Flyers allow big lead to slip away in loss to Pens


Flyers allow big lead to slip away in loss to Pens


They outdid Pittsburgh in everything at the start.

They even scored first.

They had a three-goal lead after one period.

And still, the Flyers lost Thursday night to the Penguins because … well, because they stopped playing Flyer hockey and never got themselves going again in a 5-4 loss.

Essentially, the Flyers kissed away two points they absolutely, positively had to earn.

“We talked about it after the first period that the Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t going to sit back and hand over two points,” Scott Hartnell said. “They were going to come hard.

“Low and behold, before you know it, it’s 4-4. We just can’t do that. It’s embarrassing to the fans, embarrassing to one another, and we let another two points slip away … It was a big letdown. I don’t know why we would have stopped playing.”

That’s 18 times now in the past 24 matchups between these two that the road team won.

Peter Laviolette’s club came into the week in eighth place. This latest loss drops them to 11th in the Eastern Conference standings.

Worse, the games this week against the “Big Three” so far have been a disaster.

The Flyers needed to get four of six points from their games against the Rangers, Penguins and Bruins before meeting Buffalo on Sunday. All they can get now is two on Saturday in Boston.

“When you have a 4-1 lead, the game is in your hands big time,” Kimmo Timonen said. “What happens in the second period, we go on the ice and we’re not there for some reason.

“That’s the mental issue to me. Somebody might [have] a different opinion. You have to be mentally prepared to go in there and do you job, [even] if it’s 4-1 or 1-4.

“Never change your game. That seems to be an issue for us, either way with the score.”

It really puts the pressure on for a win in Beantown.

“Go into Boston with a do-or-die attitude,” Hartnell said. “We’ve been saying it but now it’s time to get out there and back up our words and get a decisive win.

“We played a great 20, but 20 doesn’t get you anything these days.”

Ironically, the game-winner came off a turnover.

Eighteen seconds into the third period, Timonen tried to contain a puck at center ice and instead it came back the other way with Chris Kunitz scoring his second goal of the night, breaking the 4-4 tie.

“I tried to keep in,” Timonen said. “[Sidney] Crosby fell down and there’s a loose puck. I try to get it by the guy and he was close to me. That’s my mistake. I should have played it safe.”

Hartnell appeared to retie it with 12:53 left but the official ruled “no goal,” saying his stick was higher than the crossbar.

Laviolette felt the third period lacked “jam,” as well.

“Even going out for the third period and the score is 4-4,” Laviolette said. “Being able to finish off games.

“We have to do a better job than what we’ve done this year. We’ve had a lot of tie games and situations to win games and they’ve slipped away.”

Though the Flyers started out strong with a 6-1 shot advantage, all the real action came into the final 9:45 of the first period. It was 4-1, thanks largely to James Neal taking three penalties.

Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury seemed to have trouble the entire period with his catching glove, while Zac Rinaldo needed just a fight to get a Gordie Howe hat trick.

Tomas Vokoun started the second period for Fleury and finished the game.

Jakub Voracek began and ended the opening period with a power-play goal.

Neal’s early elbow to Claude Giroux caused Hartnell to say something to him after Voracek’s first goal and then the two tried to fight, with Hartnell picking up an extra minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The Pens' lone goal that period came off the resulting power play as Kunitz's first goal. He’s on a tear with six goals over his last five games.

Rinaldo gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead at 15:06, rebounding Nick Grossmann’s point shot just as a Flyer power play expired.

The Flyers scored twice in the final 1:43 with Timonen beating Fleury shortside, and then Voracek picking up his 19th point in 10 games with a shot off Paul Martin’s skate at 19:52, making it 4-1.

In retrospect, Neal seemingly took the Penguins out of the game. His slash on Flyer goalie Ilya Bryzgalov after a puck had been whistled dead was totally unnecessary.

Still, Pittsburgh came roaring back with two goals less than three minutes apart and then tied it by the end of the middle stanza.

“The effort is there but we need to execute out there,” Giroux said. “We have to find a way to close a game up. We knew they were a good team offensively …”

The second period began with Pascal Dupuis scoring at 5:30.

Mental mistakes plagued the Flyers against the Rangers on Tuesday and here, as well, with Braydon Coburn leaving Evgeni Malkin alone in the slot to take a Neal pass across the goal line from the corner.

As Coburn raced over too late, the puck caught his skate into the net. Just like that, it was a one-goal game.

Tyler Kennedy’s long-distance shot at 15:47 tied it, chasing Bryzgalov for Brian Boucher.

