Flyers Fall as Shutout Turns to Shootout

Flyers Fall as Shutout Turns to Shootout

It's often said that a tie is like kissing your sister. I'm not sure who came up with that nor what his relationship with his sister was, nor what simile he'd come up with for a shootout loss. Personally, I think I've gone numb to them.

The Flyers are so amazingly bad at both ends of them that once the overtime horn has sounded, they might as well send the Mites on Ice back out there. Tuesday night was no different, with Ilya Bryzgalov and Evgeni Nabokov posting dueling shutouts through regulation and the OT, after which Bryz surrendered goals on back-to-back Isles attempts and his shooters were unable to score even one.

Who's up for a recap of a scoreless hockey game…? Right this way, Miranda Kerr and colleagues…

After a pair of weekend losses, the Flyers came out firing early and often. They outplayed the Islanders for much of the night, able to do everything but beat Nabokov (admittedly an important shortcoming). In terms of what they could change or improve upon from this one, I'm not sure there was much. Despite the loss, this was their best effort in four games against the Isles this season.

They did have some sloppy play requiring goaltending bailout, and Bryz was up to the challenge throughout. Despite the OTL/SOL (and a poor shootout showing), Bryz did notch a shutout on the night, his second of the season and 25th of his career.

He didn't have to face nearly as much rubber as Nabokov though. Nabby turned aside 45 shots, and he's now let up only one goal in 85 shots over the Isles' last two games against the Flyers. Bryz only had to stop 18, but some were pretty dangerous.

Claude Giroux played an excellent game, but his stick remains snakebitten. He failed to get good wood on a few golden opportunities, continuing a stretch that has seen him miss some open nets as well. The good news is, a player that good won't stay cold for long, and these opportunities will go his way soon. G's effort was undoubtedly where it needs to be, never more evident than in his forechecking throughout.

Comfort Zone
One area the Flyers may need to work on is taking away the opposing goalie's comfort zone. They took 86 shots, 45 finding the net, but Nabokov seemed to have plenty of room to make almost all of them. As it became increasingly clear that Nabby wasn't going to let anything straightforward in, I was surprised the Flyers didn't do more crease crashing or at least crowding. In a close game, I guess they just didn't want to give up any power plays to the league's 6th best unit.

Unrelated: Remember when the Flyers were hot after Nabokov?

The PECO Penalty Kill?
How about that PK unit? They came to play tonight, at times looking more dangerous than a well-oiled power play. Giroux and Max Talbot would have notched the game-winner while down a man had it not been for a huge Nabokov save.

Shootouts Only Count in Horseshoes and the Regular Season
Yes the Flyers absolutely suck in the shootout, but unless they miss the playoffs entirely, which doesn't seem likely, it's really not a big deal. They do away with this bullshit when the postseason begins, so contrary to popular belief, maybe they shouldn't be spending that much time and energy trying to improve on their performance in it. It's not like they don't already practice breakaways, both shooters and goalies… I'm not sure what else they can do. Some fans are starting to blame Lavvy, but what can he do? Switch to a cold Sergei Bobrovsky? Put on Bryz's Winter Classic pads during the OT and take over?

Tonight, he tried to switch things up to no avail, electing to shoot second and having Wayne Simmonds go before Giroux. Simmonds has been hot lately, and G's battling a forcefield in front of the opposing net. His goalie overcommitted on the first Isles attempt, and both of his shooters did the same.

Raise and Reward
Before the game, Frans Nielsen agreed to an extension to stay with the Islanders. Fitting that he scored the winner in the shootout…

Highlights

Streaks…
The Isles have now won back-to-back games in Philly after having gone winless here since April 2007.

Simmonds saw his scoring streak snapped at three games, during which he posted four goals. That may have factored into Lavvy's decision to use Simmonds as his second skater, even before Giroux. Simmonds doing his best #hartnelldown may see him watching the next one.

The Flyers have lost three games in a row for the first time this season.

Phillies look to 'keep grinding' after latest rough loss to Rockies

Phillies look to 'keep grinding' after latest rough loss to Rockies

BOX SCORE

The Phillies have scored just two runs in 13 innings against a pair of rookie starting pitchers and the eventual outcome has been two losses to the Colorado Rockies the last couple of nights. The latest was an 8-2 setback on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). That followed an 8-1 loss on Monday night.

What's happening right now at Citizens Bank Park is ugly. The Phillies are in the midst of a freefall that has seen them lose 19 of their last 23 games. They have been outscored 134-91 over that span.

Now, before we completely lose perspective here, the Phillies remain a building team and they were not expected to contend this season. But they weren't supposed to be this bad, either, and right now they are embarrassingly bad at 15-28.

John Middleton, the team's fiery managing partner, watched several innings of Tuesday night's debacle sitting beside Andy MacPhail in the club president's box. Oh, to have been a fly on that wall. Middleton is committed to a patient rebuild from the ground up, but he's also a man who has made it no secret that he likes to win a little. The show that the Phillies are putting on out on the field these days can't sit well with him. Surely it's not sitting well with the fans. Tuesday night's attendance was just 17,109, the lowest of the season, and many in that group headed home after Gerardo Parra's sixth-inning homer gave the Rockies an 8-1 lead.

"We're just in a big rut right now," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Shortstop Freddy Galvis added that he couldn't remember going through anything this bad.

"We have to keep grinding," he said. "Keep grinding, man. It's pretty tough right now."

Tuesday night's loss offered a tale of two young pitchers. Zach Eflin, the Phillies' 23-year-old right-hander and a veteran of just 18 big-league starts, was hit hard. Meanwhile, German Marquez, the Rockies' 22-year-old rookie, was impressive. He held the Phillies to one run over six innings. He twice faced bases-loaded jams and gave up just one run when he walked a batter.

