Flyers' Huge Comeback Falls Short After Frustrating Start (with video to make you crazy)

Flyers' Huge Comeback Falls Short After Frustrating Start (with video to make you crazy)

The first two periods of Saturday's matchup with the Devils couldn't have gone much worse for the Flyers. Sluggish, uninspired early play by the Flyers combined with crisp, aggressive answers from the Devils and some frightfully bad refereeing saw the home team struggling to stop the bleeding late in the first period and throughout the second.

Sergei Bobrovsky was relieved just shy of the game's midway point, the Flyers down 6-0 at the time. Ilya Bryzgalov came in and pitched a shutout while his skaters did everything they could to turn the game around, mounting a respectable comeback but ultimately falling by a 6-4 count.

A look at the action below, including video of the amazingly bad non-call that keyed the Devils' early dominance.

Now, while the expletives were flying around Delaware Valley living rooms and both bowls at the Wells Fargo Center, the refs weren't the only reason the Flyers lost this game. Not for lack of trying though. The zebras really jobbed the Flyers in this one, particularly early.

Less than three minutes into the game, the Devils were given a two-man advantage on a so-so call against Kimmo Timonen with Marc-Andre Bourdon already in the box. Some nice puck movement resulted in the puck being on a wide open Kurtis "Bananas" Foster's stick, and he emptied it out in a hurry.

The Devils kept the pressure up throughout the period, peppering Bob with 17 shots to the Flyers' seven. Two SOGs in the final minute of the frame made it 3-1 Devils, and they had Flyers fans ready to drag the refs through the streets of South Philly.

Here's video of how the first one came about, with the Flyers on a power play…

Dainius Zubrus clearly trips Giroux before stripping the puck off the prostrate centerman, then finds Ilya Kovalchuk for the Devils' league-leading 12th shorty.

To make matters even worse, Zubrus would score again with less than a second to play in the period. It was a very nice shooting effort by Zubrus, but … he should have been in the box at the time. Then, during the goal scoring/celebration sequence, Scott Hartnell took a high-sticking penalty, perhaps due to frustration over the non-call. On the ensuing power play to start the second period, the Devils scored again.

One blown call, which should have resulted in a 5-on-3 for the Flyers, directly impacted three goals the other way.

OK, enough whining (although there was more cause for it)…

The Flyers didn't respond well at all in the second period, conceding that goal and two more, including yet another Foster goal on the 5-on-3.

The third period was a whole different game. Bryzgalov relieved Bob in the second and didn't allow a goal the rest of the way. The offense came alive in the third, sparked by one of the few guys who had been playing well all afternoon—Wayne Simmonds. Simmer battled in front of the net to get multiple efforts off on Johan Hedberg, the final one beating him on a pretty swat.

Jaromir Jagr, who took a beating all afternoon and thinks he may have broken the tip of his finger on a slash, scored the Flyers' second goal, followed by Claude Giroux potting his 20th of the season on a power play and Jake Voracek giving us all that glimmer of hope to bring the game within two.

The game got pretty nasty in the third, and it was to the Flyers' advantage. One sequence in particular saw a full-line skirmish that saw a small parade to the box, including Zac Rinaldo, Simmonds, Anton Vochenkov, and Bryce Salvador, plus a pair of unlikely combatants. Brayden Schenn and Ilya Kovalchuk threw down in a bout the rookie won't soon forget, if he remembers it at all. He hung in there with the much larger Kovalchuk for a while, but ultimately took a nasty right hand to the grill.

The good news was, the surprise penalty killing weapon Kovalchuk was in the box for the ensuing Flyers power play, which was when Giroux converted.

The finish was to be admired, with no quit in
a Flyers team that was getting smoked by the Devils and jobbed by the refs for the better part of two periods. But the Flyers didn't play anywhere near their best hockey, which will net them the same result tomorrow if they repeat it against the Rangers.

Notes:
Simmonds has tied a career high in goals (16) and has three in four games against the Devils. He also has three in his past two games and six in over nine.

The day in misleading stats: The Flyers outshot the Devils by 10 (41-31). However, the shooting stats became far more true when broken down by period. The Flyers posted an amazing 24-1 shot total in the third, when they scored four unanswered goals. Per Elias, that 23-shot period differential is the largest in Flyers history.

Good to see Giroux score again after potting his first in a month on an empty netter on Thursday. Same for Jagr, who gave G the EN gift and reaped the reward today.

Two good post-goal signs of who this Flyers team is: Simmonds scored their first of the game, but had less than even a smile in celebration. In fact, he shook his head, seemingly still in disgust at the state of the game. When Jagr scored, there was no salute. These guys know their effort wouldn't be erased by a few goals, and individual marks were relatively meaningless in this bloodbath.

Bob can't be blamed for his showing, particularly not the pair of 5-on-3 goals he allowed. Either way, good to see Bryz come in cold and look sharp, stemming the tide.

If only we still had access to that 24/7-like footage for this one. Peter Laviolette looked ready to run onto the ice at several points to give the refs a hand in seeing the game a little more closely. 

Video Highlights:

Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Rockies 1 (11 innings)

Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Rockies 1 (11 innings)

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning Thursday to score Michael Saunders and snap the Phillies' five-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Rockies.

The win is their first victory in a game not started by Jeremy Hellickson since May 1. It also prevented the Phillies from being swept by Colorado.

At 16-29, the Phillies have the second-worst record in the majors. The Rockies, 32-17, have the second-best record in the majors.

Starting pitching report
Vince Velasquez pitched well, allowing one run over five innings to a stacked Rockies lineup, but he again had a short outing because of a high pitch count.

Velasquez put nine men on base and struck out seven. He threw 94 pitches, 70 for strikes.

