Flyers allow big lead to slip away in loss to Pens

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Flyers allow big lead to slip away in loss to Pens

BOX SCORE

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.

Ron Hextall on free agency: Flyers hope to get better but 'not at all costs'

Ron Hextall on free agency: Flyers hope to get better but 'not at all costs'

Cautiously optimistic.

That might be the best way to describe how Ron Hextall feels about free agency, which begins Friday at noon.

The Flyers' general manager is going to be very cautious in who he targets, won’t get caught up in a bidding war and is optimistic that he can find the right top-nine player at a fair price and term.

In perfect salary cap world — one in which the Flyers had oodles of money — they would be tempted by L.A.'s Milan Lucic, St. Louis’ David Backes or Boston’s Loui Eriksson.

Lucic, in many ways, is the kind of Flyer-type player the organization covets. But all three of those players are going to command more salary and term than the Flyers can afford, and Lucic appears headed to Western Canada, anyway.

The Flyers need a scoring winger.

They go into free agency with less than $12 million in salary cap space and still have to put aside close to $5 million for restricted free agent Brayden Schenn and $1 million or so for unrestricted free agent Ryan White (see story), a very valuable and versatile fourth-liner who can move around the lineup.

On top of that, Hextall needs about $2.5 million in reserve on his cap for call-ups.

Which means, without losing a contract of say $4.5 million or so, he has at best $4 million to sign a supporting cast player — not an impact player.

“I’d like to upgrade our top six, but I would certainly upgrade our top nine,” Hextall said. “We’re not going to do something that ties our hands next summer. There’s not going to be any short-term vision that doesn’t play out long term.

“I don’t want to get into a spot here where it costs us a young player and we’re forced into a deal.”

A player such as the Isles’ Kyle Okposo would be nicely suited for the Flyers. He’s going to command more dollars than the Flyers have.

So unless Hextall can move a decent-sized contract, the only way to sign an impact free-agent forward would be to gamble and go the CBA-allowed 10 percent over the cap now and hope to get under by October when the season begins.

A number of clubs, including Minnesota and Detroit, are reportedly interested in Okposo and have far more cap space.

Given the conservative approach Hextall has taken so far as GM, it’s unlikely he would go over the cap now unless he absolutely had a deal in hand to move salary.

He tried to trade at last weekend’s NHL draft in Buffalo and failed.

“We didn’t get close to that,” he said.

As it was, there were only a handful of trades during the draft.

“Every time you turn around, someone is trying to trade a pick and you almost lose touch with what is going on,” Hextall said.

“I think the cap being where it’s at kind of restricts things. Guys aren’t easy to move and a lot of teams don’t want to add too much because they can’t afford it.”

This week saw two significant deals leading into free agency involving P.K. Subban and Shea Weber, plus Taylor Hall and Adam Larsson.

And the top pending free agent, Steven Stamkos, re-signed for eight years in Tampa Bay for $68 million.

Don’t be shocked if Hextall waits a few days to see if the market changes for certain players and price tags to come down.

“July 1 is a funny day,” Hextall said. “Now the cap, it’s somewhat flat. Might be some guys out there who are good buys, but that is not going to happen July 1. It’s usually [July] 5th or 10th or 15th when guys figure out there’s not much out there.”

One thing to keep in mind is the Flyers also recognize that defensive prospect Ivan Provorov and forward prospect Travis Konecny could both make the roster this fall.

Such a scenario would add a total of about $1.79 million onto their cap. Hextall has to figure that into the equation, as well.

One player the Flyers had genuine interest in was Hobey Baker Award winner Jimmy Vesey, the unsigned prospect originally drafted by Nashville in 2012.

The Preds traded his rights to Buffalo at the draft and have until Aug. 15 to sign him or Vesey becomes a free agent.

A possible “stopgap” player today for the Flyers would be Toronto’s P.A. Parenteau, a 20-goal guy, who even at age 33, would upgrade coach Dave Hakstol’s offense at a reasonable price.

He’s the kind of bargain player Hextall seems more inclined to target if he can’t move salary for a top-six winger.

“We’re committed to getting better,” Hextall said. “Just not at all costs. At a reasonable cost.”

