Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Rangers 2

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Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Rangers 2

BOX SCORE

You wanted a Game 7, Flyer fans?

You got it.

In spectacular, hat-trick fashion, too, as Wayne Simmonds did the honors on Tuesday night during the Flyers' 5-2 thrashing of the Rangers in Game 6 of this Metropolitan Division semifinal at Wells Fargo Center.

Game 7 is Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Flyers, who promised en masse a more aggressive approach, were tenacious from the drop of the puck and stayed that way the entire game (see 10 observations).

However, the hero in this one is tough to call. Sure, Simmonds had the hat trick but "Stone Cold" Steve Mason played out of his mind in net with 34 saves.

The crucial turning point came at 12:11 when Derek Dorsett sold a high-stick call to the official on Erik Gustafsson, who didn’t appear to even touch the Rangers’ winger. Gustafsson went to the box and Mason had an incredible glove stab on Benoit Pouliot near the end of a Rangers power play.

Coming out of the box with speed, Gustafsson, who was inserted into the lineup for speed on the blue line, took a pass from Braydon Coburn and drilled a shot past Henrik Lundqvist for a 3-0 lead.

That play changed the game right there and the Flyers had it.

It was 4-0 when the third period began and Rangers coach Alain Vigneault pulled Lundqvist for Cam Talbot because ... resting up for Game 7.

Injuries
Before the game, the Flyers announced that defenseman Nick Grossmann, who was injured in Game 4, will miss the remainder of the playoffs following surgery to repair tendon damage in his right ankle. His recovery time is 8-10 weeks (see story).

Playoff history
The Rangers came into the game having lost an NHL record 11 straight games when up in a series dating back to 2009, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Game 7
The Flyers are 9-6 all-time in Game 7s and 3-3 on the road.

Line changes
Flyers coach Craig Berube replaced Scott Hartnell on the top line with Michael Raffl. Hartnell dropped to the second line with Brayden Schenn and Simmonds. That dropped Vinny Lecavalier back to his original fourth-line spot.

Won’t be denied
Simmonds talked about the Flyers not being “scared” to go at the Rangers and make something happen. He backed up his words with his second goal of the series during a first-period power play. Simmonds, outworking a double-team in the paint, had three shots on that power play, and scored off his own rebound in the second half of the power play for a 1-0 lead at 7:08.

First period
Easily the best first period the Flyers have played in this series. They came out with some “jam” and it carried through the entire stanza. That said, they also had far too many turnovers in their own end. Even sure-handed Sean Couturier had several gaffes that led to Rangers scoring chances. Tuesday marked only the second time this series the Flyers scored first in the opening period (Game 1).

Missed
In the opening four minutes, the Rangers had the Flyers pinned in their own end and missed four shots while Mason had to make several saves on those that were on net.

Second period
The Flyers scored three times as Simmonds notched the first hat trick of the series. His second goal came at 1:32 on a broken pass from Schenn. Then came Mason’s great save on Pouliot, followed by Gustafsson’s burst out of the penalty box to make it 3-0. Simmonds made it a rout at 15:19 on the power play with a deflection at the net for his hat trick.

Hat trick
It was Simmonds’ first career hatter in the playoffs (see video) and the first one since Claude Giroux and Couturier each scored one on April 13, 2012, in Game 2 of the Pittsburgh series, won by the Flyers, 8-5.

Hats
639 were thrown onto the ice.

Special teams
The Flyers won this battle, hands down.

Power play
The Flyers were 2 for 3, while the Rangers were 0 for 5.

Penalty kill
The Flyers came into the game having killed off 15 straight Rangers power plays. That number grew to 20 as they went 5 for 5.

Point blank
Mason had two such saves in stride from the paint in the first period, robbing Rick Nash and Anton Stralman.

Shots
The Flyers had 23 shots through two periods and 29 for the game.

No shutout
Carl Hagelin scored with 6:34 left in the game to ruin Mason’s shutout.

Fight
One large one in the stands; Brian Boyle over Adam Hall on the ice.

Scratches
Defenseman Hal Gill; forwards Jay Rosehill, Tye McGinn, Steve Downie (post-concussion syndrome), and Chris VandeVelde; goalie Cal Heeter.

Black Aces
Defensemen Brandon Manning, Oliver Lauridsen and Mark Alt; forwards Scott Laughton, Ben Holmstrom, Nick Cousins, Brandon Alderson, Petr Straka; goalie Yann Danis.

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

PITTSBURGH -- There's a bit of tragic irony to how the Flyers' season will end over the next two-plus weeks.
 
They have seven games left on the schedule. Six of them are teams residing in the Metro Division. Tuesday's opponent, Ottawa, is the lone exception.
 
There are so many reasons why the Flyers are scrambling now, clinging to the desperate belief they can still make the playoffs -- mathematically, they're alive -- against all rational thought.
 
They're six points behind Boston for the second wild-card spot, but they still have to hurdle Carolina, Tampa Bay and the Islanders just to get to Boston.
 
Yet one major reason for the Flyers' dilemma seems pretty obvious: They've been simply awful in head-to-head play against their own division.
 
The Flyers have a winning record against both divisions in the Western Conference.
 
That's not the case, however, in the East where the Metro Division is the only division with three teams over 100 points and where the Flyers have failed miserably to challenge from within.
 
Sunday's 6-2 rout of the Penguins in Pittsburgh left the Flyers with a poor 9-13-2 record against the Metro. It's the only division they have a losing record against.
 
Last season, Dave Hakstol's group finished 14-10-6 against their own division. That was a critical factor in enabling the Flyers to make the playoffs.
 
"We know where we are in the standings and it's not going to be easy to make the playoffs," Jakub Voracek said. "We all know that. We have to work off results of the other teams and try to play relaxed and loose."
 
Against the Eastern Conference overall, the Flyers are close to .500 (21-22-4) yet realize they should be better.
 
These two records represent a very large reason why the Flyers are sitting on the outside looking in as the playoffs near.
 
Right now, at least four clubs from the Metro -- half the division -- will make the playoffs. That says a lot about why games within your section are so pivotal at season's end.
 
"The numbers don't lie," Hakstol admitted on Sunday. "It's a tough road every single night. You've got to do a good job within your division, within your conference.
 
"We've played a lot of tight, hard games. The reality is, we're a number of points out of the playoffs and those points within your division are very valuable."
 
It's something the Flyers have to greatly improve upon next season if they want to be sitting in a playoff spot a month before the season ends instead of playing catch-up when the odds are hopelessly against them.
 
Pens killers
Every team in the NHL has a couple players who have fairly impressive career numbers against other teams.
 
Voracek averages better than a point against the Penguins. His goal Sunday gave him 17 goals and 34 points in 32 career games against Pittsburgh.
 
Voracek admitted after the game he's not sure why.
 
Claude Giroux also has excellent numbers against the Pens -- his two assists in the win left the Flyers' captain with 41 points (14 goals) in 40 career games vs. Pittsburgh.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere has been around a fraction as long as either Giroux or Voracek -- eight career games vs. the Pens -- yet has two goals and nine points in those games.
 
Brayden Schenn doesn't average a point a game against the Pens, but he's close. His assist on Sunday left the winger/center with 20 points (8 goals) in 26 games.
 
The only Flyer who has solid numbers against Pittsburgh and didn't make Sunday's score sheet was Wayne Simmonds. He has 23 points in 28 games. 

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. ... Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. ... Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. ... Weise has three goals in his last seven games. ... Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.