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.

End to End: Will Ron Hextall dip into Flyers' farm system before season's end?

End to End: Will Ron Hextall dip into Flyers' farm system before season's end?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.
 
With the Flyers returning from the bye week, let’s discuss a few topics.
 
Going End to End this week are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.
 
Today’s question: Will we see Ron Hextall dip into the farm system before season's end?
 
Dougherty
This is a tough question because it has layers, some of which are not easy to peel. According to CapFriendly.com, the Flyers have about $377,545 in cap space. They are not in a cap-friendly position, which ties Hextall’s hands in any move he’d want to do.
 
The Flyers, as currently constructed, are a fringe playoff team with a long-term plan, and Hextall has shown no signs of deviating from his vision. That means no big shakeups. It also means, however, that dipping into the farm system is a legitimate option for Hextall. He has said in the past he’d make room for kids if they are NHL ready, and he has. He has to ask himself, would bringing up a prospect at Lehigh Valley improve the Flyers?
 
Perhaps it would. The Flyers do have an influx of young blood on the way, perhaps as early as next season. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities to see three more kids on the roster when 2017-18 begins. DefensemenRobert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim are knocking at the door, and then there is Philippe Myers, too. The Flyers have three expiring contracts on the books, and they will not block kids with Band-aids.
 
But the question is this season. Would Hagg, Morin or Sanheim upgrade the Flyers’ defense? Hagg is “just about NHL-ready,” Morin stuck around training camp longer than expected and Sanheim has found his footing in the professional ranks. It certainly would not hurt to bring one of them up, but a corresponding move would have to be made.
 
That would mean Hextall would have to find a trading partner to clear space and room on the 23-man roster for one of the kids. Michael Del Zotto, Mark Streit and Nick Schultz will all be unrestricted free agents come July 1. Del Zotto and Streit could be attractive options for teams at the trade deadline, if the Flyers decided clear way for a prospect.
 
However, I don’t see the Flyers dipping into Lehigh Valley unless injuries start hitting the NHL roster. There are too many roadblocks with the salary cap to realistically see Hextall being able to move a body out in order to inject more youth to the Flyers.
 
Hall
My gut tells me Hextall will make at least one move at the trade deadline.
 
Why not?
 
It makes for an opportune time to clear cap space and expedite the rebuild.
 
As Tom noted above, Streit, Del Zotto and Schultz are all unrestricted free agents after this season. If you don’t think any of those three can be moved, remember Hextall found a way to deal Kimmo Timonen, who was 39 years old and without a game played in 2014-15 because of blood clots, for a 2015 second-round draft pick and 2016 conditional pick.
 
And don’t forget role forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde — cheap and also set to be UFAs this offseason.
 
So the cap-stricken Flyers have trade chips and aren’t contending for a Stanley Cup this season. Which brings us to the question of will Hextall dip into the farm system before season’s end? I see it happening with some room made after the trade deadline.
 
That doesn’t mean the Flyers can’t compete for the playoffs, either.
 
Paone
To me, this question comes with an "if" attached to it for a couple of reasons. The first is because of how hell-bent Hextall is on keeping the Flyers' prospects in Lehigh Valley for seasoning until he believes they're truly ready for the NHL level. And the second depends on where the Flyers are in the standings. If they come out of this bye week hot and pick up points to rise back into legitimate playoff talk, Hextall will likely sit pat and let this group play it out. If things continue to unravel, then the Flyers move into seller mode before the March 1 trade deadline. If what we've been conditioned to over this recent miserable stretch is reality, that's the path we're heading down.
 
So if the Flyers do sell, it's inevitable that a prospect or two makes it up from the Phantoms toward the end of the season because there will finally be some space on the roster to fit in. If the Flyers are all but out of the playoff hunt, bringing a prospect up and letting him play in the NHL level for the last month and change of the season can do wonders for a prospect's confidence heading into next season. Life in the NHL is much different than the bus ride-filled life in the AHL. Once you get a taste, you don't want to go back if you don't have to. And that's a motivating factor heading into training camp.
 
