Simmonds sparks Flyers' win to force Game 7

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Simmonds sparks Flyers' win to force Game 7

BOX SCORE

They talked about a different attitude. One with a little vim and vinegar.

They talked about making Henrik Lundqvist do some work. Make some saves. Move for some rebounds.

They talked about playing the kind of Flyers hockey they played in the second half of the regular season to earn a playoff berth but hadn’t been seen yet in these playoffs.

“The passion and skating and tenacity was really good tonight,” coach Craig Berube said.

Everything came together Tuesday night in Game 6, as the Flyers thumped the Rangers 5-2 at Wells Fargo Center to set up Wednesday’s Game 7 in New York at Madison Square Garden (see Instant Replay).

“I’ve been to one in junior but never in the NHL,” Jakub Voracek said. “It’s do or die like it was today for us, just got to go and see what happens.”

The Rangers could have closed the Flyers out. Now the Flyers can close them out.

Wayne Simmonds had a big Game 6 with his first career playoff hat trick (see story). No player in the NHL had ever scored a playoff hat trick on Lundqvist until now (see video).

Who knows what’s in store for Wednesday?

“We take the positives from this and keep it rolling into [Wednesday] night,” Simmonds said. “It’s great that we’re having it back to back. The other games, we had a couple days off.

“That’s why you saw the series go one, one, one, one. Teams had time to regroup. Now we've got the momentum and can keep our foot on the pedal.”

He didn’t do it alone. Actually, the guy who carried the bulk of the load was goalie Steve Mason, who faced 36 shots and was nothing short of spectacular (see highlights).

Mason had two point-blank saves on Rick Nash and Anton Stralman. Plus, he added one enormous momentum save on Benoit Pouliot during a Rangers power play that ended seconds later with Erik Gustafsson bursting out of the penalty box for a breakaway goal that made it 3-0 and pretty much ended the game in the second period (see story).

Gustafsson was the replacement for Hal Gill who was the replacement for Nick Grossmann (ankle surgery).

“The whole game he was great and he has to be,” Berube said. “Our whole team did a much better job in the first period. We were more aggressive and got that [power-play] goal, which was huge and it put us in a good spot the rest of the game.”

He said the Flyers displayed more “passion” in this game.

“A more aggressive mindset that brings it out,” Berube added. “Our guys want to win. They brought a little more tonight, more tenacity in staying in the battles for loose pucks and blocking shots. You need that in the playoffs.”

Berube pushed the right buttons in this one with the addition of Gustafsson on defense and line changes that saw Michael Raffl on Claude Giroux’s line with Voracek and Scott Hartnell playing with Brayden Schenn and Simmonds (see 10 observations).

All those players combined for five goals and five assists for 10 points in the victory.

This win likely puts a little element of doubt in the Rangers’ minds.

This will be the Rangers' fourth Game 7 over the past three playoffs.

“Game 7s are what brings the best out in people,” the Rangers’ Brad Richards said. “It’ll be a hard-fought battle. We’re going home. We’ve had success in Game 7s, especially a lot of these guys in this room. That’s why we battled hard right to the end to get home ice.”

The Flyers feel since they won Game 2 up there, and have staked their claim all season as a team that plays best with its backs to the wall, they can do just that once again on Wednesday.

“We have a lot of character in this room and when we play a team game and the chemistry is doing very good on the ice, I think that’s when we’re successful,” Giroux said.

“Going back to the start of the year I think that’s what we were missing -- just playing as a team, everybody getting in the zone of the game and moving the puck. I think tonight was our best game of the series and hopefully it keeps going for Game 7.”

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Vincent Trocheck scored with just under 5 seconds remaining to lift the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.

Jonathan Marchessault also scored and James Reimer stopped 26 shots to help the Panthers complete a 5-0 road trip -- their first perfect trip of at least that many games in franchise history.

Reimer has won five straight decisions and has not lost in regulation since Jan. 7 against Boston, going 6-0-1 since.

The Panthers moved into a tie with Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division, but have the edge because they have a game in hand on the Bruins.

