Monday, December 22, 2014

Flyers reward Zepp with come from behind OT win over Jets

Winnipeg, MB -- When Airship One touches down in the Twin Cities ahead of Tuesday night's game with the Wild, the Philadelphia Flyers will find themselves attempting to put together their first three-game win streak in six weeks.

Rob Zepp stopped 25 shots in his NHL debut and Jakub Voracek's second tally of the contest came just 10 seconds into overtime as the visitors pulled out a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre on Sunday night.

Zepp stopped a wide-open shot by Mark Scheifele in the waning seconds of the second period to keep his club behind by just two goals, and his offense picked it up late. Vinny Lecavalier was credited with both third-period scores which occurred in a span of just over 10 minutes.

Matt Halischuk and Dustin Byfuglien scored in a 55-second span early in the first period, Mathieu Perreault added a second-period marker and Ondrej Pavelec stumbled to a 19-save defeat.

Philly hasn't won three in a row since Nov. 4-8, and hadn't won both ends of back-to-back games all season, improving to 3-10-1 in seven sets of such games this year.

On the first shift of the extra session, Claude Giroux pressured Byfuglien behind his own net long enough for Voracek to fish the puck out of the scrum, skate back in front, and chip a shot through Pavelec.

Byfuglien and Flyers head coach Craig Berube then briefly exchanged words as the teams exited the ice, since the former used his considerable heft to take a run at Giroux and then slash the stick out of the hands of both Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn on a late-game power play. Byfuglien later leveled Schenn with a clean hit in the defensive zone as well.

Zepp, who became the oldest goaltender at 33 to make his NHL bow since Ross Brooks of the Bruins in 1972, was buoyed early by two of the top three scorers in the league on the game's first shift.

After staving off Winnipeg's initial salvo, Giroux threaded the needle cross ice over two Jets players' sticks for a successful one-timer by Voracek from the left wing only 46 seconds in.

But the Jets recovered by capitalizing on shoddy Flyers defense to take the lead a short time later. On the hosts' first goal, Halischuk snapped a 27-game goal drought by corraling a failed Sean Couturier clear and hammering a shot past Zepp at the 6:38 mark. Then, it was Byfuglien who was allowed to walk out of the right-wing corner, cut in front and lift a shot from in close while no defenseman closed in, at 7:33.

Despite trailing, Zepp acquitted himself well by stopping 15 shots in the opening 20 minutes. It was a familiar situation for the former Eisbaren Berlin backstop, who was facing more than 30 shots per game under Terry Murray in Allentown.

Perreault provided Winnipeg a 3-1 advantage with 7:39 to play in the second. Michal Frolik had flipped a shot near the Flyers' crease where Scheifele crashed the net and managed to work the puck loose. Andrew MacDonald, who appeared to have the area to Zepp's right sealed off, couldn't react in time as the disc came out to the right side for an easy tap-in.

Scheifele had a dead-on chance to put the game away in the Jets' favor, but as he moved to the left side of the crease, Zepp did the splits on his belly and managed to catch a piece of the shot with his skate and push it out of harm's way.

Yet the Flyers weren't really galvanized until Mark Streit unleashed a floater which hit Lecavalier in the backside and caromed past Pavelec just after the six-minute mark of the third in a 4-on-4 situation.

They were given two more cracks at tying the game when Evander Kane and Grant Clitsome were sent off one second apart, but failed to do more than move the puck from side to side with little offensive thrust.

Their break came with 3:34 on the clock. After an offensive right-circle faceoff win, Chris VandeVelde dove forward to knock the puck into the slot, where a patient Lecavalier fired home to the short side for a 3-3 deadlock. Though the North Dakota product clearly didn't have to fight for possession, official scoring has denied him a second assist of the game for his effort.

Voracek and Giroux are tied for tops in the NHL with 30 assists, and the former leads the overall scoring ledger with 44 points thanks to four more goals than his line mate and team captain. 

Notes: Zepp had gone 8-5-4 with a 2.70 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and one shutout in 17 appearances for Lehigh Valley in the American Hockey League ... Hugh Lehman was 41 when he won his professional debut for Chicago in 1926 ... Voracek's marker was the quickest in overtime for the Flyers since Simon Gagne set a franchise record with his goal seven seconds into OT at Madison Square Garden in a 4-3 win over the Rangers on Jan. 5, 2006 ... Lecavalier scored his first goal since Nov. 1 in Florida, a span of 15 appearances and 22 games, counting the times he was scratched healthy or unhealthy ... His last two-goal effort came on March 30 against the Boston Bruins ... Streit was a game-best plus-4 while Nicklas Grossmann compiled a plus-3.
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