On Monday night, the Phils were held to one run over seven innings by another rookie, Jeff Hoffman.

Rookie pitchers are often good medicine for struggling teams.

"That's the way I look at it," Mackanin said. "Unfortunately it hasn't happened.

"I know we're better than this. I think the team knows they're better than this. I can't fault the hustle. Someone might say there's no energy. Well, when you don't get any hits, there's no energy."

The Phillies have scored just three runs in the last three games.

The scarcity of runs gives the pitching very little room for error. But in this game, Eflin simply did not keep it close. He gave up 10 hits and eight runs over six innings of work. Phillies killer Charlie Blackmon torched Eflin for a pair of two-run homers and Parra got him for a solo shot.

"A poor outing," Mackanin said of Eflin's work. "He couldn't locate. The ball was up in the zone. He's struggling to keep the ball down.

"When he struck out Blackmon in the first inning, it was a two-seamer with great movement, I thought we're in for a good outing here. But then he couldn't keep the ball down. You have to pitch down or you're going to get hurt."

Eflin has given up 21 hits and 15 runs in his last two starts.

"It's frustrating, but it happens. It's baseball," he said. "There are going to be a lot of times in my career where I give up a lot of hits and a lot of runs. But I'm really not worried about it right now. I know that I'm going to continue to work hard and go out every fifth day and, you know, put up a line of winning baseball."

Blackmon has seven home runs in his last five games at Citizens Bank Park. He has three multi-homer games in Philadelphia.

"He seems to like hitting here," Eflin said. "But I just have to execute pitches. There's no excuse. I just have to be on top of my game."

Right now, the Phillies are at the bottom of their game.

"We have to stay together as a team and keep fighting, try to get out of what's happening right now," Galvis said. "It's a really tough situation, but we have keep playing hard."

NHL Playoffs Senators battle past Penguins to force Game 7

NHL Playoffs Senators battle past Penguins to force Game 7

BOX SCORE

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators bounced back nicely two days after a blowout loss put them on the brink of elimination.

Anderson stopped 45 shots, Mike Hoffman scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period and the Senators beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 Tuesday night to force a decisive Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 36-year-old Anderson was coming off a pair of rough outings, including Sunday when he was pulled after yielding four goals in Ottawa's 7-0 loss in Game 5 at Pittsburgh.

"You can't change what happens in the past," said Anderson, who has credited work with a sports psychologist early in his career for helping him manage the mental side of the game. "From that moment on you have to look forward and get ready for the next one."

Hoffman fired a slap shot through traffic off a pass from Fredrik Claesson to put the Senators ahead at 1:34 of the third. Bobby Ryan also scored a rare power-play goal for Ottawa.

It was quite a response after the drubbing in the previous game.

"I think the biggest message for us was if somebody told us back in training camp in September that we'd have an opportunity to win Game 6 in the Eastern Conference final at home in front of our fans we would've taken it," Ryan said. "So let's not dwell, let's not kick ourselves and put our heads down. Let's embrace this opportunity to extend this for two more days together and go from there."

Evgeni Malkin gave Pittsburgh, vying for its second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the lead early in the second period and Matt Murray finished with 28 saves.

"I thought we played a real good game," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought we dominated zone time. We had lots of chances. We didn't score tonight. The puck didn't go in the net, but if we continue to play the game that way, then I believe we'll get the result."

Game 7 is Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with the winner advancing to face the Nashville Predators for the championship.

Ottawa was primarily looking for a return to structure in Game 6, beginning with a smoother start -- which they got. Notable in a scoreless opening period were two effective penalty kills, one of which saw Viktor Stalberg get the best opportunity short-handed.

Pittsburgh had four shots with the man advantage, but Anderson stopped them all. It was evident early that he had his game back in this one. He stopped Nick Bonino off a rebound in transition, Scott Wilson off a deflected shot by Phil Kessel, and Bonino again when Kyle Turris gave the puck away.

Anderson then stopped 22 of 23 shots in the second period.

"I think Anderson was the reason that they got this one, he played big for them," Murray said. "But in our room we just focus on what we need to do. We played really well, we just didn't get the bounces and weren't able to put one home."

Anderson's performance was a reminder for Senators coach Guy Boucher of why he took the job with Ottawa in the first place last May.

"I'll be honest with you, if I didn't have a No. 1 goalie, I didn't want the job," Boucher said. "I've lived it for quite a few years, and it's hell when you don't have it because everything you do turns to darkness, and there's nothing that really matters when you don't have a real No. 1 goaltender.

"It's like a quarterback in football and a pitcher in baseball, and we have it," Boucher added.

Murray was also sharp. The 22-year-old, who replaced Marc-Andre Fleury after Game 3, made maybe his finest save of the first on Derick Brassard, who found an open lane down the middle of the ice following a pass from Ryan.

The Penguins appeared to have opened the scoring just over three minutes into the second, but Trevor Daley was deemed to have interfered with Anderson following an Ottawa challenge.

Less than two minutes later though, Pittsburgh took the 1-0 lead anyway off a few moments of brilliance from Malkin. The playoff scoring leading (24 points) bounced off a check from Zack Smith behind the goal and after being stopped on his drive to the net, followed up with a nifty backhand rebound to beat Anderson.

It was the 153rd career playoff point in 142 games for Malkin -- three back of Sidney Crosby for second among active players behind Jaromir Jagr -- who had been jarring with Hoffman a few minutes earlier.

The Senators had little going until a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage for 1:24 just past the midway point of the period. The Ottawa power play, which had gone 0 for 29 in the previous 10 games, came through with Ryan ultimately wiring a one-timer short-side to tie the score.

It was the sixth goal and 15th point of the playoffs for Ryan, who is second on the Senators behind captain Erik Karlsson (16 points).