Philadelphia Flyers

Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Sabres 3

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Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Sabres 3

BOX SCORE

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Vincent Lecavalier's goal with 14.8 seconds to play in regulation gave the Flyers a thrilling 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

Mostly stifled through two periods, the offenses for the Sabres and Flyers found their footing in a thrilling third period. Tied at 1 after 40 minutes, the teams traded goals and leads over the final frame, including a tour de force from Scott Hartnell. The big forward had a goal and two assists on the night after calling his team's recent play "soft" earlier in the day.

The Flyers didn't have to face one Olympic goaltender, only to nearly be foiled by another. Swedish Olympic netminder Jhonas Enroth filled in admirably for Team USA goalie Ryan Miller and stifled the Flyers' attack over 40 minutes at the First Niagara Center.

The game was chock full of power plays -- each team had four by the end of the second period -- but goaltending was the prime component of the teams going a combined 1 for 10. Philadelphia went 2 for 6 with goals from Jakub Voracek and Hartnell scoring with the man advantage.

The Flyers showed good jump to start the first and second periods and largely executed their plan of winning board battles and putting traffic in front of the Sabres' net, but Enroth was fantastic.

His performance included a Save of the Year candidate during the first period, as Claude Giroux dangled past Ville Leino and Enroth could not move to his right with Michael Raffl tangled with Brian Flynn at the top of the crease.

Giroux held onto the puck and sent a backhand toward the empty net, but a stickless Enroth dove back and to the right, using his blocker to punch the puck wide.

Bottom-dwelling Buffalo's lost its first regulation game in its last nine contests, falling to 6-1-2.

The goals
The Flyers talked about winning the little battles and being in good position, which turned out to be all talk on the Sabres' first goal. Matt D'Agostini and Steve Ott both won individual battles on the wall and Cody Hodgson was unguarded as he coasted into the slot for Ott's pass, then moving around a committed Steve Mason before sliding the puck into the right of the net.

The goal came at the 6:59 mark against a Sabres team being outscored 39-13 in first periods. Not the prescription for a team looking for a strong start.

Wayne Simmonds twice stopped at Enroth's left post to open a early second-period power play, but the Flyers were rewarded for their active power play moments later when Simmonds pushed a pass to Jakub Voracek through two Sabres defenders and the winger fired home from the goaltender's left to tie the score at the 1:40 mark with his 13th goal of the season. Hartnell picked up the second assist. It was the Flyers' third straight game with a power-play goal and their fifth in six contests.

The Sabres retook the lead when Ott's pass to the top of the crease found the stick of a diving D'Agostini, who tipped the puck over Mason for just his second goal of the season.

The Flyers got the little bit of luck they needed to tie the game when Enroth got tangled with defenseman Mark Pysyk at his right post and couldn't recover to stop a wide open Brayden Schenn at point blank range. Schenn's 12th of the year came from Hartnell and Andrej Meszaros.

Hartnell then gave the Flyers their first lead with his power-play goal at the 15:53 mark of the third, only to have Tyler Ennis put the game even again 54 seconds later with a high shot from the faceoff circle to the Mason's left.

Lecavalier ripped a slap shot home from just inside the blue line to give the Flyers the two points.

The near goals
Leino swept a Matt Read shot off the goal line 12 minutes into the second period, while Buffalo's Zemgus Girgensons' snap shot on a late first period two-on-one beat Mason but rocketed off the post and nearly out of the Flyers' zone.

Active whistles
The crew of Gord Dwyer, Wes McCauley, Brad Kovachik and John Grandt was ready to call penalties, as each team had three power plays by the game's midpoint.

Hartnell harmed
An attempted slap shot from the Sabres with about seven minutes gone in the second period caught Hartnell on the left leg and the big winger limped to the bench and directly down the tunnel. He later returned to the game.

Scrambling to recover
The Flyers seemed caught off guard by Hodgson's opening goal and Meszaros took a hooking penalty when Leino stickhandled the puck between the defenseman's legs moments after the goal. Fortunately, Mason was there for some quality stops over the two minutes, including a denial of Hodgson on the doorstep.

Enroth early
Giroux and Hartnell came hard out of the gates with numerous hits and scoring chances in the first period, but Enroth was there for the Sabres.

The pair were particularly effective on the power play. Early, Giroux found Hartnell, whose low one-timer went wide to the left of Enroth, followed by Hartnell deflecting a latter chance right into the crest of the Sabres goaltender on the same power play.

