Newcomers help streaking Flyers take down Maple Leafs

slideshow-040413-flyers-team-uspresswire.jpg

Newcomers help streaking Flyers take down Maple Leafs

BOX SCORE

TORONTO -- Jay Rosehill and Adam Hall went from being unwanted to being heroes.

All it took was tugging on that fabled orange and black Flyers jersey for the first time for the much-welcomed transformation to take place.

Making their respective Philadelphia debuts on Thursday night, these two New Kids on the Broad St. Block played a significant role in helping rekindle the Flyers' once-flickering postseason aspirations.

But it is an old familiar face that has provided cause for concern amid the upbeat mood in the Flyers dressing room.

Blueline pillar Kimmo Timonen limped toward the team bus while refusing to answer questions about the source or identity of his injury. Should he be out for an extended period, an already banged up defense corps will be even further hampered.

But, on this night, Hall wasn't thinking about such gloom and doom.

“Every game is a playoff game for us,” Hall said after the Flyers' 5-3 victory over the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre (see Instant Replay). “I’ve only been here a day, but that’s certainly the mindset I’ve learned is in this room.”

With back-to-back wins over Canada’s Original Six franchises in the span of 24 hours, the Flyers have clawed their way to the .500 mark at 17-17-3. More importantly, thanks to those 5-3 victories over the Canadiens and Leafs respectively, the Flyers now have 37 points, leaving them just two behind the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, who are in an eighth-place tie in the Eastern Conference.

Not allowing himself to become too giddy at his team’s sudden rise into playoff contention, coach Peter Laviolette did offer high praise regarding the work ethic of Rosehill and Hall, noting that “the new guys who came in tonight were terrific in that regard.”

Rosehill and Hall left their imprint on the game early in the first period when they sandwiched Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul, who was the NHL’s First Star of a week ago. A wobbly Lupul left the game from the clean hit and didn’t return, leaving the Leafs without the services of their hottest player thanks to Rosehill and Hall.

Not bad for a couple of guys who had been discarded by their respective former teams earlier this week.

With the Leafs looking for retaliation for the hit on Lupul, Rosehill, acquired on Monday from the Anaheim Ducks in a deal that sent away Harry Zolnierczyk, dropped the gloves with former Toronto teammate Colton Orr midway through the period. Rosehill came out ahead in the bout after knocking Orr to the ice, not an easy thing to do to one of the toughest heavyweights in the league.

In an interesting twist, Rosehill often used to spend part of practice alongside fellow tough guy Mike Brown learning the art of fighting from Orr when all three were members of the Leafs from 2010-12.

“Colton and I are buddies,” Rosehill said. “I’m sure there are no hard feelings. He was just probably reacting to the hit on Lupul. You never want to see a guy hurt like that, but you have to finish your checks.”

Of course, the pupil teaching his pugilistic mentor a lesson wasn’t the end of the heroics for Rosehill, who seemed comfortable in his return to his old stomping grounds known as the Air Canada Centre.

At 15:53 of the second period, Rosehill deflected a Sean Couturier shot past Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer to put the Flyers up, 4-2. It was Rosehill’s first goal since Feb. 8, 2011 when he was a member of the Leafs.

Hall played a key role in the goal, which proved to be the game winner.

Claimed on waivers by the Flyers just one day earlier, Hall caused havoc with Reimer, nudging the stick of the Leafs goalie as he skated past him on the play. Reimer complained to the officials that Hall had interfered with him but the referees disagreed, claiming the Toronto goalie had been outside his crease at the time of contact.

Luke and Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek and Simon Gagne joined Rosehill in the scoring parade for the Flyers. It was the first time the Schenn brothers had scored in the same regular season NHL game while being teammates.

For Luke Schenn, it was his first taste of victory in Toronto since being dealt to the Flyers by the Leafs last summer for James van Riemsdyk.

“It’s nice,” he said. “It’s nothing personal. I had a good time while I was here. But yeah, it’s very satisfying to come back here and help the team get a big win.”

Another key component in the Flyers' victory was young Sean Couturier.

After ending a 21-game scoreless streak on Wednesday versus Montreal, Couturier was one of the Flyers' best players against the Leafs.

Couturier assisted on two of the Flyers' goals, including a helper on Philadelphia’s second marker that is worthy of the highlight reels.

