Leigh'd Back: Flyers Strike First, Finish Big

Leigh'd Back: Flyers Strike First, Finish Big

Fie-nah-lee. The Flyers have shaken off their four-game losing streak, winning a sloppy game on warm ice in south Florida, 5-2. They were able to nail down two out of three of everyone's generic keys to the game: scoring first and finishing strong. The third key, playing all 60 minutes, continues to elude them, and that hefty margin of victory is probably a little misleading if you didn't see the game. With 3 minutes left in regulation, the Flyers were up just one goal after giving up a two-goal lead. Still, a win is a win, and clawing two points out of a team that's ahead of you in the standings is that much better. And, it was encouraging to see them put the game away instead of wilting.  

First up, props to the "fourth" line of Dan Carcillo, Ian Laperriere, and especially Blair Betts (the forward lines logged pretty even minutes at even strength). It's well-documented that this is a better team with Betts on the ice, and tonight, he did more than just the little muck-and-grind things and his usual faceoff and PK role-playing. The checking line threw pucks on the net with more efficacy than most Flyers scoring lines have in weeks, generating those lucky-strike scoring attempts that are known for breaking scoring droughts. Betts notched two goals, admitting after the game that he didn't even know the first one was his until he got to the bench. 

A big part of the Flyers' success in the first period was the lack of discipline by Rick Tocchet's team. Now I know what it feels like to watch your team play the Flyers. The Lightning took five minors to the Flyers' two, both of which were assessed to Carcillo. We've seen that Chico can giveth the powerplay, but tonight he again showed that he can take them away too. After crosschecking Vinny Lecavalier, the 'Ning forward was so pissed at Carcillo that he took two shots at his groin area with the stick. Powerplay averted, and Lavvy will trade Carcillo for Lecavalier all night. Of course, in the second, the Flyers gave those three minors back. They weren't beaten on the Lightning powerplays, but they probably didn't help any. 

In other special teams success stories, Richie was able to convert a PPG in the first period on a great pass from Simon Gagne. Richards also scored in the third period, ripping a keeper shot on a 2-on-1 to give him an even pair on the night. After going toe to toe with his captain counterpart in the game against the Panthers, which they ultimately lost, Richie led in another way tonight by scoring a separating goal in the first, and an insurance tally to close out the game in the third. 

It wasn't bad to see Simon Gagne work hard to get the party goal with the empty net either. Right now, the Flyers need as many guys on the scoresheet as possible. 

Michael Leighton looked a little overwhelmed at times, particularly when Victor Hedman blew a howitzer past him in the second, but overall, his positioning was solid, and he gave the team plenty of room to win. I was a lot more impressed than I thought I'd be, and we'll have to wait and see if Lavvy starts him for some revenge against the Hurricanes after Christmas. Anyone else think it's odd he's still just taping over his 'Canes mask? A goalie with his brand of staying power should probably keep a plain white on file.

It wasn't all pretty, but not playing their best and still scoring five goals could be the type of win that gets them back on track. What's that? Don't get too excited over one win? Effff that, we needed this. Hopefully the team is feeling that same release right now. 

Bonus! Ian Laperriere's new mask, courtesy of Santa Coatesy. 

 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”

Best of NHL: Bryan Rust notches hat trick as Pens score 8 in win

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Best of NHL: Bryan Rust notches hat trick as Pens score 8 in win

PITTSBURGH -- Bryan Rust had his first career hat trick, Sidney Crosby added his NHL-leading 17th goal and the Pittsburgh Penguins raced by the Ottawa Senators 8-5 on Monday night.

Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel each had a goal and two assists for Pittsburgh, and Matt Cullen and Justin Schultz also scored. The Penguins poured in six goals over the final 32 minutes after spotting the Senators a 4-2 lead. Matt Murray made 17 saves after coming in for an ineffective Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period.

Pittsburgh has won three straight overall and improved to 7-0-2 in its last nine against the Senators.

Matt Stone had a goal and two assists for Ottawa. Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Dion Phaneuf also scored for Ottawa, which lost in regulation for just the second time in its last eight games (see full recap).

Capitals rally late for OT win over Sabres
WASHINGTON -- Marcus Johansson scored the tying goal late in the third period and got the winner midway through overtime to lift the Washington Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

The goals were Johansson's third and fourth in his last five games. He has 11 for the season.

Jay Beagle added the Capitals' first even-strength goal in three games, as Washington snapped a three-game losing skid. Braden Holtby made 31 saves in the victory, the Capitals second over the Sabres in an 11-day stretch.

Kyle Okposo scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season to give the Sabres the lead in the second period. Zemgus Girgensons also scored early for Buffalo, and Robin Lehner made 30 stops for the visitors (see full recap).

Blue Jackets sweep series from Coyotes
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sam Gagner had two goals and two assists to help the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Arizona Coyotes for the second time in three days, 4-1 on Monday night.

Nick Foligno and Zach Werensky also scored for the Blue Jackets, who won for the fourth straight time and ninth of their last 12. Columbus picked up its 500th win in franchise history in sweeping the two-game season series with the Coyotes.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 17 shots for Columbus.

Arizona backup goaltender Louis Domingue had 30 saves, two days after the Blue Jackets hammered starter Mike Smith with a franchise-record 60 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory in Phoenix.

Arizona struck first 9:28 into the game when Alex Goligoski fed a pass on a power play to Tobias Reider, who slammed it past Bobrovsky's glove side from between the circles (see full recap).