Shayne Gostisbehere presents Folcroft police officer Christopher Dorman with Flyers jersey

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Shayne Gostisbehere presents Folcroft police officer Christopher Dorman with Flyers jersey

Well done, Shayne Gostisbehere.

Precocious on the ice, the Flyers’ 23-year-old defenseman showed his compassion off it on Thursday by making a special visit to the Folcroft Police Department in Delaware County to meet officer Christopher Dorman.

Dorman last Friday was shot in the face, leg and groin — a total of seven times — as he approached a suspected drug deal in Folcroft. Dorman was discharged from Penn Presbyterian Medical Center on Monday after underdoing multiple surgeries.

Gostisbehere had to meet him.

“When you look at role models — people see hockey players and other athletes, but when you see police officers and firefighters, and you see what he’s going through right now and you see how much of a warrior he is and walking around right now, and it only happened a week ago — he’s pretty amazing,” Gostisbehere said, via Flyers public relations. “And I’m pretty sure kids are going to be looking up to him.”

Gostisbehere brought Dorman his own personalized No. 63 Flyers jersey, representing the Folcroft Police Department 63rd District.

“It’s awesome,” Dorman said. “It’s really good to meet someone like him.”

As for his jersey, Dorman said it’s a “perfect fit!” 

Gostisbehere, in his own Flyers jersey, chatted and took pictures with Dorman and others.

He was just happy to help.

“What he’s been through the last week, I’m pretty sure his world’s been flipped upside down,” Gostisbehere said. “But I wanted to take time out to lift his spirits a bit and get him in some orange and black to make him look really good now.”

NHL Notes: Dustin Brown upset to be stripped of Kings' captaincy

NHL Notes: Dustin Brown upset to be stripped of Kings' captaincy

LOS ANGELES -- Dustin Brown doesn't agree with the Los Angeles Kings' decision to strip him of their captaincy after eight seasons and two Stanley Cups.

Brown aired his displeasure in a phone interview Thursday, two weeks after the Kings appointed Anze Kopitar as their new captain.

Brown feels he was a strong leader while the Kings grew from a terrible team to a two-time NHL champion during his tenure. He was also disappointed when news of the Kings' plan leaked out before the club had announced it.

Brown's production has dipped alarmingly in recent years. The power forward hasn't scored 30 points in any of the Kings' last four seasons.

Los Angeles missed the playoffs in 2015 and got eliminated by San Jose in the first round this year (see full story).

Lightning: Stamkos staying for best chance to win
TAMPA, Fla. -- Loyalty, respect and the potential to win for years to come kept Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay.

The Lightning captain said Thursday that he followed his heart in re-signing with the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2008 rather than testing free agency, where he likely would have commanded much more than the $68 million he's due to earn over the next eight seasons.

"Some people when they're in this position chase, obviously, the most money possible," the two-time NHL scoring champion said during a conference call.

"For me, I realize the situation and understood that there could have been some money left out there. But for me, that's not what it's all about. It's about going to an organization that I was comfortable with, and something that gave me the best chance to win in my mind," Stamkos added.

"It was a very tough decision. It truly was. I can't sit here and say this past week has been fun. ... It was pretty stressful, to be honest. I'm glad it's over with" (see full story).

NHL: Carle, Seidenberg among those placed on buyout waivers
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins are cutting ties with expensive defensemen to save some salary-cap space for next season.

According to a person with direct knowledge of the moves, the Lightning placed Matt Carle and the Bruins placed Dennis Seidenberg on buyout waivers. Nashville Predators defenseman Barret Jackman, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Matt Greene, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jared Boll and Edmonton Oilers forward Lauri Korpikoski were also placed on waivers for the purpose of buying out their contracts.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity Thursday because the teams didn't announce their decisions.

The person also said Predators forward Eric Nystrom cleared buyout waivers. The Calgary Flames announced Mason Raymond cleared waivers and will be bought out.

The Carolina Hurricanes also announced they bought out the final season of defenseman James Wisniewski's contract, saving $3 million. Despite playing only 47 seconds for Carolina last season before tearing the ACL in his left knee, the 32-year-old said he enjoyed his time in Raleigh and intends to be back playing for someone (see full story).