Vinny Lecavalier breaks out of slump with late, game-winning goal as Flyers escape Buffalo with win

Vinny Lecavalier breaks out of slump with late, game-winning goal as Flyers escape Buffalo with win

On Tuesday evening, the Philadelphia Flyers traveled to Buffalo with a perfect opportunity to snap out of their mini funk with a matchup against the NHL’s worst team, the Sabres, and erase the memories of their lost weekend.

While they didn’t play their best game by any means, the Flyers got a key, late goal from a slumping player who desperately needed one and headed home on a winning note.

Vinny Lecavalier snapped his 13-game goalless drought when he fired a one-timer from the dot past Sabres’ goalie Jhonas Enroth with just 14.8 seconds left in regulation to unknot a tied game and give the Flyers a 4-3 win over the Sabres at First Niagara Center.

Jake Voracek, Brayden Schenn and Scott Hartnell also scored for Philadelphia in the victory.

But it was Lecavalier’s goal that had everyone talking after the game and not just because it won the game.

The goal snapped Lecavalier’s 13-game goalless drought – his longest goalless drought since his rookie year of 1998-99 – and finally instilled some confidence back him after not scoring since before Thanksgiving. It also may have finally gotten him back on track after he missed nine games in December with a fracture in his back.

And, with as jumbled as the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference standings are, the Flyers are going to need Lecavalier back on track and putting up points if they are going to break away from the rest of the pack.

He’s more than capable of scoring goals and putting up points in bunches. That’s why the Flyers signed the 33-year-old to a five-year, $22.5 million deal this past offseason. Time will tell if Tuesday’s game-winner is the start of a scoring binge for Lecavalier. The Flyers sure hope it is.

As for the game itself, there wasn’t much to write home about for most of the contest. The Flyers didn’t play very well and were once again sloppy, turnover-prone and couldn’t generate much offensively.

But things escalated quickly with about 13 minutes left.

Buffalo broke a 1-1 tie around that point when Matt D’Agostini dove tipped a Steve Ott pass home past Steve Mason. But Philadelphia responded seven minutes later when Brayden Schenn found himself all alone with a loose puck and spun it past Enroth to knot the game back up.

Scott Hartnell cashed in on a one-timer from the dot on a power play to give the Flyers their first lead of the game with just over four minutes left.  It wouldn’t last long though as the Sabres’ Tyler Ennis slid a weak goal through the legs of Mason to knot the game yet again.

Never fear, because it was time for Lecavalier to don the hero cape as he took a pass from Matt Read, who made his return after missing six games with a concussion, and slammed it home after a net-mouth scramble for the win and the escape from Buffalo.

Mason wasn’t tested much in the game but made 16 saves on 19 shots for the win. That Ennis goal is definitely one he would like to have back, though.

In all honestly, if the Flyers were playing almost any other team beside the terrible Sabres, the result probably would have been much different, and not in a good way. The Flyers played most of the game the way they played over the weekend and were lucky to get the win this time around. They have to tighten some things up going forward.

They’ll get their first chance to do just that when the Nashville Predators visit Wells Fargo Center on Thursday evening.

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

Two of the country's top prospects faced off in the Pac 12 this week while a top 10 forward saw his season come to a premature close. However, we begin this week with the breakout performance by Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida St. (6-11/205)
Isaac's potential had everyone in the basketball world's curiosity. Now his play on the court has their attention. The Seminoles hosted No. 15 Notre Dame, which had yet to lose in ACC play before the Wednesday game. 

The freshman forward dominated in the 83-80 win. He had 23 points on 7 for 9 shooting from the field. He made both his threes, all seven of his free throws and also had one assist. His other stats were also otherworldly. He picked up 10 rebounds and had seven(!) blocks, including one on a late Notre Dame shot to get back into the game after he'd put the Seminoles ahead with a three. All this was in just 25 minutes

He followed it up with a similar game against Louisville. In 28 minutes, he had 16 points on 4 for 7 shooting, making one three and, again, all seven free throws. Add in two assists and two blocks to aid in the 73-68 win. Isaac has shown himself to be an athletic freak, a potential stretch-four at the next level and one with tremendous defensive potential, displayed with his nine blocks this week.

OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-8/235)
Anunoby has had an uneven season, but he, at the very least, showed flashes of the ability that make him a top player for this year's draft class. However, a knee injury suffered on Wednesday finished off Anunoby's season, forcing him to undergo surgery that will keep him off the court for the rest of Indiana's schedule.

This may knock him out of the 2017 draft entirely. As a freshman last year, his NCAA Tournament performance was enough to make him a lottery pick in an even weaker draft field than the upcoming one. He chose to remain in school and it isn't farfetched to believe he will return to Indiana for his junior year to get more seasoning, a better draft field and another year of education.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
There are going to be quite a few marquee matchups in the Pac 12. One of the first this year came in the form of UCLA-Arizona in Los Angeles on Saturday. The No. 3 Bruins lost, 96-85, but that had nothing to do with Ball's standout performance (more on the Wildcats below). He pushed the ball in transition, drove to the hole with ease and made 4 of 8 threes with his quirky shot. 

He had 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. When you watch Ball score so naturally, it's easy to forget his potential as a point guard, but then he whips up beautiful assists as he did many times on Saturday. The freshman has everything you want in a point guard.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The No. 14 Wildcats picked up their biggest win of the year, moving to 7-0 in conference play. As you can expect, Markkanen had a big game to push Arizona past UCLA. He had 18 points on 6 for 10 shooting, was 3 for 3 from three and made three free throws, all which grabbing seven boards. Like Isaac, he is a tantalizing talent as a stretch-four, hanging out around the perimeter and spotting up for threes well.

He now has 16 made threes in his last four games and has averaged over seven boards in that stretch. He's not unbelievably thin like many fours his age. The freshman really can battle down low and get his shot, and he justifies his prospect status on a game-by-game basis with his ability.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
Washington lost on Saturday, moving to 9-10 and 2-5 in conference. But it's worth talking about Fultz's standout Wednesday night. The freshman willed his team back from 17-points down with a 37-point performance en route to an 85-83 OT win over Colorado. In 43 minutes, he was 13 for 24 from the field and 11 for 15 from the free throw line.

Don't think he's just a scorer, though. He had eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks, doing it all for the Huskies as he usually does. The freshman sensation was 0 for 2 from three, but he is normally efficient from beyond the arc. He alone is the reason to watch the under .500 Huskies.

While the 9-10 Huskies are unlikely to make a late run towards March Madness, the strong Pac 12 should provide many marquee matchups for Fultz. He faces off vs. a stout Arizona team next Sunday afternoon. Six days later, the long awaited matchup between Fultz and Ball up in Seattle goes down with presumably many scouts in attendance.

Quick Hits

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Twenty-seven points on 9 for 14 shooting, 4 for 7 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, two steals and four turnovers in an 85-69 win over No. 24 South Carolina.

Josh Jackson, guard/forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Fifteen points on 6 for 14 shooting, 2 for 5 from three, 1 for 3 on free throws, five rebounds, two assists, four steals and six turnovers in a 79-67 win over Texas.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
Fourteen points on 4 for 9 shooting, 1 for 4 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and five fouls in a 70-58 win over Miami.