-four expired. The Penguins had chances following that goal, but nothing Emery couldn't handle.

Emery impresses
Simply put: The Flyers have an embarrassment of riches in net right now. Steve Mason was stellar Tuesday, and Emery was impressive against the Penguins 24 hours later -- perhaps no more than when he silenced Crosby on a breakaway. Emery was tested all night, as the players in front of him were clearly tired. By the end of the evening, he’d stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced.

Why Razor?
Speaking of goaltending, fans on Twitter were surprised to see Emery awarded the start Wednesday night instead of Mason, who shut out the Ottawa Senators in Tuesday’s 5-0 rout. But Berube had his reasons for the decision: “I don’t think it’s about wearing anybody down,” he said. “I have a thought in my mind already what we want to do, and I stick with it.”

Bad behavior
Penalties were a bit of an issue for the Flyers Wednesday, arguably, at least in part, the result of fatigue. The Flyers incurred five infractions, compared to just three for the Pens (we won't get into the take on Twitter as to why the penalty calling was uneven in this space, though).

.500 under Berube
With the win, the Flyers are 7-7-1 since Berube took over -- good enough to finally reach .500.

Home away from home
After their win, the Flyers are an impressive 7-1-1 lifetime at Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center.

The scratches
The Flyers kept the same lineup as they set out on the ice Tuesday, scratching Hal Gill, Andrej Meszaros and Michael Raffl.

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

usa-mika-zibanejad-rangers.jpg
USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have signed center Mika Zibanejad to a $26.75 million, five-year deal.

Zibanejad will count $5.35 million against the salary cap through 2021-22 as the Rangers count on him to take on a bigger role following the trade of Derek Stepan. General manager Jeff Gorton announced the contract Tuesday morning, before the team and Zibanejad were set to go to arbitration.

The 24-year-old Swede had 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 56 games last season, his first with New York. The Rangers acquired Zibanejad from the Ottawa Senators for Derick Brassard a year ago.

Zibanejad has 188 points in 337 NHL games with the Senators and Rangers since Ottawa drafted him sixth overall in 2011 (see full story).

Team Canada names Sean Burke GM for 2018 Olympics
Sean Burke will be the general manager and Willie Desjardins the head coach for Canada at the first Olympics without NHL players since 1994.

Hockey Canada named its management and coaching staffs for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics on Tuesday. St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Martin Brodeur will work under Burke on the management side, while Desjardins will be assisted by Dave King, Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Canada has been grooming Burke for this responsibility for some time as he served as assistant GM for the 2017 world championships, GM for the 2016 Spengler Cup and Deutschland Cup and director of player development for the 2016 worlds. Desjardins coached Canada's 2010 world junior team and assisted in 2009.

USA Hockey has not yet named its GM or coach (see full story).

Sabres re-sign goalie Lehner to 1-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y.  -- The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed goaltender Robin Lehner to a $4 million, one-year contract.

The team announced the deal Tuesday. Lehner was a restricted free agent.

The 26-year-old Swede showed he could stay healthy last season, setting career highs with 59 games played, 23 wins and two shutouts. He ranked third in the NHL with 1,758 saves and finished with a .920 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average.

Bothered by injuries and concussion problems, Lehner had never before played more than 36 games in his NHL career. The Sabres took a chance on Lehner when they traded a first-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for him at the 2015 draft.

Lehner will again be a restricted free agent next summer when this contract expires.

Devils re-sign 3 restricted free agents
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Mirco Mueller, forward Joseph Blandisi and goaltender Scott Wedgewood.

Mueller got a two-year deal worth an average of $850,000 a season, Blandisi a two-year, two-way deal worth an average of $680,000 in the NHL, and Wedgewood a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 in the NHL. General manager Ray Shero announced the contracts Tuesday.

Re-signing Mueller for two years was the most significant move after New Jersey acquired the 22-year-old from San Jose before the Vegas expansion draft. The Swiss defender has just six points in 54 NHL games with the Sharks, but still is considered a good prospect after being a first-round pick in 2013.

Mueller will make $775,000 next season and $925,000 in 2018-19.

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

philadelphia-rebels-carson-briere.jpg
John Boruk/CSNPhilly.com

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.