GAME 48: FLYERS vs. CANADIENS
Returning home for the final three games heading into the All-Star break and bye week, Alain Vigneault's Philadelphia Flyers (25-16-6 overall, 15-3-4 home) host Claude Julien's Montreal Canadiens (20-21-7, 11-9-3 away) on Thursday night. Game time at the Wells Fargo Center is 7:00 p.m. ET.
The game will be televised on NBCSP. The radio broadcast will be on 97.5 The Fanatic with an online simulcast on Flyers Radio 24/7
This is the third and final meeting of the season between the teams, and the second and final game in Philadelphia. Both previous games have gone to overtime, with the Flyers prevailing in each.
On Nov. 7 in Philadelphia, the Flyers won by a 3-2 score. Carey Price stole a point for the Habs in a game that the Flyers largely dominated but were unable to nail down a 2-0 lead. However, a Sean Couturier goal that dribbled through under Price's arm after using defenseman Victor Mete as a screen ended the game at 55-seconds of OT. Phil Myers and James van Riemsdyk scored in regulation for Philly. Ben Chiarot and Shea Weber answered for Montreal.
On Nov. 30 in Montreal, Philadelphia won, 4-3, in a game where a significant fatigue factor was working against the Flyers. A highlight reel end-to-end overtime goal by Ivan Provorov and an excellent goaltending performance by Brian Elliott lifted a tired Flyers team.
The Flyers, who completed a 30-day blitz of 16 games with four games in the final five-and-a-half days of the month, ran out of energy by the third period but Elliott delivered to steal one point and Provorov delivered the second in OT.
In regulation, the Flyers trailed by scores of 1-0 and 2-1 and then held a short-lived 3-2 lead in the third period. Oskar Lindblom's deflection goal off a Justin Braun shot and Kevin Hayes' quick response to Montreal's second go-ahead goal; converting a Joel Farabee feed to send the game to the second intermission knotted at 2-2. Travis Konecny finished off an odd-man rush on a tic-tac-toe sequence with Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl to temporarily put the Flyers ahead 3-2. Provorov's OT winner came 31 seconds into OT. Sean Couturier drew the lone assist.
Elliott let in an ugly goal by Joel Armia just 19 seconds into the game and then was stellar the rest of the way in making 39 saves on 42 shots.
The Flyers came through a brutally tough gauntlet of four straight games against elite-grade opposition with a 3-1-0 record. They defeated Washington, Boston (shootout) and St. Louis (overtime), with the only loss being a 1-0 decision against Tampa Bay that just as easily could have gone their way in a contest that essentially came down to a single bounce of the puck.
Now, the Flyers' challenge is to avoid a mental letdown in either of the next two games. After playing Montreal in this tilt, the LA Kings pay their annual visit to Philadelphia come Saturday.
Thursday's game is a neutral one in terms of fatigue factor. Both the Flyers and Canadiens are playing for the third time in four nights and are on the second end of a back-to-back with overnight travel in between.
On Wednesday, the Flyers prevailed, 4-3, in an extremely hard-fought overtime game against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues (see re-posted game recap below).
With Carter Hart dealing with an abdominal muscle pull that will sideline him for 2-3 weeks, the Flyers made two roster moves on Tuesday in order to create enough cap space to call up goaltender Alex Lyon. Joel Farabee was assigned to the roster of the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Chris Stewart was placed on waivers.
Stewart will clear waivers (barring an unexpected claim) at noon on Thursday. At that point, the Flyers can assign Stewart to the Phantoms and recall Farabee. Doing so would make Farabee eligible to play against the Canadiens. My projected lineup includes Farabee, but this is speculation until confirmed.
At home, the Flyers boast a 15-3-4 record, scoring an average 3.64 goals per game (6th-highest leaguewide), carrying a 2.05 goals against average (2nd in the NHL). The power play clocks in at 23.1 percent efficiency (9th), and the penalty kill is at 86.8 percent success (4th).
While the Flyers flew to Philadelphia a happy group after digging deep and beating the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Canadiens had little to smile about after last night's game. The Habs saw a two-game winning spell snapped on Wednesday, losing a 4-1 home decision to the Chicago Blackhawks that displeased Julien both in terms of execution and competitiveness.
In a losing cause, Philip Danault notched his 12th goal of the season. The tally was assisted by Ilya Kovalchuk and Tomas Tatar. Tatar leads the Canadiens with 40 points. Charlie Lindgren took the loss in goal, stopping 24 shots. Carey Price will be back in net on Thursday.
Additionally, the Canadiens made a roster move after Wednesday's game. The club assigned Matthew Peca to the AHL's Laval Rocket.
Highly regarded youngster Ryan Poehling scored his first goal of the season on Monday. He has recenly played well on a line with fellow highly touted youngster Jesperi Kotkaniemi and ex-Flyers forward Nick Cousins. A third vital piece of the Canadiens' future, Nick Suzuki, went into Wednesday's game ranked 5th among NHL rookies in goals (9) and points (27).