After Velasquez's last start in Pittsburgh, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said the right-hander's secondary pitches simply need to improve, that he needs to be able to show more than just a mid-90s fastball.

On Thursday, Velasquez threw 72 fastballs, 14 curveballs, four sliders and four changeups. The Rockies swung through only two of those 22 off-speed pitches and went 4 for 6 when putting them in play.

Mackanin left Velasquez in to hit for himself with runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the fifth and Velasquez popped out on a sacrifice attempt. Many fans have already questioned the decision, but let's keep in mind Velasquez has handled the bat well. He's 6 for 17 (.353) on the season and tied for the major-league lead in hits among pitchers. He had an infield single in his first at-bat.

Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson continued the theme of mediocre starting pitchers stymying the Phillies. Anderson allowed just one run on six hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts.

In the series, Rockies starting pitchers allowed three runs in 27 innings. They had a 1.00 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning. And these four starters — Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, Tyler Chatwood and Anderson — entered the series with a combined 5.27 ERA.

Bullpen report
Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez each pitched one scoreless inning. It's understandably been overlooked during the Phillies' skid, but the bullpen is finally in a groove. Over their last seven games, Phillies relievers have allowed just two earned runs in 22 2/3 innings for a 0.79 ERA.

Neris threw 10 pitches, all of them strikes. He's allowed one run in 9 2/3 innings since his meltdown at Dodger Stadium.

At the plate
Before the walk-off hit, Joseph stayed hot with a home run off the ivy wall in dead-center to start the bottom of the seventh.

Joseph is hitting .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

Joseph has now played 148 games with 498 plate appearances in the majors — slightly less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. Those numbers are just above the league average for first basemen over that span.

Batting third, Odubel Herrera went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts. He's the first player in the majors this season to do that and the first Phillie since Pat Burrell in September 2008. Herrera is hitting .226 with a .275 OBP. 

Maikel Franco returned to the lineup after a two-game benching and went 1 for 5, singling up the middle in his first at-bat and flailing at a low-and-away, two-strike breaking ball to strike out with two on and one out in the eighth inning. He then struck out on three pitches to lead off the 11th.

Cameron Rupp walked three times, raising his on-base percentage from .330 to .345.

Up next
The Phillies start a three-game series at home against the Cincinnati Reds, who they haven't seen since the opening week of the season.

Friday, 7:05 p.m. — Aaron Nola (2-1, 3.52) vs. Bronson Arroyo (3-4, 6.75)

Saturday, 4:05 p.m. — Jerad Eickhoff (0-5, 4.70) vs. Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.99)

Sunday, 1:35 p.m. — Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.36) vs. Amir Garrett (3-3, 6.00)

NFL Notes: Former Giant Victor Cruz inks 1-year deal with Bears

NFL Notes: Former Giant Victor Cruz inks 1-year deal with Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears added some salsa, signing former New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz to a one-year contract Thursday.

The Bears were looking for help after Alshon Jeffery signed with Philadelphia.

A feared receiver with the Giants, he helped them win the Super Bowl before being slowed by injuries. He was released after seven seasons in February.

Cruz has 303 catches for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, many of which he celebrated with a salsa dance. A knee injury and a calf problem caused him to miss most of the 2014 season and all of 2015. Last year, he had 39 catches and one touchdown reception.

Giants: Odell Beckham and Olivier Vernon miss OTAs
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York ended their first week of voluntary organized team activities missing two of their biggest stars -- wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Olivier Vernon.

The workout Thursday was fourth of the week, and Beckham missed them all. The team did not say whether Vernon missed all four, but the veteran who signed an $85 million contract in the offseason last year wasn't there Thursday, the only day workouts were open to the media.

The only other player missing was third-year defensive end Owa Odighizuwa, who hinted since the end of last season that he may take time away from football.

While coach Ben McAdoo said he wanted all his players at the workouts, he said he would coach the ones there.

NFL: International players to join practice squads
NEW YORK -- Four NFL teams will carry an additional overseas player on their practice squads during the 2017 season. Three players are from Britain and one from Germany.

The announcement by the NFL on Thursday is part of a new International Player Pathway program.

The international players are: tight end Alex Gray with Atlanta, defensive end Efe Obada with Carolina, defensive end Alex Jenkins with New Orleans and linebacker Eric Nzeocha with Tampa Bay.

The players have been training alongside NFL players and draft hopefuls in Florida the past three months.

Gray is a former rugby player; Jenkins and Nzeocha were recent college players. Obada was originally signed by Dallas in 2015. Each team will get an exemption for an 11th practice player, who is ineligible to be activated during the season.

Bills: Linebacker Hodges signs, cornerback Gaines released
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills have signed linebacker Gerald Hodges, who started 12 games for San Francisco last season.

Team officials also said Thursday that cornerback Charles Gaines had been released.

Hodges is going into his fifth season after being drafted in 2013 by the Minnesota Vikings. He played two-plus seasons with Minnesota before joining the 49ers. He had 83 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble last year.

Gaines did not play last season but started four games for Cleveland in 2015.

Jaguars: Jags to host Bucs for joint practices before preseason game
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two joint training camp practices before their preseason game in August.

The teams will practice Monday and Tuesday before playing Thursday night, Aug. 17. The Jaguars also will have two joint practices at New England a week earlier, before their preseason opener.

New coach Doug Marrone and top executive Tom Coughlin want the Jaguars to be more physical. Holding joint practices in consecutive weeks will make that clear to the players.

Marrone says he's a fan of joint practices "as long as you can make sure that it is competitive and not combative."

The Jaguars and Bucs also practiced together in Jacksonville before their preseason game last year.