Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Rangers 2

apwaynesimmonds.jpg

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-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers (28-24-7) vs. Capitals (39-12-7)
8 p.m. on NBCSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After finding some offense to finish up a 1-2-0 road trip, the Flyers return home for a not-so-glorious welcome when they host the NHL-leading Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

We’ll get into that and more with five things to know:

1. Capping things off
What’s the Flyers’ reward for salvaging the final game of a road swing through Canada? A date with the Capitals, who are the NHL’s hottest team since New Year’s Eve, and by a landslide.

Just how dominant has Washington been?

Dating back to Dec. 31, the Capitals are 19-3-2 and have scored an incomprehensible 104 goals in those 24 games. That’s 4.33 goals per game, while yielding only 50 markers over that stretch.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have scored an NHL-low 40 goals since New Year’s Eve and allowed 62 for an Eastern Conference-worst goal differential of minus-22.

Washington, coming off its first back-to-back defeats since Dec. 27-29, has lost three straight games only once this season.

2. A Ghost sighting
On Sunday, for the first time in close to four months, we saw the Shayne Gostisbehere from the Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up season last year.

The sophomore blueliner delivered his first three-point game of his career to ignite the Flyers to a 3-2 win over the Canucks.

Although Gostisbehere has made it clear he’s focused on his defensive game, the Flyers are a different animal when he’s generating offensive chances at 5-on-5 and the power play.

“He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere’s performance Sunday.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbelievable skill. He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

3. Good cage match
This one makes for an intriguing goalie matchup between Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, who were once battling for the net in Washington.

Holtby is having another stud season after winning the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy (top goalie). Among all netminders, he is tied for first in goals-against average (2.01) and shutouts (seven), while he hasn’t been beaten in regulation since Dec. 27.

The 27-year-old blanked the Flyers twice in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and stopped 149 of 154 shots over the first-round series that the Capitals won in six games.

Neuvirth hasn’t been too shabby himself, starting eight of the Flyers’ last 10 games. Aside from a bad showing in a 6-3 loss to the Oilers, Neuvirth has not surrendered more than two goals in any other outing during that span.

A 2006 second-round pick of Washington, Neuvirth was brilliant last postseason against his former club, making 103 saves on 105 shots faced to get the Flyers two victories.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare can be crucial in these types of games. The fourth-line forward often sees work against the opposition’s top offensive threats and is the Flyers’ most important piece to the penalty kill. Bellemare has played 16-plus minutes in both meetings with the Capitals this season, while the PK is 15 for 17 in February and tied for the NHL’s third-fewest goals against this month.

Capitals: T.J. Oshie is such an underrated asset for Washington. The right winger, who played his college hockey at North Dakota under Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, leads the NHL with a 22.8 shooting percentage, a big reason why the Capitals are scoring 3.34 goals per game, good for second most in hockey. Oshie has 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in his past 22 games and is a plus-24 on the season.

5. This and that
• Neuvirth has just two career regular-season matchups against the Capitals, going 1-0-0 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

• Holtby is 6-4-7 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 18 lifetime matchups with the Flyers.

• The Flyers are three points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, trailing the Panthers, Bruins and Islanders, all of whom have 66 points.

• Simmonds has four goals in his last five games.

• Claude Giroux has two points (one goal, one assist) in his previous 10 games.

• Washington ranks first in the NHL with a plus-69 goal differential.

• Jordan Weal (upper-body injury) is expected to miss his second straight game.

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

Best of NHL: Toews nets hat trick in Blackhawks' win over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jonathan Toews had three goals and two assists and the Chicago Blackhawks beat rival Minnesota 5-3 on Tuesday night for their second win over the Western Conference-leading Wild in less than two weeks.

Toews notched his fourth career hat trick on an empty-netter with 1:02 left to stave off a spirited rally by the Wild, who began a franchise-record eight-game homestand on Feb. 8 with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blackhawks. Toews had a goal and two assists in that one and has 37 points in 35 career games against Minnesota.

Chicago's captain has been chewing up almost everyone else, too, with 20 points in his last 12 games. Toews' wing men Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik had the other goals, giving the Blackhawks 34 goals in their last eight games. Their first line totaled nine points.

Mikael Granlund's second power-play goal for the Wild brought them within 4-3, before Ryan Suter hit the crossbar with a shot that nearly tied it (see full recap).

Islanders open 9-game road trip with win
DETROIT -- Calvin de Haan was credited with a go-ahead goal that caromed off an opponent late in the second period and the New York Islanders went on to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 Tuesday night.

De Haan's shot from above the left circle was stopped by Petr Mrazek, but the rebound went off Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet and the back of the goaltender's left leg and into the net. John Tavares scored early in the third period to give the Islanders a two-goal lead and they coasted to the victory.

Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist, and Thomas Greiss stopped 26 shots for New York.

Henrik Zetterberg scored for Detroit and Mrazek finished with 19 saves.

The Islanders, in contention for a wild-card spot, began a stretch of nine straight road games by winning for the third time in four games and improved to 8-13-4 away from home (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins take care of Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Sidney Crosby scored the go-ahead goal on a deflection in the second period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Evgeni Malkin and Scott Wilson also scored to help the reigning Stanley Cup champions bounce back from their only loss since the All-Star break. Pittsburgh moved three points behind East-leading Washington and is 7-1-3 since the break.

Jeff Skinner scored for the last-place Hurricanes, who have their second five-game losing streak in the past five weeks. They have been outscored 19-4 during the current slide.

Matt Murray made 29 saves for the Penguins while Cam Ward stopped 19 shots for Carolina (see full recap).