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: Before visiting Flyers, Devils fall to Canadiens

Best of NHL: Before visiting Flyers, Devils fall to Canadiens

NEWARK, N.J. -- The toughest thing Montreal Canadiens goalie Al Montoya had to do against the New Jersey Devils was stay awake.

The Canadiens limited the Devils to a season-low 17 shots, and Shea Weber and Max Pacioretty each scored a power-play goal during a major penalty early in the third period of Montreal's 3-1 victory Friday night.

"I'd take this any night," Montoya said after the Canadiens snapped a two-game skid. "Your team is playing fantastic in front of you. Halfway through the game it's 1-1 and all I'm really focused on is making that next save. These guys did a phenomenal job and I just wanted to make that next save, and the power play was terrific. The guys were mainly terrific all night."

Alex Galchenyuk added a goal and two assists, and Alexander Radulov had three assists as Montreal ended the Devils' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Big 2nd period helps Penguins roll Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have been beatable away from home this season. Good thing for them this felt nothing like a road game.

Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist during Pittsburgh's four-goal second period, and the Penguins routed the Carolina Hurricanes 7-1 on Friday night.

Conor Sheary scored twice, and Evgeni Malkin had a late goal and an assist. Carl Hagelin and Chris Kunitz joined Sheary in scoring during the second for Pittsburgh.

"In a win like that, I think it was a really complete effort from all the guys," said Sheary, who has four goals in three games. "It's fun to win on the road,” (see full recap).

Blackhawks beat Bruins on Hossa's late goal
BOSTON -- Blackhawks backup Scott Darling insists he isn't trying to take playing time away from No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford.

"I don't know if you guys know who my goalie partner is," Darling said with a smile after beating the Boston Bruins 1-0 on Friday night. "He's one of the best goalies in the world, hands down, no arguments. So I'm just pretty happy to get any games I can."

Marian Hossa scored with 1:26 left to break a scoreless tie, and Darling stopped 30 shots to post his second shutout of the season. Darling is 12-4 and he brought a 2.34 goals-against average into the game, even better than Crawford's 2.54 (see full recap).

Okposo gives Sabres OT win over Red Wings
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Kyle Okposo scored a power-play goal 4:34 into overtime and the Buffalo Sabres rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on Friday night.

Ryan O'Reilly had a goal and an assist, and Sam Reinhart also scored to help the Sabres overcome a pair of one-goal deficits. Anders Nilsson made 32 saves for Buffalo, which has won two straight against Detroit in one season for the first time since 1989-90.

Darren Helm and Frans Nielsen scored for the Red Wings, and Petr Mrazek was sharp in stopping 33 shots.

The Red Wings had their three-game winning streak snapped and took a rare loss to Buffalo. They fell to 8-0-2 in their past 10 meetings with the Sabres and 31-4-3 with a tie in their past 39 (see full recap).

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

VOORHEES, N.J. — As bad as things have been for the Flyers — just three wins in their last 14 games — there was no massive shakeup during their mandatory five-day bye week.
 
General manager Ron Hextall didn’t make a trade, nor did he make any roster moves involving a call-up from the Phantoms.
 
Coach Dave Hakstol took one day off, then got back to watching video and live games, almost in a scout mode.
 
When the players hit the ice Friday afternoon at Skate Zone, Hakstol’s lineup was pretty much the same.
 
The only change saw Matt Read re-enter the lineup on the top line with Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl after missing two games with a skate cut.
 
The lines and defensive pairs remained the same. Goalie Michal Neuvirth will start Saturday against New Jersey at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
“For me, the biggest thing is our overall performance,” Hakstol said. “Coming out of a break, that may be a tough thing to do — to put it all together. But I think the energy will be there both mentally and physically. That’s important. The overall performance.
 
“The results are important on a different level when you start looking at the playoff picture and the race. At the end of the day, two points are going to be important, as well.”
 
The Flyers begin anew (see story) with back-to-back games against New Jersey here on Saturday and then the Islanders on Sunday in Brooklyn.
 
They will play four Eastern Conference opponents between Saturday and next Thursday before they begin the three-day All-Star break.
 
Three of these games are against Metropolitan Division opponents while the fourth is against Toronto. The Maple Leafs happen to hold the second wild-card spot that the Flyers previously had going into the bye week.
 
“Guys realize the situation we are in,” Brayden Schenn said. “We know the circumstances. The break came at a good time, mentally ... guys know what we’re coming into there with the back-to-backs.
 
“You were kind of scoreboard watching. We know where we’re at. We’re in a dogfight battle with teams for those wild-card spots. There’s a lot of hockey left. It’s no secret. Everyone pays attention where we’re at.”
 
Hakstol said after his one-day off, he went right back to work in evaluating where this team is. That the team remains intact without any kind of moves seems to send a message to the players.
 
That message is: it’s on you at this point. Don’t count on getting help from the outside. It has to come from within the current roster.
 
“Anything we’ve talked about is us as a group doing things we do well,” Hakstol said. “We’ve had a rough couple weeks where we haven’t been able to do the things we need to and want to consistently.
 
“I’m very confident in this group and this team. For us, what the players said is true. It was a real good time to have a mental and physical break. Now it’s time to get back to work.”
 
What has to improve right from the get-go is the Flyers' 5-on-5 play. Forget for a moment they have scored 75 goals and are 13th in the NHL averaging 2.76 goals a game.
 
The critical factor is 5-on-5 goals against. The Flyers have allowed 98 goals in that situation — only Colorado (100 GA) has allowed more. The Flyers' 3.13 goals-against number is 28th worst in the league.
 
Unless those numbers improve significantly, the Flyers won’t be in the playoffs.
 
“We have to stay within our system,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We give up too many odd-man rushes. Especially in those final games before the break. That’s a big thing.
 
“When we’re giving up that many, it’s not going to be in our favor. It’s not fair to judge our goalies in those games because we didn’t give them too much help out there.”
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who plays on a checking line, said the 5-on-5 goals against is a telling stat.
 
“You have it right there,” he said. “You don’t have to say much more than that. You cannot be a consistently good team in the league if you are that low in goals against. It’s something we have to all work together at, as players.”
 
Hakstol said the Flyers enjoyed success 5-on-5 when they were winning because their team play was “consistent” game to game.
 
That hasn’t been the case during this 3-8-3 stretch.
 
“Our 5-on-5 game hasn’t necessarily regressed, but the consistency of it has,” Hakstol said. “That’s when you see the holes defensively. That’s when you see some of the problems you run into.
 
“We’ve got to get back to it. Back to a full 60 minutes of good 5-on-5 play. That’s up to each and every one of us, taking that responsibility and making the push to do that.”