Kyle Brodziak, playing for the second time after missing 10 games due to a broken foot, scored for the Blues and Jake Allen finished with 31 saves. St. Louis lost its second straight since winning six in a row (see full recap).

Coyotes use three-goal 1st period to beat Ducks
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Radim Vrbata capped Arizona's three-goal first period and the Coyotes held on for 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.

Christian Dvorak and Jakob Chychrun also scored for Arizona, and starting goalie Mike Smith had 27 saves before leaving about 4 1/2 minutes into the third period after a collision in the net. Marek Langhamer helped kill a power play after being pressed into action for his NHL debut and stopped six of the seven shots he faced.

The Coyotes have won four of their last six.

Langhamer gave up Ryan Getzlaf's second goal of the night with 26.8 seconds to play, but thwarted two quality shots in the final seconds.

Jonathan Bernier gave up three goals on six shots in the first period for the Ducks. John Gibson came on to start the second and stopped all 14 shots he faced (see full recap).

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers’ “Ghost” headed home Monday on a high note — for a change.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere recorded three assists for the first three-point night of his NHL career Sunday as the Flyers edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the final game of a three-game Western Canada road trip (see story). In one night, he matched his offensive output of his previous 10 games played. 

He was a healthy scratch for three games in the meantime. On many other occasions, he has struggled while dealing with the NHL’s proverbial sophomore jinx following a standout rookie season. 

“It’s been a while coming,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s good to get some points, but I thought it was more important to get two points for our team.”

The win moved the Flyers (28-24-7) within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently held by Toronto, in the Eastern Conference. With considerable thanks to Gostisbehere, the club’s much maligned power play scored on two of three man-advantage opportunities. 

“He played great,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere. “He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger.”

Gostisbehere’s first assist enabled the Flyers to get off to a quick start offensively as Simmonds deflected in his point shot only 1:11 into the game. On the Flyers’ second goal, Gostisbehere head-manned the puck to Sean Couturier on a rush. Jakub Voracek easily put Couturier’s big rebound into a gaping net with Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller caught out of position.

One minute and 27 seconds later, Brayden Schenn took Gostisbehere’s pass and put in a shot from the slot. Altogether, Gostisbehere’s assists enabled the Flyers to build an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes.

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

Gostisbehere now has four goals and 18 assists on the season. Until Sunday, the 23-year-old had seemed like an apparition of his former self. 

He had a less-than-ideal recovery period from offseason hip (labrum) and abdominal surgeries, due to his participation with Team North America in the World Cup. Then he suffered a facial cut in the Flyers’ season opener and took a bruise on his right hand in December.

He also struggled defensively to the point where he was scratched — for the first time in his NHL career — in November and was later benched and pulled out of the lineup again. Heading into Sunday’s game, he had a woeful minus-22 mark, but he was only on the ice for one Canucks' goal.

He helped the Flyers shut out the Canucks in the first and third periods. 

“We don’t like how they came back, but we held the lead and, like I said, we got the two points,” Gostisbehere said.

Ghost’s offensive showing evoked memories of his seemingly other-worldly 2015-16 season. In 64 games last season, he notched 17 goals, the most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf, then with Calgary, who scored 20 over a full 82-game schedule in 2005-06. Gostisbehere also enjoyed a historic 15-game point streak in 2015-16, the longest ever for a first-year rearguard, and he was a runnerup for the league’s Rookie of the Year award.

His return to form Sunday bodes well as the Flyers face two Metropolitan Division rivals this week, first Washington at home on Wednesday and then the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday in an outdoor game that will pack plenty of hype and pressure. 

After those games, the Flyers face a more compressed schedule than they have lately. The Feb.12-27 portion of their calendar contains only five games. But starting Feb. 28, they will play their final 21 games of the regular season over 41 days as they push to make the playoffs.

“We definitely know we’re a playoff team, for sure,” Gostisbehere said. “It shows. It’s a big test for us (this) week, playing these really good teams.”