Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Wild 1

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Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Wild 1

BOX SCORE

The Flyers had two Christmas wishes heading into Monday: Being back in third place of the Metropolitan Division, and more importantly, back in a playoff spot.

They got those gifts with a highly-energized 4-1 win over the Wild and a Blackhawks win over the Devils Monday night.

The victory was also the Flyers' ninth straight at home, the team's longest such streak since October of 2005.

The best thing about this game was the Flyers kept pressing the attack to the very end instead of sitting back and coasting or going into lockdown mode.

The Flyers' top line of Claude Giroux centering Michael Raffl and Jakub Voracek continued to pile up points.

They have been very hot lately and two of them are on point streaks (see "Streaking" portion of Instant Replay).

Through two periods, they had a goal and four points as the Flyers led 3-1.

In the six games since head coach Craig Berube reformed the No. 1 line, it has 28 points -- 10 goals, 18 assists.

Giroux leads the group with 12 points (five goals), followed by Voracek (four goals). Raffl has five points (one goal).

Injuries
The Wild’s Zach Parise -- 15 goals, 27 points -- was a late scratch with a foot injury. Flyers goalie Steve Mason took some contact early in the second period and was down on the ice and slow to get up. He spent a good minute stretching out but seemed fine after.

Penalties
The Flyers continue to take too many of them and got burned in the first period killing them. Wayne Simmonds even picked up a roughing call at 20 minutes, giving the Flyers three penalties that period. The Flyers finished with five penalties in the game. That is one thing that will irk Berube going into the break, no doubt about it.

Milestone
Scott Hartnell’s assist on Luke Schenn’s goal in the first 1:52 of the game was the left wing’s 500th career NHL point.

First shot
This was a rarity for the Flyers -- they scored on their first shot of the game. Schenn’s goal was the result of him pinching to get the Hartnell rebound in the right slot.

Special teams
The Flyers' power play came into the game just 2 for 22 (nine percent) over its previous five games. They got off quickly in this one with Simmonds’ power-play goal at 10:51 that made it 2-0. Perfect tic-tac-toe passing from Giroux across ice to Voracek, back to Simmonds at the left post. Overall, the Flyers were 1 for 4 on the power play while the Wild were 1 for 5.

Penalty kill
The Flyers had to kill off 1:40 of the Wild’s two-man advantage in the first period and gave up a five-on-three goal to Mikael Granlund after Ryan Suter had hit the crossbar and Jason Pominville had a shot over an empty net.

The Flyers have given up five such goals this season. That made it 2-1.

Different goalie
The Flyers caught a break with Wild goalie Josh Harding out ill. They faced Nick Backstrom, who came into play with a 3.19 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.

Big hit
Zac Rinaldo on Granlund in the second period that had Backstrom screaming at the officials.

Big saves
Mason’s shorthanded stop on Pominville early in the second with the Flyers holding a 2-1 lead and his point-blank stop in the third period on Mikko Koivu coming down the slot with the score 3-1, which was even more outstanding.

Faceoffs
The Wild did a number on the Flyers in the first period, winning 67 percent of the draws. Sean Couturier was 1 for 6.

Streaking
Giroux and Voracek each have career-high point streaks. Giroux’s is seven games, Voracek’s is eight games.

Scratches
Steve Downie (upper-body injury) and Erik Gustafsson (left knee sprain); defenseman Hal Gill and forward Jay Rosehill were healthy scratches.

Road trip
The Flyers leave Friday afternoon for a six-game road swing. Although they will be back at the Skate Zone for practice on Jan. 6, they will play one more road game Jan. 7 at New Jersey.

Home again
The next Flyers home game is Jan. 8 against Montreal.

Loose pucks
Minnesota came into the game with a 1-6-1 record in its last eight road games, a stat that heavily favored the Flyers. … The Flyers will not practice again at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., until Friday morning before leaving after for Edmonton.

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.