Instant Replay: Hurricanes 2, Flyers 1 (OT)

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Instant Replay: Hurricanes 2, Flyers 1 (OT)

BOX SCORE

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Carolina, New Jersey and Edmonton.

Three struggling hockey teams. Not that the Flyers aren’t, either.

If ever there was a week for Craig Berube’s team to claw higher into the Metropolitan Division standings, this is it. There’s six points up for grabs that could go to the Flyers ... with a little scoring luck.

“You definitely have a chance to gain ground,” Berube said before the Flyers' game on Monday night. “You don’t look at it as [Carolina] struggling. This team is gonna play hard. They’re ready to play. They lost five in a row. They’re desperate. You got to make sure you got your game going for 60 minutes.”

Well, two of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL couldn’t score on each other Tuesday night at PNC Arena, although Carolina by far had the better scoring chances.

In the end, the Hurricanes won 2-1 in overtime on a late comeback and a breakaway goal from Manny Malhotra.

Were it not for Flyers goalie Steve Mason, the Hurricanes would have had four to five goals, easy. He continues to give the Flyers a chance to get two points every game.

Mason was temporarily rewarded with Scott Hartnell’s power-play goal at 16:02 of the third period. It was Hartnell’s first point of the season, too, on a tip in front of the net. However, the 1-0 lead didn’t last long.

Nathan Gerbe drew a double minor with a skirmish in front of the Flyers' net involving Mark Streit to set up that power play.

That was quickly erased when Jordan Staal snuck in behind Claude Giroux to tie it up in the final minute of regulation.

Review
Hartnell’s goal went to review for a high-stick but his stick was not above the crossbar.

Shorthanded chance
The Flyers blew a good one in the first period off a brutal Carolina turnover in front of goalie Justin Peters. Two things happened. First, Matt Read couldn’t handle the puck. When he got control of it and dished to Sean Couturier in the right slot, the Flyers’ centerman shot it off the post.

One-timer
Peters made a great glove save on Kimmo Timonen’s one-timer in the slot late in the opening period.

Crazy finish
The second period's final minutes saw Mason absolutely stone Gerbe with a glove-hand save on a power play that quickly turned into a two-man Carolina advantage that carried over 33 seconds into the third period. The Flyers survived it thanks to Mason.

No call
Zac Rinaldo was very upset after taking a shot to the chin from Staal late in the second period that dropped him to the ice without drawing a penalty.

No scoring
Going into the third period, the Flyers had scored just one goal in their previous 203 minutes, 26 seconds. It ended at 219:28 with Hartnell’s goal. Mason had an outstanding shoulder save on Alexander Semin six minutes into the third period. Semin had some good scoring chances in the game.

Giveaways
The Flyers had zero Saturday night in New Jersey. They had five after one period in Carolina.

Scratches
Defensemen Luke Schenn and Erik Gustafsson; forward Jay Rosehill.

Haunting
The last time the Flyers played the Hurricanes on the road was Oct. 6. The Flyers lost, 2-1. Coach Peter Laviolette was fired the next morning.

Running interference
That’s what referee Steve Kosari did in the first period during a Flyers' power play. He accidentally got in Jakub Voracek’s way and it created a two-on-one, shorthanded rush with Gerbe and Staal. Incredibly, Mason got his blocker on Staal’s shot on what should have been an easy goal.

Loose pucks
Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish were both scouting the game. The Flyers meet Edmonton this weekend in Philly. However, Lowe was also scouting for Team Canada (Sochi Olympics) and eager to see Eric Staal and Giroux going head-to-head for his report back to head coach Mike Babcock and main assistant Ken Hitchcock. … The latest Bovada odds from Las Vegas show the Flyers have fallen from 22/1 to win the Stanley Cup to 66/1. ... PNC Arena was half-empty for the game.

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s as if the season began right where it left off for the handful of Flyers players that participated in the World Cup of Hockey. 

Five months removed from their first round series with Washington, the group that played in the international tournament says it was nearly identical to the tempo they saw in the NHL playoffs.

“Our division was really tight so right from the get-go you couldn’t afford to lose a game,” said Sean Couturier, who suited up for North America. “It definitely felt like playoffs, and it definitely didn’t feel like September.”

Couturier was joined by his World Cup teammate Shayne Gostisbehere, along with Team Czech Republic’s Jake Voracek and Michael Neuvirth, in their return to Voorhees for their first practice with the Flyers on Monday. Team Canada’s Claude Giroux and the Team Europe duo of Mark Streit and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be competing in the finals this week.

While it may have been an early exit for the first wave of Flyers who reported back, the experience of playing in a tournament with that high of intensity has left them more confident than they’ve ever felt at this time of the year, particularly for Gostisbehere. 

The Calder Trophy runner-up underwent offseason hip surgery following his 46-point season. Having missed a season two years ago because of a torn ACL, Gostisbehere is thankful for how much the World Cup prepared him for his second year. He says he feels better now than he ever has in his career after picking up four assists in the tournament.

“You don’t play in those games in September normally so it was pretty cool to do,” Gostisbehere said. “I think the tournament was a good stepping stone for me and to branch off my injury and give yourself the confidence that you’re feeling good for the year.”