Aggressive start
Before the game, Simmonds mentioned the plan for Miller was to crowd the crease and "take away his eyes." The plan didn't change for Enroth, as the Flyers were swarming early and often.

This was far from the "soft" team Hartnell described after back-to-back losses to the Lightning and Rangers. The Flyers hit the boards hard early and good work along the lower right boards by Giroux forced Pysyk into a tripping call 3:19 into the game.

Next up
Back to Philadelphia and a Thursday night date with the Predators, who the Flyers beat 3-2 in Nashville on Nov. 30 behind regulation goals from Giroux and Sean Couturier and a shootout winner from Lecavalier.

Forcing the Flyers' hand? Travis Sanheim's chances at roster spot grow in preseason loss

Forcing the Flyers' hand? Travis Sanheim's chances at roster spot grow in preseason loss

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Is starting the season with three rookie defensemen asking too much?

Travis Sanheim might be making it possible.

“We got another good night of information," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said Monday after a 3-2 overtime preseason loss to the Rangers (see observations). "Those two young guys (Sanheim and Robert Hagg) played pretty well — Sanheim had a real impact on the hockey game tonight. We’re going to let these guys make those decisions.”

If the brain trust of Hakstol and Ron Hextall was expecting two of their three rookie defensemen to separate themselves during the preseason test run, well that hasn’t quite happened, as the 21-year-old Sanheim has displayed an offensive element that would give the Flyers a much-needed weapon from the blue line. Sanheim’s NHL-caliber slap shot, coupled with his mobility and ability to read plays in the offensive zone have set him apart from fellow rookies Hagg and Sam Morin.

“I’m slowly starting to build my game, get a lot more confidence and get comfortable playing with the guys around me,” Sanheim said. "I’m getting more comfortable with the team, systems, and players around me. It’s been good so far. Obviously, we wanted a different outcome tonight, but I like where my game’s at.” 

If it wasn’t for Sanheim, the Flyers would have been shut out in each of their last two games, as he’s provided their only offense in overtime losses to the Bruins and Rangers. A week ago, it appeared all signs were pointing to Lehigh Valley and another year of AHL seasoning, but that’s when Hakstol noticed a change in Sanheim.

“I learned more about him five to six days ago,” Hakstol said. “He didn’t have a great night (preseason opener against Islanders). Sometimes you learn as much about a player and where he’s at coming off a night like that. It didn’t shake him. He came back and had a great practice the next day and he carried that into the next game. To me, that showed maturity on his part.”

Sanheim has continued to rise up the charts coming off a strong performance against the Islanders in Allentown, Pennsylvania, last Wednesday, and he’s rolled that over into the past two games, playing mostly with NHL regulars. What’s even more impressive is that Sanheim is having a tremendous offensive outburst despite seeing very little time on the team’s power play, as he logged just 36 seconds with the man advantage, a unit that came up empty once again and is now 0 for 14 over its last two games.

Still, captain Claude Giroux can’t see any reason why three rookie defensemen can’t make this team out of camp.

“You’ve seen them play. They can play,” Giroux said. “We have a lot of young D that are ready to play in the NHL, and they’re competing right now for a spot. For us, it’s fun to see because every day they’re doing stuff and it’s pretty amazing. It’s a long season — whoever’s hot, whoever’s playing good will have the opportunity to play.”

With Morin receiving his first night off from preseason action, Hakstol had Sanheim paired with Radko Gudas, while Hagg was working with Flyers top defenseman Ivan Provorov. Outside of a slow start and an unfortunate bounce on the Rangers' second goal, Hagg continued his steady play.

“I thought he didn’t have the cleanest start to a hockey game, but to his credit, he worked his way into the game,” Hakstol said. “The goal against — there’s a couple of things that happened before that that led to that play, but he had a hard-working night.”

You can be my wingman
Giroux’s much-anticipated left wing audition could be described as a good first night and worthy of a callback, whether that comes Tuesday night against the Rangers or Thursday against the Bruins.

Unofficially, the top line of Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek saw 15 shifts together at even strength, and then chemistry appeared to grow as the game progressed.

“It was good," Giroux said. "As the game went on, I started to feel more comfortable. We had a lot of chances, just some mistakes that you don’t see during the season, like a 2-on-0 with Jake, usually our chemistry is better than that. As the game went on, our chemistry got better and we were able to find each other a little bit more."

