Flyers give up lead in shootout loss to Panthers

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Flyers give up lead in shootout loss to Panthers

BOX SCORE

A listless start.

And two wasted power-play chances in the third period in which the best the Flyers could muster was one puny shot.

Twice now, the Flyers have had a chance to piece together a three-game winning streak.

Twice they’ve failed.

All the good vibes from Tuesday’s thrilling victory over Tampa Bay faded into the cold air Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center against a far lesser opponent, as the Florida Panthers won 3-2 in a shootout.

“We need to find a way to show up, especially at home in the first period. It’s huge,” Flyer captain Claude Giroux said.

“We need those points right now and we’re a desperate team at the start of the season, so we need those points.”

They need to stockpile some points before heading to Canada for back-to-back games next week against Toronto and Winnipeg. So picking up at least one was important.

Yet, you don’t want to be looking back in April and seeing how you threw points away against Buffalo, Washington and Florida when they were there for the taking.

Panther rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, age 19, won it during the shootout, the only part of Ilya Bryzgalov’s game that remains poor from a year ago.

“Sometimes guys, you gotta give them credit,” Bryzgalov said of Huberdeau’s backhand/forehand move. “They are skilled and working on some moves.”

Most of the Flyers placed the blame on a tepid opening period.

“I think that has been the story all year,” Matt Read said. “I don’t know what it is or how to fix it, but we have been coming out flat every game.

“Against Tampa Bay it was the first time we came out and we took control after the opening faceoff and we have to learn from that and take it to teams right away.”

Danny Briere said the leadership group talked specifically about building off the Tampa win and not allowing an early letdown against the Panthers, especially in the first period.

“We were a little slow out of the game and gave them the momentum they needed,” Briere said. “Instead of being on the offense, we were on our heels. Maybe if we come out better we jump to a 1-0 lead instead of playing from behind. The first period I’d like to have back.”

How does it happen after such a competitive game two days earlier?

“You play such a high-tempo game with a lot of emotion, it’s tough to come back right away with the same kind of effort,” Briere said. “You see it all the time, everywhere.

“We tried to warn about it -- everybody was talking about it today. Tough to find that jump in emotion.”

The Flyers had some untimely penalties in this one. Like a tripping call on Bruno Gervais near the mid-point of the third period, leading 2-1.

Steven Weiss used what appeared to be a partial screen to go top shelf and tie it. The Flyers had killed off 17 of 18 power plays until that point.

Even then, the Flyers had two power plays in the final nine minutes, yet failed to mount a really serious challenge on Jose Theodore.

That, too, was pivotal.

“We just couldn’t get the pucks to settle down,” Read said. “Both units out there … too much of the puck going along the wall and we couldn’t get it set up. When we did get it set up we weren’t just making the simple plays and getting pucks to the net.

“I think at a time like that when it’s a tie game, late in the game, we’ve got to get pucks to the net and look for rebounds, a dirty goal. It just didn’t happen for us tonight and we have to keep working on that and learn how to close out games.”

Mike Knuble felt the same way.

“The guys on the second unit, myself included, we couldn’t quite get a handle on it, but when things are going your way that’s how you improve your spot in the standings, capitalizing right there, being timely, like a timely goal,” he said.

“Real timely situation for us to score and pull out a win with five or six minutes left. It’s frustrating to not be able to manufacture more. We’ve manufactured a lot in the overtime and had a great overtime and probably deserved a little bit better in that.”

The Panthers had more bite this time as Weiss and Kris Versteeg were back in their lineup. Both were injured during the 7-1 loss to the Flyers on Jan. 26.

Peter Laviolette talked about a carryover of an excellent all-around game, yet that didn’t happen. No energy, no jam, no nothing at the start.

So which was worse? The start or two, wasted third-period power plays?

“Well, I don’t think you want either one of them,” Laviolette said. “You know you want your power play to be effective and there were some good looks, not the ones in the third period.

“And certainly I don’t think it had the same tempo as the second period, parts of the third period and the overtime. The first period in general just seemed quiet. Both sides.”

Jack Skille made it 1-0 at 10:52 on a shot that bounced under Bryzgalov -- a soft goal.

The only redeeming part of the period came at 11:44 when Jakub Voracek tied it with a power-play goal.

He faked ever so short from the right circle, then unloaded into the net off an assist from Kimmo Timonen, who agreed to a one-year contract extension for $6 million on Thursday (see story).

Other than that, nothing that period.

