Lecavalier, Hartnell help Flyers snap 2-game skid

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Lecavalier, Hartnell help Flyers snap 2-game skid

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Scott Hartnell's gritty and productive effort paved the way for Vincent Lecavalier to break out of his slump, ending the Flyers' two-game losing spell with a 4-3 comeback win in Buffalo on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay).

Hours after calling his team's recent play "soft," Hartnell posted a goal and two assists, playing through a blocked shot that had him limping off the ice during the second period. He received X-rays on his left ankle after the game.

"Sometimes you've gotta get hurt or whatever, but we showed a lot of character, especially late there, coming back," Hartnell said.

The Flyers trailed 1-0 and 2-1, but scored three third-period goals to bury a bottom-dwelling Buffalo Sabres team that came into the game 6-0-2 in their last eight home games.

"Never give up," Hartnell said. "That's probably the biggest thing. You gotta believe. You've gotta play the system. You've gotta skate like we did in that third period and you win battles and you work hard, you're gonna get chances."

That's the ethos Lecavalier was forced to focus on during a recent slump that ended, hopefully, with Tuesday night's game-winner with 14.8 seconds left.

"It felt good," Lecavalier said. "They've been hard to come by since I got back from my injury. Sometimes a goal like that will kinda, I don't want to say jumpstart, but get more confidence and keep going."

Lecavalier had recorded just three assists in 11 games since coming back from a non-displaced fracture in his back that caused him to miss just under a month of hockey.

"The last four games I've been feeling really good, my legs," he said. "It's good for the confidence any time you get out of the slump and hopefully that'll get me going and create more with my linemates. Hopefully that starts a streak."

Both players and head coach Craig Berube hailed the team's comeback spirit, as they admitted frustration with a first period that saw them go down 1-0 on a Cody Hodgson tally.

The team equalized in the second on Jakub Voracek's power-play goal, one of two Flyers goals on six power-play opportunities, but Buffalo again took a lead 6:37 into the third when Matt D'Agostini flipped a shot past Steve Mason.

"Our team doesn't quit," Berube said. "I know over the weekend with Tampa and the Rangers we had good third periods. They tried, it didn't happen, but the effort's always there. As long as the effort is there and the competitiveness is there, they'll give it their best to try and come back."

Mason wasn't in peak form, but the game was one of the inactive types that drive goalies nuts. He did enough to get the win despite facing just 19 shots to his team's 33 efforts on goal.

"Tough game from my standpoint to play," Mason said. "Not very busy, a lot of standing around and those are the games that when they're over with and you come away with the two points, you're happy about that."

The Flyers fought back with a Brayden Schenn goal with 13:28 gone and earned their first lead on Hartnell's hard power-play shot with 15:53 to go in regulation.

Tyler Ennis beat Mason from an odd angle on a goal that the goaltender would like back just 54 seconds later, but it was Matt Read's work down low in his first game back from a concussion that sealed the deal.

Lecavalier's initial shot was saved by Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth, and Sean Couturier jammed a loose puck off the side of the net. Read dug the puck out from between Couturier's skates and fed Lecavalier, who didn't need a third try.

"I've gotta say it was a long two weeks watching the boys battle out there and I couldn't be a part of it," Read said. "I felt good. (Berube) talked about just getting the first shift, getting the hit, finding your legs and having fun out there. It was a seesaw battle out there, but it's good to get the first two points."

The Flyers will be back in action on Thursday when they play the Nashville Predators at the Wells Fargo Center. They won the opening game of the season series with Nashville, 3-2, in a shootout on Nov. 30 in Tennessee.

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.