“You go from a real strong first period to an inconsistent second period that ends up costing you a [game],” Laviolette said. “Certainly, it’s not where we want to be.”

And yet, it’s exactly where the Flyers have been all season.

Don't expect Brandon Manning to lose his role when Radko Gudas returns

Don't expect Brandon Manning to lose his role when Radko Gudas returns

MONTREAL — It figures to be the hardest decision that Flyers coach Dave Hakstol has to make, but if Radko Gudas is to enter the lineup Tuesday against Buffalo, someone has to come out.
And what happens with the Flyers tonight in Montreal could impact that.
A year ago, in the blink of an eye, people would suggest Brandon Manning as the obvious pick to exit the lineup.
Yet since the preseason, the guy they call “Man Dog” — sometimes Hakstol refers to him as “Mad Dog” — has been the Flyers' best two-way defenseman. And he’s done it despite suffering a left shoulder injury in training camp.
Hakstol has so much faith in Manning that he switched up rookie Ivan Provorov so the 26-year-old Manning could settle the 19-year-old down. Given the ages here, that’s saying something.
Manning admits he felt honored being asked to be a mentor.
“As a young player, I’ve been in the same situation,” he said. “Obviously, last year being my rookie season, it was different.
“But just being a little older, having a lot of experience in the American League, I just wanted to make him comfortable out there. Make it as easy as possible for him.”
Through five games, Manning has a goal and four points and is a team-high plus-5. While the Flyers may have missed Gudas' physical edge, there’s no way Manning will be the odd man out “if” Hakstol makes a lineup change against the Sabres.
Even if he does make a move, Manning is supremely confident he’s earned his keep. He has been defensively sound without the puck, challenging entries at the blue line, handling his man down low and generating offense when he has a chance.
The Flyers gave him a two-year, $1.95 million contract in July to avoid an arbitration hearing.
“My attitude after I got the new contract was I wanted to present myself as a top-six D-man,” Manning said. “A lot of people are saying, ‘He’s a seven or eight,’ but I don’t listen to that stuff.
“Coming into the season, I saw myself as a top-six guy, I felt good in the playoffs ... just continue to get better and grow.”
Hakstol says he’s seen significant growth in Manning’s game.
“Steady improvement,” Hakstol said. “Last year was the first time he was able to get into a stretch of games. He knows he is in the lineup and what his role is.
“You got to be careful about reading into the last couple months of last season because sometimes that doesn’t carry over. But we see continued, confident, reliable, two-way play out of Mad Dog. He continued that again the other night [against Carolina].”
Hakstol said he liked the result of moving Mark Streit back with his old partner, Nick Schultz, and giving Manning a rookie to school a bit.

“They were a solid pair,” he said.
The Flyers' lineup tonight against Les Canadiens is unchanged from Carolina.
Manning says he has seen the biggest improvement in his play when compared to two years ago. Playing consistently in the lineup since last season has allowed his game to evolve a bit.
Manning came here in the fall of 2010 as an undrafted free agent and had already played more than three seasons in the Western Hockey League, where he began his pro career. By 2011, he was with the Phantoms. There were Flyer call-ups here and there but nothing of substance until last season, when he played 56 games in the NHL, largely because of injuries across Hakstol’s blue line. He and Gudas were a strong pairing from early-February to season’s end.
“The finish last year gave me a lot of confidence,” Manning said. “This year, more ice time, a little 4-on-4, playing on the penalty kill allows you to become more involved in the game.
“I’ve taken that on and tried to build off it. If you look at my career from junior, I’ve gotten better every single year.”
As for the nickname, it was one of the few lasting treasures left behind by Harry Zolnierczyk during the Peter Laviolette era. Except some people still call him Mad Dog, which is why Manning wears an undergarment that says “Man Dog.”
“Last year, Hak and Lappy started called me Mad Dog and then sometimes it’s Man Dog,” Manning. “I think he should know. It’s on my shirt.”
Hakstol is aware.
“He has a nickname and I have mine [for him],” Hakstol laughed.
Dale Weise’s three-game suspension won’t end until after the Buffalo game. He still has declined to talk about it.
His previous suspension was in 2013, when he was in Vancouver and had an illegal hit on Taylor Hall during an exhibition game.
Weise admits he badly wanted to play tonight against his former club.
“I look forward to playing here but we play here [again] in two weeks,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t come here twice a year.
“If it had been the end of the year, I would have been a little upset. It’s nice to come back in two weeks.”
F: Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
D: MacDonald-Gostisbehere
G: Mason

Flyers-Canadiens 5 things: Long week starts with a bang

Flyers-Canadiens 5 things: Long week starts with a bang

Flyers at Canadiens
7:30 p.m. on CSN, Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers’ mettle will be tested this week with a stretch of five games in seven days.