Giroux and Voracek had a prime scoring opportunity in the opening period, but Giroux’s shot from the right side went just wide of the net. Combined, the Flyers' top line finished the night with a minus-2 rating and six shots while winning 67 percent of its faceoffs.

“Maybe there was a tendency to make one more pass instead of putting it on net and stopping at the net and looking for one of those greasy goals,” Hakstol said. “But overall, there’s some good things there. There were enough positives to see if it can grow.”

Nolan's night
The No. 2 pick continues to settle into his role as the Flyers' No. 2 center. Once again, Nolan Patrick centered a line that included Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Patrick’s defense has been a steady component of his game since camp began, and now the rookie is sprinkling in some offense. Patrick contributed the primary assist on Sanheim’s first goal, which came during 4-on-4 play in the first period.

“Those are the kind of things he can do,” Hakstol said. “That’s hockey sense. That’s knowing what’s around him and being a step ahead. He’s building. As the speed of the games go up, there’s always more to learn. I think over the last week, he’s done a little more offensively. Each and every night he’s impacted the game offensively in our last three games, and that’s been a real positive.”

Flyers-Rangers preseason observations: Travis Sanheim's push to make team heats up

Flyers-Rangers preseason observations: Travis Sanheim's push to make team heats up

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Dave Hakstol conducted some garden variety experimentation Monday night against the Rangers, by moving Claude Giroux to left wing for the first time in his Flyers career.

"It's definitely a change but you know I'm just trying to be in good position and make the right play," Giroux said. "Slowly, I'm feeling more comfortable."
 
The line combination of Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek failed to generate a point, but it was the play of rookie Travis Sanheim that took center stage off Broadway.

Sanheim notched a pair of goals, but the Flyers fell, 3-2, in overtime at Madison Square Garden. Ryan McDonagh scored the game-winner for New York in the 3-on-3 OT.

"It's really high right now," Sanheim said of his confidence. "Obviously, I don't want it to get too high. I just have to try and keep an even-keel here and finish up strong."

Sanheim has now scored the Flyers' last three goals of the preseason.

• For the fourth time in five preseason games, the Flyers went to overtime. The Rangers finished the job Monday, as the captain McDonagh collected his own rebound and pushed the puck past Michal Neuvirth for the game-winner with 1:09 remaining in OT.

• New York scored on its first shot on net, when Rick Nash deflected McDonagh's shot from the point to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 3:16 into the game.

• Sanheim tallied his first just 2:23 after the Rangers' first goal. The defenseman ripped a rocket past Henrik Lundqvist from the top of the left circle. It was his team-leading second of the preseason with assists from Jordan Weal and Nolan Patrick, who picked up his second assist in four preseason games.

• Sanheim added his second goal in the final moments of the second period, when he pinched behind the Rangers' defense and corralled Radko Gudas' shot from the point and backhanded it past Lundqvist with four seconds remaining in the period.

"I'm just trying to play my game,” Sanheim said. “All along I play that offensive side. I'm just trying to keep it simple defensively and trying to make smart plays and make good reads to get in the play and it's been working so far."

Sanheim has continued to make significant strides and show improvement throughout the preseason, and his offensive upside has to give Hakstol some serious consideration to how he wants his defense to look when the regular season begins (see story). There have been few lapses defensively since the preseason opener against the New York Islanders.

• The Rangers tied the game at 2-2 when Neuvirth knocked away Mika Zibanejad’s wrist shot with his blocker, but the rebound hit Robert Hagg, deflected off Neuvirth and just over the line for a goal.

• The Flyers' power play continues to work out the kinks. The team worked on the PP structure for the first time over the weekend. That unit is now 0 for 14 over the last two games. The Flyers finished Monday’s game 0 for 5.

• Scott Laughton continues to be a valuable asset on the Flyers' penalty kill. Laughton broke up several passes on the Rangers' early power play of the second period.  
  
• Gudas fell to the ice late in the first period and then appeared to be holding his hand in obvious pain. Gudas didn’t miss any time and made a pronounced statement in the third period when he unloaded an open-ice hit on Rangers center Filip Chytil. Mats Zuccarello rushed to Chytil’s defense, which resulted in a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a Flyers power play.

• The two teams will continue their preseason home-and-home series Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center as Brian Elliott is expected to play the entire game in net. Elliott turned aside all 18 shots in two periods of action last Thursday in Boston.

Lines, pairing and scratches:

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Sam Morin, Taylor Leier, Mike Vecchione, Dale Weise, Oskar Lindblom