Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Blackhawks 2 (OT)

usaclaudegiroux.jpg

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Blackhawks 2 (OT)

BOX SCORE

After shocking the Penguins with a weekend sweep of a home-and-home series, the Flyers tempted fate against the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

Craig Berube’s team came up with another fine effort for a 3-2 overtime win at the Wells Fargo Center. It was one of the best physically-competitive games the Flyers have played this season.

Claude Giroux won it with a blast off the right wing with 4.2 ticks left in overtime.

Embracing a 2-2 tie, the Flyers had five power plays and lots of chances.

Brayden Schenn had a goal waved off late in the game for a high-stick call to Vinny Lecavalier. It was not a reviewable play.

The Hawks came out hot against goalie Ray Emery, who had not played in a game since the end of February, as Chicago built a quick 2-0 lead minutes into the opening period.

After that, however, the Flyers patiently chipped away to draw even by period’s end with two goals from Scott Hartnell.

Now what followed in the second period was rather strange as the game settled into intermittent shots and a 2-2 tie as if both teams were playing for just that -- a tie.

Sean Couturier had the best scoring chance that period on a wraparound attempt even strength, while the Flyers continued to generate chances on their power play, which has been electric of late.

Chicago is 31-1-7 when scoring first this season.

Matchups
Berube went with Couturier’s line against Jonathan Toews; Giroux went up against Ben Smith’s line with Patrick Kane. Through two periods, Toews did not have a shot on goal.

Deadly dozen
This was Game 3 of the 12 games that will pretty much decide whether the Flyers are going to make the playoffs. The Flyers are 3-0 with six points through their last three games.

The West
The Flyers are 13-9-2 against the Western Conference.

Long layoff
Emery’s last start was a 2-1 win over Calgary. His last appearance was in relief of Steve Mason during the Feb. 27 blowout loss to San Jose when he injured his groin.

Brutal start
Both goalies had it rough, especially Emery, who looked very rusty in the first period. A bad drop pass in his own end by Brayden Schenn resulted in Andrew Shaw beating Emery at 2:29 as the Flyers' goalie was slow reacting to the play. A little over a minute later, Duncan Keith ripped a shot from inside the blue line and the puck hopped through Emery’s five hole. Two goals on four shots. Obviously, the Flyers' start against Chicago wasn’t of the Pittsburgh variety.

Backups
Chicago also went with its backup goalie, Antti Raanta. Hartnell made it a 2-1 game at 5:48 when he banged the puck off Raanta’s left skate into the net off a pass from defenseman Braydon Coburn behind the net. Hartnell’s second goal at 16:27 tied the game after Giroux and Matt Read did some nice forecheck work to wear the Hawks down.

The post
The Flyers hit six of them in this game.

Power play
After going 3 for 7 in two games against Pittsburgh, the Flyers were eager to keep it going. Giroux and Mark Streit each nailed the right crossbar in the first period. They had five power plays in the game and a half dozen scoring chances on the first three power plays. On the third one, Wayne Simmonds couldn’t find a puck at his feet in the paint while Brayden Schenn missed a perfect setup from Lecavalier as the puck was just wide of his stick off a redirect. Giroux and Jakub Voracek each nicked the post on the fifth power play. The Flyers finished 0 for 5.

Penalty kill
The Flyers were a perfect 3 for 3 against the Blackhawks.

Birthday boy
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen celebrated his 39th birthday.

Faceoffs
Michal Handzus won a clutch draw off Giroux in the first period with the Hawks facing a 10-second, two-man disadvantage. The lost faceoff allowed Chicago to eat up the seconds and regroup to face a four-on-three.

Fights
Zac Rinaldo and Sheldon Brookbank fought to a second-period draw. Bryan Bickell had a decision over Simmonds in the third period.

Scratches
No changes. Defensemen Hal Gill and Erik Gustafsson; forward Jay Rosehill.

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.