That’s a lot of pucks.

It starts Monday night when the Flyers (2-2-1) visit the hot-starting Montreal Canadiens (4-0-1) at the Bell Centre.

Let’s get you set with five things to know for the matchup:

1. Goals, goals, goals
There should be an abundance of them Monday night.

The Canadiens are scoring an NHL-most 4.00 goals per game while the Flyers, coming off a six-goal outburst, are third at 3.80.

Montreal has been scary good through five games. Not only are the Canadiens lighting the lamp at a league-best clip, but they’re also allowing the fewest goals per game at 1.60 a night. They have hockey’s No. 1 goal differential (plus-11) and No. 8 penalty kill, having thwarted 23 of 25 opponents' power plays (92.0 percent).

The Canadiens' offseason additions of defenseman Shea Weber and backup goalie Al Montoya have paid instant dividends. Weber, acquired in a blockbuster trade that sent P.K. Subban to the Predators, has one goal, four assists and leads all NHL blueliners with a plus-8 rating. Montoya, who filled in early for a flu-stricken Carey Price, is 2-0-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .962 save percentage. Price, the 2014-15 Hart Memorial Trophy winner (NHL MVP), looks in form after playing just 12 games last season because of a knee injury.

2. A fresher Ghost
Shayne Gostisbehere went off for three points (one goal, two assists) in the Flyers’ 6-3 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday, his biggest output of the season.

It just so happened to come in a game in which Gostisbehere registered his lowest ice time of the season at 16:45, a significant drop from his previous low of 20:57. Before the defenseman’s three-point game, Gostisbehere played an average of 23:14 over the prior three games while totaling one point and a minus-3 rating.

Is it a coincidence Gostisbehere’s best game yet was in far less ice time? Maybe, but the 23-year-old is playing the Flyers’ most minutes (21:29 per game) after undergoing offseason surgery and finishing the longest year of his hockey life.

Defensemen Mark Streit (22:45), Nick Schultz (19:44) and Brandon Manning (18:41) all played season highs in minutes on Saturday, and there’s no way that was by mistake.

If head coach Dave Hakstol can manage Gostisbehere’s ice time and not rely so heavily on the second-year blueliner, it can only help the Flyers. A more rested Gostisbehere is a better Gostisbehere — and we all know how vital the 2015-16 Calder Trophy runner-up is to the Flyers’ power-play success, as well as defensive coverage.

3. Stop and start
Speaking of defensive coverage, while the Flyers are scoring quite a bit, they’re not stopping anyone. The orange and black are surrendering 3.80 goals per game — tied for fifth-most in the NHL — which is exactly what they score on average.

The Flyers can’t consistently bank on winning goal-fests.

Starting fast will be critical against the Canadiens, who close games as well as anyone. Montreal is outscoring its opposition 17-6 through the second and third periods. The Flyers have just one goal in the first period.

Facing this Habs team, it’ll be problematic if the Flyers fail to get going early.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Matt Read, why not? With five goals, the 30-year-old is astoundingly tied for second in the NHL with Maple Leafs phenom Auston Matthews. Last season, it took Read 29 games to score five goals. The previous season, he needed 56 games. This year, just five. Until he comes back to Earth, Read will be worth watching as much as any other Flyer.

Canadiens: The 22-year-old Alex Galchenyuk racked up career highs last season in goals (30) and points (56). To start this season, the 2012 No. 3 overall pick has a goal and four assists in five games. Young and offensive-minded, Galchenyuk has given the Flyers trouble in the past with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 11 career games against them.

5. This and that
• Steve Mason has played in the Flyers’ last four games with three starts and one relief appearance. Michal Neuvirth has not played since last Tuesday. He is 6-4-2 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 13 lifetime games against Montreal.

• Price is 11-9-0 with a 2.61 GAA and .916 save percentage in 21 career games against the Flyers.

• Jakub Voracek leads the Flyers in points with seven but is third in the NHL in penalty minutes with 24.

• The Canadiens have won three straight games by a combined score of 13-4.

• Defenseman Michael Del Zotto (knee) and forward Scott Laughton (knee) returned to practice on Sunday.