Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Canucks 3 (SO)

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Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Canucks 3 (SO)

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Early in the season, Steve Mason was the sole reason the Flyers weren’t losing games by four or five goals a night.

That was largely the case again Monday against the Canucks, as Mason kept the Flyers in a game they ought to have lost badly. Mason finished with 41 saves, added three more in the shootout, while Vinny Lecavalier scored the game-winner on the Flyers' first shootout attempt and the Flyers won, 4-3.

It’s only the second time the Flyers have won back-to-back shootouts in team history. The only other time was in March 2006 against Montreal and Carolina.

At the end of the first period, the Flyers trailed in shots, 13-7, despite leading 1-0. After two, they had been outshot 28-16, though they were tied 2-2. They finished the night with 27 shots compared to the Canucks’ 44.

It was the most shots they’ve given up in regulation all season, but Mason kept them in it the entire night.

The Flyers weren’t playing as poorly as they had been in October or early November, but the Canucks simply outplayed them. The Canucks put together strong chances. They exposed the Flyers’ sometimes-unreliable defense, and they shut down the Flyers’ red-hot power play.

But Mason, who’s had an up-and-down past few weeks, looked a lot like the goaltender he was to start the season. He stopped multiple Canucks scoring chances that likely would have beat most any other goaltender.

And thanks to him, they escaped Vancouver with two points they didn’t exactly deserve.

Lucky start
It’s not that the Flyers had a bad first period, but they were fortunate to be up 1-0 on Mark Streit’s goal after 20 minutes. They were outshot in the opening stanza and the Canucks had a few good chances on Mason, who, by the way, looked a lot sharper right at the start of this one than he did a couple days ago in Edmonton.

Which is it?
Just under three minutes into the opening period, Canucks winger Daniel Sedin was called for hooking Streit … but Streit was called too, for an unsportsmanlike penalty -- apparently, he dove on the play. An official shouldn’t be able to call a penalty on a player and accuse the player who was the target of the infraction for exaggerating. Either Sedin hooked Streit or he didn’t. Which was it?

The trouble with Coby
Braydon Coburn’s turnover early in the Flyers’ last game in Edmonton resulted in the goal that put the Oilers up 1-0. Monday night in Vancouver, he was guilty of a couple similar mistakes -- one of which would have been a goal, had Mason not laid out to make a staggering save on Chris Higgins.

Giroux’s new record
After his assist on Streit’s first-period goal, Claude Giroux extended his point streak to nine games -- just like eight and seven were, it’s a new career record for the Flyers’ captain. His second-period goal was pure Giroux -- he sure looks like a player who deserves to play in the Olympics.

Sestito? Really?
Tom Sestito – yes, that Tom Sestito -- scored the Canucks’ second-period goal that tied the game 1-1. The Canucks picked up Sestito, the former Flyers tough guy, after the Flyers waived him last year. He scored just two goals in parts of two seasons with the Flyers (and had just five, total, in his career heading into this year), but already has three this season alone in Vancouver playing on the team’s fourth line. 

Raffl’s success
Michael Raffl, who made public Monday that he had made the Austrian Olympic team (see story), had another strong night. Raffl had his third multi-point night in his last 10 games in Vancouver, and continued to solidify.

Tense third
The Canucks thought they'd locked it up in regulation when Sedin beat Mason on a rather soft goal. But Brayden Schenn secured the Flyers at least one point in the final minute of the game, beating Canucks goalie Eddie Lack to tie the game at 3. 

Shootout winner
Lecavalier, who didn’t score on his shootout attempt Saturday, scored the lone shootout goal tonight, beating Lack with a dazzling move.

The end
Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek both saw their point streaks end Monday night. Voracek's ended at nine games, while Simmonds' ended at five.

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

CHICAGO — Ron Hextall had no idea which way New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was leaning.

Would Shero take Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier with his No. 1 pick?

"I asked Ray 10 minutes before he picked and he wouldn't tell me," Hextall said. "I give him credit. That is what he should have done … I didn't have an expectation one way or the other."

Shero wanted a dynamic player to put bodies in the stands at Prudential Center. He chose Hischier.