Like Couturier and Gostisbehere, Voracek said the World Cup gameplay mirrored that of the NHL postseason. 

“When I look at the season for the Flyers, it was the best thing that could have happened for me,” Voracek said. “The World Cup was high level… I’m six games in before training camp even starts.”

After what he calls a “good offseason” of training, Voracek saw this opportunity as almost a saving grace – a chance to regain form before embarking on his sixth season in Philadelphia. The winger had one goal and one assist in three games that “felt like I was playing in the playoffs.”

Had this tournament occurred in 2015, the mindset coming back may have been different. Dave Hakstol was coaching his first professional season and as evidenced by their record to start the year and the comments made throughout, things took a little longer than expected when it came to picking up the new coach’s system.

That process is behind the Flyers, and it makes missing the first weekend of camp and possibly the first week of preseason games an easier obstacle to overcome.

“It’s always better when you know the system and what Hak wants in you,” Voracek said. “It’s obviously going to get better and better.”

The best-of-three World Cup finals will begin on Tuesday with the third game (if needed) commencing on Saturday. If the teams go the full distance, the remaining three Flyers involved would likely not play their first preseason game until Oct. 6 if not Oct. 8, the final exhibition game. 

Pressure is on Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde to fend off competition

Pressure is on Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde to fend off competition

VOORHEES, N.J. — Even before Flyers training camp opened, Ron Hextall talked about a plenitude of internal competition for jobs.
 
It’s all over the ice, too.
 
Who starts in goal: Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth, who came on strong at the end of last season? 
 
Does Ivan Provorov win a spot on the roster? And if he does, who gets sent packing?
 
Between Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins, who gets the lion's share of ice time? 
 
Can Travis Konecny or Roman Lyubimov force a veteran forward off the team?
 
Then there’s free-agent signee Boyd Gordon, a PK specialist who was second only to Claude Giroux in the league last season on winning defensive zone draws. More competition.
 
Well, one of the key battles in training camp for both roster space and minutes concerns how veteran fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde handles the competition from Lyubimov — the 24-year-old Russian who plays a heavy game and can handle special teams — and others.
 
VandeVelde saw a bit of an offensive drop-off last season with 14 points. Though just a point fewer than the year before, the bigger dip was going from nine goals to two.
 
With no real goal-scoring additions in the offseason, Hextall is expecting bigger outputs from returning players.
 
In VandeVelde’s case, two goals is something Lyubimov could easily match or exceed.
 
“You have to go out there and give it your all,” VandeVelde said. “Hopefully, work hard and kinda make an impression. There’s a lot of guys fighting for a fair amount of spots. It’s going to be interesting.
 
“I think I’ve felt pressure every year. Obviously, you want to make an impression and get noticed out there. Reassure [them] I can still do the job and add a few things to my offensive game.”
 
And his self-evaluation?
 
“I think I was solid,” he replied. “As a fourth line, we were very good at times. Individually, I can add a little more and chip in a little more.”
 
VandeVelde is not scheduled to play in either of Monday’s split-squad games in New Jersey or Brooklyn.
 
At stake here isn’t just his job on the fourth line but the penalty kill, as well. VandeVelde’s 2:17 shorthanded ice time per game was second only to linemate Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (2:35) among the forwards.
 
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Lyubimov has played on the penalty kill in the KHL, and Gordon is a PK specialist. What was VandeVelde’s edge is now something up for grabs, especially given both Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol have vowed there will be improvement on the PK, which ranked 14th last season after being among the bottom 10 much of the year.
 
Hakstol has said he intends to tweak the PK with some structural changes. That sounds like personnel changes and Gordon could be a guy on the fourth unit and will certainly be in the mix on the penalty kill.
 
How to make the kill better remains at large.
 
“We have to start a little more aggressively,” VandeVelde said. “Kinda like we finished last couple games there against Washington (in the playoffs). We kinda got burnt there 6-1 (in Game 3). We switched styles a little too late.”
 
The Flyers gave up five power play goals in Game 3 to the Caps.
 
VandeVelde admits his penalty kill experience gives him a bit of an edge going into camp.
 
“If I can bring that extra edge and solidify a role, that is huge,” he said.
 
VandeVelde returned to his home in Moorhead, Minn., over the summer to focus on his skating, hoping to get a more explosive start on the ice that he could utilize better during the penalty kill.
 
One thing seems certain: VandeVelde says there’s a greater comfort level for returning players as to what to expect from Hakstol. Also, whereas last year’s camp was one of implementing systems, this year’s camp is one of expanding on them.
 
“Everyone knows what to expect,” VandeVelde said. “So do all three coaches. They are going to tweak some things, whether it's penalty kill or power play or other systems. We’ll learn that. That is what preseason is for. All the players know what to expect and are ready to go.”
 
VandeVelde said he’s already been informed what the team expects from him this season. The competition could push him in that direction.
 
“I know what they want,” he said. “Obviously, I can do more offensively and want to chip in a little more as a fourth line and as an individual. Maybe just work on that.”