The overall intensity on both sides picked up in the second period as did Bryzgalov’s play. He faced eight shots and most of them were quality in nature.

It also helped that the Flyers took the lead at 2:42 on Read’s fourth goal of the season against Florida.

Credit Knuble for doing some tough digging at the net, standing his ground at the right post, trying to tuck it under Theodore.

The puck squirted out near the circle where Read popped it into the net, making it 2-1.

Bryzgalov had several good saves in the second half of that period, including one on Shawn Mattias and two on Brian Campbell. He also had a nifty shorthanded save on Marcel Goc, as well.

“We had opportunities to get the point and we did not find success,” Bryzgalov said. “Bottom line.”

Loose pucks
The Flyers were 4-7 in shootouts last season. Including this loss, they are 23-42 in 65 shootouts all-time.

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.

Ivan Provorov passes latest rookie test by shutting down Jaromir Jagr

Ivan Provorov passes latest rookie test by shutting down Jaromir Jagr

VOORHEES, N.J. — Maybe he saw some old video of how Chris Therien did it.
 
Or maybe Ivan Provorov just shrugged his 19-year-old shoulders and figured he’d do it his way.
 
Whatever the Flyers' rookie defenseman did, he shut down the ageless Jaromir Jagr during Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Florida Panthers. 
 
Just like Therien used to do back in the day. 
 
Provorov frustrated Jagr into taking penalties. And when he wasn’t in the box for hooking the rookie, you could visibly see Jagr’s frustration across his face.
 
At one point, they were talking to each other on the ice. A Russian and a Czech. What was said?
 
“It stays in the game,” Provorov said with a smile Wednesday.
 
Provorov said he didn’t spend time watching a ton of video.
 
“We did our pre-scout in the morning,” he said. “That was it.”
 
Provorov, with help from centerman Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, held Jagr to one shot. His teammates were impressed.
 
“Unbelievable, a 19-year-old kid going against Jaromir Jagr,” Wayne Simmonds said. “I think he did a pretty good job. 
 
“I think he has done a great job all year long and he is only going to get better. If you watch him play, he is getting better and better, not every game but every shift.”
 
Provorov had an assist and two blocked shots, including a critical block on Reilly Smith that could have been a game-winner in overtime.
 
“Well we haven’t used him a lot in the 3-on-3 but we felt that it was time,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Again, coming off of a real solid night where he’s playing against really good players all night long, he continued that right through the OT. 
 
“The impressive thing on that play is the read that he made to make that block … I haven’t looked at it on the replay or on tape yet. But I think that Mase might have been over on it but that play that Provy made was potentially a game saving play right there.”
 
Provorov doesn’t make flashy plays. He just makes the steady play every time he needs to. At season’s start, he was struggling to get his shot off without being blocked. Now he finds space along the blue to better position himself to get his shot through. He thinks before he reacts.
 
Behind the net, he is one of the few Flyers defensemen who almost never loses a puck battle. It’s often hard to believe he’s as young as he is.
 
“He moves so well and makes good reads, he’s a very intelligent player,” Andrew MacDonald said. “He has great poise with the puck, and not just for a 19-year-old, but for any aged player. 
 
“Defensively he always seems to be in the right positions and communicates well. We were fortunate to have some time together in camp, and a few games. I feel like we picked up where we left off the past few games.”
 
Jagr’s assets are size, strength — especially his lower core — and a skill set of moves without blinding speed.
 
Thursday will present a new challenge for Provorov: Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, the NHL’s leading scorer with 36 points. McDavid is all about youth and raw speed. 
 
“They’re different players, but it doesn’t matter,” Provorov said. “You take away time and space. Don’t give him time to get a lot of speed.”
 
This is another learning experience for Provorov. In a different age category. Hakstol credits assistant coach Gord Murphy for bringing Provorov up to speed at the NHL level.
 
“I think Murph has done a really good job in managing that progression along, most importantly, with Provy, managing it," Hakstol said.
 
“You can go back to the tell-tale sign of the tough night back in Chicago [third game]. That didn’t shake or rattle Provy in any way. He came back with pretty good determination the next day.
 
“You have to be an honest evaluator of your own game. I think Provy … whether it’s a real good night or a tough night, that allows you to keep an even keel and an even balance. I think that’s a real strength.”

Injury update
The Flyers on Wednesday placed left winger Matt Read on injured reserve and activated center Boyd Gordon. Gordon has been out since Nov. 3.