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
28 Claude Giroux - 13 Kevin Hayes - 11 Travis Konecny
12 Michael Raffl - 14 Sean Couturier - 93 Jakub Voracek
25 James van Riemsdyk - 21 Scott Laughton - 62 Nic Aube-Kubel
49 Joel Farabee - 82 Connor Bunnaman - 18 Tyler Pitlick
9 Ivan Provorov - 15 Matt Niskanen
6 Travis Sanheim - 5 Phil Myers
8 Robert Hägg - 59 Mark Friedman
34 Alex Lyon
[37 Brian Elliott]
Power Play 1: Giroux, JVR, Konecny, Hayes, Provorov.
Power Play 2: Couturier, Aube-Kubel, Voracek, Sanheim, Niskanen.
Note: If 44 Chris Stewart clears waivers and is assigned to Lehigh Valley, 49 Joel Farabee could be recalled and start. If Stewart is not sent to the Phantoms, projected lineup would be the same as Wednesday, with Tyler Pitlick at LW4 and Stewart at RW4. Farabee's recall would move Pitlick to RW4.
Scratches: 79 Carter Hart (abdominal muscle strain), 62 Justin Braun (groin), 53 Shayne Gostisbehere (knee).
LTIR: 55 Sam Morin (torn ACL, out for season), 23 Oskar Lindblom (Ewing sarcoma, out for season), 19 Nolan Patrick (migraines).
90 Tomas Tatar -- 24 Phillip Danault -- 17 Ilya Kovalchuk
62 Artturi Lehkonen -- 13 Max Domi -- 14 Nick Suzuki
25 Ryan Poehling -- 15 Jesperi Kotkaniemi --21 Nick Cousins
43 Jordan Weal -- 44 Nate Thompson - 22 Dale Weise
8 Ben Chiarot -- 6 Shea Weber
28 Mike Reilly - 26 Jeff Petry
53 Victor Mete -- 20 Cale Fleury
31 Carey Price
[39 Charlie Lindgren]
Power Play 1: Domi, i Kotkaniemi, Weal, Kovalchuk, Weber
Power Play 2: Tatar, Lehkonen, Danault, Suzuki, Petry
Scratches: 11 Brendan Gallagher (head, day-to-day), 77 Brett Kulak (healthy).
IR: 40 Joel Armia (hand), 41 Paul Byron (knee), 92 Jonathan Drouin (left wrist surgery).
Recap: Flyers Edge Blues in OT, 4-3
The Philadelphia Flyers prevailed, 4-3, in overtime against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in a hard-fought thriller on Wednesday night. The Flyers went 3-1-0 in a four-game gauntlet against elite-grade opposition while the Blues saw a nine-game home winning streak end.
With the win, the Flyers moved into a points tie with upper-wildcard seeded Carolina. However, the Hurricanes, idle on Wednesday, hold both a tiebreaker edge and a game in hand on the Flyers. The Florida Panthers, also idle on Wednesday, are three points behind the Flyers but hold two games in hand.
Justin Faulk (power play, 4th) opened the scoring with the lone goal of the first period. The Flyers answered back for second period tallies by Tyler Pitlick (5th) and Michael Raffl (5th). Travis Konecny (power play, 15th) built a 3-1 lead in the opening half minute of the third period. In the latter half of the period, Ryan O'Reilly (9th) and Alex Steen (4th) scored roughly three minutes apart to knot the score at 3-3.
In overtime, Jakub Voracek (9th) won the game on the only shot on goal for either team. One shift earlier, Scott Laughton hit the post; one of four by Philly in the game.
Brian Elliott earned the win against his former team with 31 saves on 33 shots. Jordan Binnington took the loss, stopping 21 of 25 shots.
The Flyers stepped up special teams in the game, killing 5 of 6 Blues' power plays including a lengthy 5-on-3 in the third period. The Flyers went 1-for-2 on the power play.
Overall, the Flyers didn't play a bad first period. They defended well at five-on-five and generated solid puck possession for much of period. But most of their better looks did not end up on Binnington's net.
Matt Niskanen took an unnecessary holding penalty, and then Phil Myers roamed too far as he slid himself way out of position in the same corner that Ivan Provorov was already working. The result was a gaping passing lane for Alex Steen to feed an open Justin Faulk for the game's first goal at 14:24 of the first period.
Philly did very little with its own first power play, and the Flyers went to the first intermission with a 1-0 deficit and a 14-8 shot disadvantage.
The early portion the second period -- the first seven minutes or so -- belonged to the Blues. Elliott had to come up big several times, but none bigger than his breakaway save on Zach Sanford after Myers was trapped up up ice, and Claude Giroux (covering up high in the offensive zone with Myers pinching) was beaten on the counter. Going back to the first period, the Flyers went 13+ minutes between shots on goal, but Elliott kept the Flyers in the game.
As the second period moved along, the Flyers at first stabilized things and then began to dominate for a stretch. The Flyers had a slew of good looks at the net, and three shooters (Sean Couturier, Matt Niskanen and Jakub Voracek) hit goal posts. Finally, the Flyers broke through with a pair of goals.