The next question is who would be brought up? That's a question I don't think is fair to answer right now because only Hextall, his staff and his coaches know who they feel could be ready for a call-up. Of course, the Phantoms are loaded with talent on the back end and that's where the Flyers could use a jolt. To speculate on exactly who that could be right now just wouldn't be fair, in my opinion. 
 
But, for right now before the schedule picks up again this weekend with dates against the Devils and Islanders, this prospect call-up scenario still fits under the "if" scenario. 
 
But if the Flyers continue to falter out of the bye week, I feel seeing a prospect or two with the big club before season's end is inevitable.

Flyers-Devils 5 things: First rematch since brawl-filled game

Flyers-Devils 5 things: First rematch since brawl-filled game

Flyers (22-18-6) vs. Devils (19-19-9)
7 p.m. on TCN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30
 
The bye week has come and gone as the Flyers return from their NHL mandated five-day break by welcoming the New Jersey Devils to the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.
 
Here are five things to know for the game.
 
1. We meet again
Remember the last game between these two?
 
It certainly didn’t lack for entertainment, as Fight Night broke out at the Prudential Center right before the commencement of the holiday break.
 
The Devils were looking for any reason to drop the gloves after general manager Ray Shero called out his bunch in hopes of halting a seven-game losing streak.
 
New Jersey answered and jumped on the first chance to throw its fists, hammering the Flyers, 4-0, a contest in which blood never stopped boiling. The matchup resembled more of a UFC lineup card than an actual hockey game.
 
“Should be a good rivalry here this year,” Nick Cousins said then. “Two teams that don’t like each other. I’m excited for the next game.”

The Flyers get it tonight.
 
2. New perspective?
The Flyers are hoping the bye week was a remedy for their free-fall.
 
They’ve lost 11 of 14 games since winning 10 straight and no longer hold a playoff spot after clinging to the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card bid for dear life during their skid. Salt was rubbed in the wound with a 5-0 loss to the Capitals last Sunday, as the Flyers limped into the bye week.
 
Still, the Flyers are in prime position for the playoff push, unlike last season when they had to scrape and claw just to squeak in on the second-to-last day of the regular season.
 
“We know we've got to be better,” Wayne Simmonds said following practice Friday. “We all have to be accountable to each other. We’re not starting from scratch, but we need a new perspective here. Come out of the gate and do it the right way, again.”

3. Time to capitalize
The Flyers should not only be refreshed mentally, but also physically.

They’ll need the energy this weekend as another back-to-back arrives. It’s one the Flyers really need to take advantage of against the two last-place teams in the Metropolitan Division.
 
What makes it of even greater importance is that a crucial three-game stretch follows against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes. New York sits ahead of the Flyers in fourth place of the Metro, while the Maple Leafs currently own the second wild card because of fewer games played than the Flyers, who lead the Hurricanes by only one point.
 
“Guys realize the situation we are in,” Brayden Schenn said Friday. “We know the circumstances. The break came at a good time, mentally … guys know what we’re coming into there with the back-to-backs.
 
“You were kind of scoreboard watching. We know where we’re at. We’re in a dogfight battle with teams for those wild-card spots. There’s a lot of hockey left. It’s no secret. Everyone pays attention where we’re at.”

4. Keep an eye on …​
Flyers: The gut feeling is Shayne Gostisbehere makes his return felt by snapping his 22-game goal drought. The 23-year-old defenseman has two goals in four career games against New Jersey and is playing through a trying sophomore season.
 
Devils: Forward Taylor Hall has a great last name and is on a five-game point streak. New Jersey’s leading scorer also has five goals and five assists in seven lifetime matchups with the Flyers.
 
5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth is 6-2-5 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 13 career games against the Devils.
 
• New Jersey goalie Cory Schneider is 5-3-1 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in nine career games against the Flyers.
 
• The Devils have a Metropolitan-worst minus-29 goal differential.
 
• The Flyers have been outscored, 19-9, over their last four games.