PHILADELPHIA – When watching Wayne Simmonds play hockey, no matter if its preseason, regular season or playoffs, it’s hard to think of a time when he just takes his foot off the pedal and goes into cruise control.
It’s not in his DNA.
So, when he finds yet another level of performance that you didn’t think possible, it leaves you in awe of his dedication and relentless perseverance in the sport.
Tuesday was one of those games.
Simmonds was like Pablo Sanchez in the Backyard Hockey video game – he was all over the ice, winning board battles, fighting for positioning in front of the net and scoring goals – not one, not two, but three.
It was his first career playoff hat trick and just the second in his time in the NHL.
And it was enough to provide the offensive jolt for the Flyers in a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers in Game 6 of their Stanley Cup First Round series with the New York Rangers, a series tied 3-3 that will have a deciding Game 7 Wednesday night in New York.
“He was all over the puck,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who had a goal and two assists and is now averaging
|Wayne SImmonds had his arms raised often in Game 6 and hopes to do it again Wednesday in Game 7.|
a point per game in the playoffs. “[Simmonds] was jumping everywhere, he was strong on the puck, and I think when Wayne wants to win the battle he wins it and kind of gives everybody in the room a little bit of motivation to do the same.”
He scored the first goal of the game on the power play with sheer determination to fight through defenders and whack a loose puck past Henrik Lundqvist.
His second goal he was Johnny on the spot as Brayden Schenn lost a puck cutting to the net, but it ended up on Simmonds’ stick for a slam dunk.
The third came on another power play as he re-directed a Jakub Voracek shot past Lundqvist for 4-0.
“It was just a matter of time,” said Voracek. “He’s a good player especially around the net. He finds that soft spot on the side of the posts. He buried the big goals tonight.”
Simmonds was the catalyst for a Flyers team that needed someone to emerge during a furiously paced opening period.
“He’s an effective player,” Schenn said. “I know what he’s going to do every single night. He’s going to be an up and down the walls type guy. He’s going to win his battles, he’s going to be tough, he’s going to be physical and to add [Scott] Hartnell to that too, we all kind of play the same way – north and south hockey – and we try to be a big, physical line and get our chances off the cycle.”
Simmonds just wanted a chance at a Game 7, and now he’s got it, thanks to his fine performance – and that of his teammates.
“We need to take the positives from this game, take them into tomorrow night and keep it rolling,” Simmonds said. “I think it’s great that we’re having a back-to-back. The other games we had a couple days off and I think that’s why you’ve seen this series go one-one-one-one-one-one because teams have had time to regroup. Now we have the momentum. We’ve got to keep our foot on the pedal and keep pushing forward.”
Erik Gustafsson made his first appearance in the playoffs a memorable one.
Gustasfsson scored what would be the game-winning goal on a breakaway as Braydon Coburn hit him in stride as he emerged from the penalty box after serving a penalty for a phantom high sticking call on the Rangers’ master embellisher Derek Dorsett.
Gustafsson broke in on Lundqvist, made a quick move and beat the goalie to the five hole.
“I was pretty happy after it,” he said. “A lot of emotions went into it. I think we played a great overall game and that adds to it as well.”
Gustafsson played 18:19 and drew high praise from his coach.
“His game overall was good,” Craig Berube said. “I thought he moved the puck well, skated well and was heads up all game. He checked well too. He did a really good job.”
NOTES: The Flyers will participate in the 16th Game 7 in their history. They are 9-6 all time. They will be trying to complete a comeback from a 3-2 deficit for just the fourth time in their history… The Flyers have won their last three Game 7 situations, one at home (2011 ECQF vs. Buffalo) and two on the road (2010 ECSF at Boston and 2008 ECQF at Washington). They have won four of their last five dating back to the 2003 ECQF, a 6-1 Game 7 win at home vs. Toronto. The one Game 7 loss in that timeframe was the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals at Tampa Bay (2-1), which was also the last series the Flyers have played in before this one where neither team has won consecutive games… This is only the third series between the Flyers and Rangers to go the distance and only the second seven-game series to do so. The Flyers won a Game 7 4-3 at the Spectrum on May 5, 1974 en route to their first Stanley Cup. They lost a five-game Patrick Division Semifinal to the Rangers in 1986, with the Rangers taking a 5-2 win at the Spectrum on April 15 of that year… The Flyers are 1-1 when facing elimination at Madison Square Garden. They lost the third game of a three-game preliminary round series there by a 9-3 score on April 9, 1983 and won Game 4 of the aforementioned 1986 Patrick Division Semifinal on April 14, 1986 (7-1) before dropping the subsequent Game 5 at the Spectrum the next day. This will be the first Game 7 the Flyers have ever played at MSG… This is the first Flyers playoff series to reach six games without requiring overtime since the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals vs. New Jersey, which the Flyers lost in seven games. It’s just the eighth Flyers playoff series all-time to reach at least six games without an overtime… Before Simmonds The last Flyer to record a hat trick vs. the Rangers (regular season) was Simon Gagne on December 30, 2009. Eric Lindros had a hat trick in Game 3 the last time these teams met in the playoffs back in 1997… The Rangers outshot the Flyers 36-29, marking the fifth straight game in this series that the winning team has been out-shot… The Flyers were 5-for-5 on the penalty kill tonight, marking the fourth consecutive game they’ve been perfect on the PK. They have killed off 20 consecutive shorthanded situations dating back to Game 2 of the series.
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