That made it easy for Hextall at No. 2 to select Patrick (see story).

If rumors were true that Shero was scared off by Patrick's several injuries this past season at Brandon, well, the Flyers weren't.

"What I believe, we gather a lot of information," Hextall said. "There's some stuff out there you want to prove wrong and we did. We're comfortable with the injury part of it. He is a really good young man."

Patrick is a two-way player and a natural center. The Flyers have seven centers right now (see story), including Patrick, who is expected to play now. 

Hextall said he doesn't envision switching Patrick to the wing.

"I would rather have too many centers rather than five wingers on each side and no one to go in the middle," Hextall said.

Interesting that German Rubtsov, last year's top pick for the Flyers, has already been converted to a left winger since coming to North America to play junior.

Will Patrick be a No. 1 center as scouts project?

"Nolan has to answer that," Hextall said. "We see a kid with a big body, extremely high hockey sense, really good skill set. You get drafted today? The work starts now and Nolan has to put the work in.

"This is another level … this is the National Hockey League. In September, he comes to camp. He needs a big summer."

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

CHICAGO – The Flyers already have a familiar problem coming out of this NHL draft and heading training camp next fall: they’re too deep at center.
 
Friday night, they added three centers and traded another.
 
Brayden Schenn was sent to St. Louis for the Blues’ 27th pick in the first round, plus a conditional 2018 first-round pick and veteran utility center Jori Lehtera (see story).
 
General manager Ron Hextall wanted to trade back into the first round late and he did so by tabbing Morgan Frost at No. 27 with that Blues’ pick.
 
NHL Central Scouting had Frost ranked 31st among North American skaters. He is a 6-0, 170-pound forward from Aurora, Ontario.
 
He has raw speed and skill, but scouts say other parts of his game will need time to fill out. Frost had 20 goals and 62 points for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL this past season.
 
Friday’s other first-round pick, Nolan Patrick, is a natural centerman. Patrick is expected to play in the NHL this season. So right now, the Flyers’ centers are Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Vecchione, plus Patrick and now Lehtera.
 
Lehtera had 30 goals and 100 points in 218 games with the Blues. He was both a first- and second-line center for the Blues this past season despite weak numbers — seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.
 
He is a decent playmaker and two-way player, who has centered Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.
 
“He is utility guy with a well-rounded game and can play in the middle,” Hextall said. “We like the player. Gives coach more options.”
 
Best option: Lehtera can move to left wing if needed.
 
“Someone has to play the wing,” Hextall said. “He can play the wing. Our scouts have seen him play the wing, but he plays center most games. I am assuming he prefers center like most of them. Someone has to play wing.”
 
Schenn had improved every year he was with the Flyers, but too much of his scoring is on the power play and not five-on-five. He had 109 goals and 246 points in 424 career games for the Flyers.
 
This deal seems strange unless you consider the Flyers got another first-round pick (Frost) and a top-10 protected, conditional first-rounder next year. The Blues have the option to defer the 2018 first-rounder to 2019 but if they do so, the Flyers will also receive the Blues' 2020 third-round pick.
 
“It was a combination,” Hextall said of the advantages’ from the Flyers side. “It was one of those [trades] that came out of nowhere. Not like we were shopping Brayden.
 
“This deal came along and we really like the draft next year. We like the late pick this year and Jori. It made sense and we got a couple more young players.”
 
Young players like Frost, whom the Flyers are excited about.
 
“Our whole staff really liked the guy,” Hextall said. “He’s an extremely intelligent player, his No. 1 asset. Really smart. Reads the ice well. He has a very deft touch moving the puck.
 
“Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing. We believe he is a kid with a lot of upside. Good speed, but he dissects the game better than most players.”
 
Frost’s father Andy was the longtime former Toronto Maple Leafs PA announcer.
 
“I talked to them a couple times,” Frost said. “I’d say I had a bit of a gut feeling. I wasn’t too sure, but they took me and I’m super happy about it.
 
“I think first and foremost I’m a playmaker. I think I’m a high-skilled player that likes to use his vision and hockey sense to create plays. I’m working on becoming more of a two-way forward. That’s more of the player I want to become.”