Busting down the left side, Couturier delivered a nifty feed perfectly through the legs of Toronto defenseman Carl Gunnarsson onto the stick of Jakub Voracek, who had an easy two-foot putt into the open net for his team-leading 16th goal of the season.

In the process, Couturier was probably breathing a sigh of relief that Wednesday’s trade deadline had come-and-gone without any transactions involving him. Given how many rumours there had been surrounding the promising forward, who could blame him for being glad it was over and done with.

“I tried not to think about the (trade) talk,” he said. “But you hear about it. It’s tough not to with social media being what it is.”

Despite the fact that newly acquired goalie Steve Mason was in the house, Laviolette opted to go with incumbent Ilya Bryzgalov, who was making his 21st consecutive start.

And, as has been the case so often in the past, it was a combination of Good Ilya and Bad Ilya.

After Gagne had put the Flyers up 1-0 just 79 seconds after the opening faceoff, Bryzgalov gave up a huge juicy rebound into the slot just two minutes later that the Leafs’ Nikolai Kulemin drained to tie the game 1-1. The Flyers goalie appeared as if he was trying to do his best Lionel Messi imitation, judging by the way he kicked the initial shot back into play.

At the same time, down the stretch, Bryzgalov made some huge saves just when the Flyers needed him the most.

Mason, meanwhile, was swarmed by a throng of reporters after the Flyers' morning skate at the ACC. A native of Oakville, which is just a 30-minute drive west of downtown Toronto, Mason, 24, was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday for goalie Michael Leighton and a third-round pick in 2015.

“I’m not sure what my role is right now,” said Mason, a former Calder Trophy winner as the NHL’s rookie of the year. “I haven’t really been told.

“To me that’s not my main focus. My job is to come in here and become the goaltender the organization believes I can be, and that’s to be a No. 1 goaltender.

“I’m fully prepared to put the work in and I’m really excited to start doing it.”

“Excited” is a word that hasn’t really been associated with the Flyers for a while. But now, with the team close enough to have a sniff of a playoff spot, a victory in Winnipeg on Saturday would be yet another adrenalin boost heading into the final 10-game home stretch of the season.

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Different teams meet outdoors at Heinz Field

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Different teams meet outdoors at Heinz Field

Flyers (28-25-7) at Penguins (37-14-8)
8 p.m. on NBC, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

It’s time for some outdoor fun.

The anticipated Flyers-Penguins Stadium Series game has arrived, as the two rivals clash Saturday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

Let’s get you ready for it all with five things to know.

1. Eye on the ice
The one caveat of playing ice hockey outdoors is, of course, the weather.

The forecast is calling for rain showers from morning until noon with temperatures in the low-to-mid 50s. The precipitation is expected to taper off and temperatures are expected to dip into the high-30s for puck drop.

The ice can still be playable with some rain. Both teams are expected to have their morning skates indoors. No matter what, the game ice will certainly be a bit different than playing in a concealed arena.

“I'm sure they will do the best they can to have it ready,” Michael Del Zotto said this week (see story). “Unless it is really cold, the ice is always going to be chippy playing outdoors.

“It doesn’t matter what the ice conditions are because both teams are playing with it. It’s not an advantage or disadvantage for either team. Both have to deal with it.”

Ultimately, players are ready for anything weather-wise -- with the wind being just as big of a concern as the ice (see story).

2. Two directions
The Flyers and Penguins are in contrasting spots.

Pittsburgh is built for another Cup run.

The Flyers are not yet. Instead, they are fighting simply for their postseason lives.

The orange and black have lost seven of their last 10 games. Since the 10-game winning streak, they are 9-15-4 with the NHL’s second-fewest points at 22.

When the Flyers won 10 straight, they had a plus-14 goal differential over that span. In the 28 games since, they have scored an NHL-low 48 markers and own a minus-36 goal differential.

So, like last season, the Flyers have a mighty mountain to climb for a playoff berth (see story). They are now five points back of the Islanders, who currently hold the second wild-card spot with 68 points. The Flyers, at 63 points, also trail the Bruins (68) and Panthers (66), while the Sabres (62) and Lighting (62) are right there in the mix.

Meanwhile, the defending champion Penguins are third in the NHL with 82 points and first with 3.47 goals per game, spearheaded by Sidney Crosby’s league-best 33 scores.

3. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Brayden Schenn is on a three-game goal streak and ranks No. 1 in hockey with 14 man-advantage tallies. Since Jan. 8, he is tied with Wayne Simmonds for the Flyers’ lead in goals at eight. He also owns eight goals and eight assists in 23 career games against Pittsburgh.

Penguins: Right winger Patric Hornqvist, who plays alongside Crosby, was super active in the first meeting with the Flyers, recording two assists, five shots on goal, three hits and three blocked shots. The 30-year-old has 17 goals, 18 assists and a plus-19 rating, while the Penguins are 12-3-0 when he scores a goal.

4. This and that
• Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth is making his sixth straight start and ninth in the last 10 games. He is 2-2-2 with a 2.23 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and two shutouts in seven lifetime matchups with Pittsburgh.

• Penguins goalie Matt Murray is 5-1-2 in his last eight games with a .940 save percentage and 1.84 goals-against average. In two career games (one start) against the Flyers, the 22-year-old is 1-0-0 and has stopped 39 of 41 shots faced.

• Pittsburgh has won four of the last five meetings with the Flyers. This is Game 2 of the four-game regular-season series between the teams. The Penguins won the first matchup, 5-4, on Oct. 29 at the Wells Fargo Center.

• Penguins defensemen Justin Schultz (upper body) and Kris Letang (upper body) will be game-time decisions. Schultz is a team-best plus-31 on the season, while Letang is a two-time All-Star.

• Jakub Voracek has 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 29 career games against Pittsburgh.

5. The rivalry
Relive some great moments from the Flyers-Penguins rivalry with these terrific pieces from CSN’s Orange Line.

Danny Briere recalls brawl in Pittsburgh

The origin of Philly’s hatred for Crosby

Reliving Flyers’ five-overtime playoff win

Mario Lemieux returns to form in first game back

Top Flyers-Penguins moments

Another wild-card run? Flyers need it to start outdoors

Another wild-card run? Flyers need it to start outdoors

PITTSBURGH -- At this point, the Flyers are sick of talking about Saturday night's Stadium Series outdoor game against the Penguins at Heinz Field.

They just want to get it on and get it over with. Too much buildup.

“Yeah, kind of,” Simmonds said Friday. “For us, this is an extremely important game. We’ve got to get all the points we can possibly get going down the stretch if we want to make the playoffs.

“Obviously, it’s going to be an exciting time. A lot of guys have families here. But we have to stay focused on the goal.”

To say the Flyers need points right now is a huge understatement. They are five points behind the New York Islanders for the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot.

That’s the farthest they have been behind since occupying the wild card on Dec. 4. When the Flyers won their 10th consecutive game Dec. 14, they were 14 points ahead of the Islanders.

That’s a 19-point swing in the standings since then.

“So, we just have to find a way to get two points and get some wins in a row here,” Jakub Voracek said. “Every game against Pittsburgh is special. Playing an outdoor game -- I don't know how many people are going to be here -- but it's going to be a great experience.

“For us, every game is a huge game. So, if you play Pittsburgh or Colorado, it doesn't matter. You have to get two points.”

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Friday night he believes his team can still make a playoff run and salvage a wild card.

The thing is, when the Flyers made their second-half push last season, it actually began in mid-February -- earlier than now.

A couple players got hot, as did Michal Neuvirth and then Steve Mason, and you could see momentum building in the team over weeks.

That hasn’t been the case here. It’s almost March and the Flyers are floundering, no one is scoring and they are losing games despite playing pretty good hockey with no answer on how to turn things around without a major scoring increase across the board.

“It's a different season,” Voracek said of the comparison. “Different teams. You could use it as an advantage. … We have to play our hockey. The last two games, we went 1-1, but we played pretty good. We have to be ready [Saturday].”

Hextall said what happens this weekend and Tuesday against Colorado will have a trickle-down effect on what he does Wednesday at the NHL trade deadline (see story).

“We’ve played well enough at times this year that we can mount a run,” Hextall said. “I have no doubt in my mind. We’ve been playing pretty good the last eight, nine games. Except for the Edmonton game.

“But we haven’t gotten results. We need to get results. It’s not about moral victories or playing good against Washington. That’s fine and dandy, but not good enough. We have to win games.”

It starts tonight.