At 12:43, Pitlick scored on a wraparound attempt that bounced in off David Perron. The assists went to Laughton and Niskanen. Then, at 15:43, Raffl potted a Robert Hägg rebound to establish a 2-1 lead. Sean Couturier earned the secondary assist.
Second period shots ended up 9-8 in the Flyers favor. Konecny occupied the puck on the boards in the defensive zone as the final seconds ticked off the clock. A scrum ensued after the buzzer, and Perron received a cross-checking minor for going up high on Konecny in retaliation.
It's hard to work a double-netfront presence on a power play better than the Flyers did on Konecny's early third period goal that temporarily put the Flyers ahead 1-1. It was a set play, with James van Riemsdyk nicely redirecting a setup from Claude Giroux and Konecny getting a slam-dunk at the opposite post at the 26-second mark.
Shortly thereafter, the Flyers executed a 5-on-3 penalty kill about as well as can be done. In 1:49 of two-man disadvantage time, Philly held the Blues to a single shot. Later, the Flyers would have to kill off two additional penalties; a bad stick-slashing call against Nicolas Aube-Kubel and a had-to-call too many men penalty.
At 10:35 of the third period, O'Reilly worked his way past Sanheim to take a feed from ex-Flyer Brayden Schenn and score on his own rebound against Elliott. At 13:39, a wide open Steen took a centering pass from Robert Thomas and beat Elliott from the dead slot. Jaden Schwartz also got an assist. Killing the too-many-men penalty late in the period helped Philly get the game to OT with one point in the bank and trying for a second.
Wednesday's OT was much more methodical than the breakneck, frenetic style of the overtime against Boston two nights earlier, where the teams raced end-to-end trading off scoring chances. Finally, at 3:33, this game came to an end: a well-orchestrated rush by Ivan Provororv (who had a monster game all around in 27:14 of ice time) and a perfect finish by Voracek.
The defense pairing of Travis Sanheim and Phil Myers had some good shifts in the game, making nice good plays up ice and coming up with shot blocks as well as tremendous neutral zone hip check by Myers. However, there were also a few too many not-so-good shifts on this night, wh risky plays or misreads ended up in the Flyers net. On the game-tying goal by Steen, the Flyers could have also used help guarding the house in front by center Kevin Hayes; both D engaged elsewhere and the netfront area was left wide open.
No matter what happened, to a man on both sides, the teams kept plowing forward which made for a very dramatic and tense game. The momentum swings were palpable.
Now the Flyers return home to play the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, and must avoid a letdown game after claiming six of eight possible points against Washington, Tampa Bay (a 1-0 loss that came down to a single puck bounce), Boston and St. Louis. Both previous games with the Canadiens went to overtime before the Flyers prevailed, so Thursday's game is hardly a gimme.
PHANTOMS PREVAIL OVER SYRACUSE, 5-4
Goals have been very hard to come by this season for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, particularly since the start of December. However, the team has now won three games in a row. Coming off back-to-back shutout wins on home ice this past weekend, the Phantoms prevailed over the visiting Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate) on Wednesday in a high-scoring, 5-4, affair.
Early on the game, it was visible that Phantoms rookie Morgan Frost was up on his skates. For Frost, moving his feet consistently, playing with pace and getting to the greasy areas are things he does when he's piling up points and things he has not done consistently during stretches where points come on a few here and there basis.
On Wednesday, Frost enjoyed his first two-goal game in the AHL. At 7:47 of the first period, he scored on a follow-up play near the net to put the Phantoms ahead, 2-1. In the third period, Frost put the Phantoms ahead to stay with a highlight-reel power play rush from end-to-end, beating a neutral zone defender, splitting the D inside the blueline and then taking the puck to the house and beating goalie Spencer Martin.
An AHL All-Star Game selection, Frost now has eight goals and 17 points in 23 games with Lehigh Valley this season. Since being returned to the AHL by the Phantoms, he has three goals and five points in seven games. None of his first three games were very good but he's been reassembling his game and regaining confidence gradually with each passing game since.
The Phantoms also received goals from Maksim Sushko (7th), Max Willman (1st in the AHL) and veteran Greg Carey (power play, 10th). Chris Bigras and Eric Knodel each had two assists for the Phantoms, and Kyle Criscuolo, Pascal Laberge, Cal O'Reilly and goalie J-F Berube each chipped in an assist.
For Syracuse, ex-Phantom Danick Martel had a goal (13th) and assist, as did Alex Barre-Boulet (16th). Ross Colton (8th) and Cory Conacher (14th) each added a goal. Frost's former linemates on the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh (who play on separate lines in Syracuse) had an assist apiece.
Berube stopped 23 of 27 shots to earn the win. Martin stopped 28 of 33 shots at the other end.
Next up for the Phantoms: On Friday, Lehigh Valley will host the Binghamton Devils (17-17-4) at the PPL Center.