Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Islanders 2

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Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Islanders 2

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Call it the “scratch game.”

Sunday night’s regular-season finale between the Flyers and New York Islanders at the Barclays Center featured a contest neither team cared much for, evident by the combined 18 healthy scratches.
 
The Flyers won the game, 5-2, to finish 41-27-14, an improvement of eight wins and 12 points from last season.
 
On Saturday, Dave Hakstol’s club clinched the Eastern Conference’s second wild card and No. 8 playoff seed, rendering Game 82 essentially meaningless for the orange and black.
 
With 12 scratches, the Islanders (45-27-10) lost and secured the East’s top wild card, avoiding the NHL’s hottest team in the Penguins for the first round of the postseason. Instead, they’ll face the Panthers, who won the Atlantic Division.
 
Thanks to the Islanders’ throwing in the towel, the Rangers finished in third place of the Metropolitan Division and draw Pittsburgh in the opening round.
 
The Flyers-Islanders game was a makeup from the Jan. 23 postponement forced by Winter Storm Jonas.
 
Michael Raffl recorded a three-point game (one goal, two assists), while Brayden Schenn (two assists), Scott Laughton (one goal, one assist) and Evgeny Medvedev (one goal, one assist) all registered two points apiece.
 
The Flyers went 3-1-1 against the Islanders in five regular-season meetings.
 
Notable goals
The Flyers overcame a 2-0 deficit on goals by Shayne Gostisbehere, Medvedev and Raffl.
 
Laughton and R.J. Umberger added insurance with third-period goals.
 
Gostisbehere got it all started for the Flyers, lacing home a wrist shot for a power-play marker at 11:15 of the first.
 
Gostisbehere finished the regular season leading all rookie defensemen in goals (17), assists (29) and points (46).
 
Playing in just his second game since March 5, Medvedev tallied a power-play marker on a deflection with eight seconds left in the first.
 
Raffl then scored the game-winner 6:38 into the second with a snap shot off a nice find from Laughton.
 
Goalie report
Michal Neuvirth started in net for his first game action since March 16, as he was out until April 7 recovering from a lower-body injury.
 
Neuvirth was hardly tested by the Islanders. He allowed a pair of goals in the game’s opening 9:19 and needed to make just 15 saves for the win.
 
Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss played just the first period and surrendered two goals. Christopher Gibson played the final two stanzas and stopped 15 shots.
 
Power play
The Flyers went 3 for 4; the Islanders 0 for 4.
 
Penalty kill
The Flyers killed off all four Islanders power plays, while New York went 1 for 4 on the PK.
 
Scratches
Forwards Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier, defenseman Mark Streit and goalies Steve Mason and Alex Lyon all sat as healthy scratches.
 
As a result, forwards Jordan Weal, Umberger and Laughton and defenseman Medvedev were inserted into the lineup, while goalie Ray Emery dressed and backed up Neuvirth.
 
For the Islanders, they scratched: Forwards John Tavares, Mikhail Grabovski, Anders Lee, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Casey Cizikas, defensemen Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Brian Strait and Johnny Boychuk, and goalies Jaroslav Halak and Jean-Francois Berube.

Next up
The 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin Wednesday.

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."