Flyers open road trip with ugly loss to Leafs

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Flyers open road trip with ugly loss to Leafs

BOX SCORE

TORONTO – All it took to burst the Flyers’ bubble for a strong road trip start was 6 minutes, 15 seconds.

That critical, second period juncture Monday night at Air Canada Centre saw the Maple Leafs turn a tie game into an ugly 5-2 trouncing, as the Flyers' horrific road play continued.
 
“It’s not the chances, we had chances for sure,” said Flyer captain Claude Giroux of 46 shots.
 
“That six minutes in the second period killed us. That hurts. We were playing well. We have to learn from this and not back down.”
 
Three Leafs goals did the trick as Peter Laviolette’s club dropped to 1-6-0 on the road.
 
“There was room for simpler ideas at that point,” Laviolette said of the six-minute disaster where the Leafs had the Flyers pinned in their own end with mistakes.
 
“They’ve hurt us in the past and hurt is in the span of six minutes. It’s tough. The first one goes in, we shot ourselves in the foot, and then it unravels for five minutes.”
 
The six-game trip continues Tuesday night in Winnipeg.
 
“We gave them those turnovers,” Kimmo Timonen said of the middle stanza. “Sometimes you have to play a simple game and we didn’t do that.”
 
Timonen said the club’s road woes comes down to “individual preparation.”
 
“Doesn’t matter if you are home or away, you have to play consistent,” he said. “Once you come on the road you have to prepare yourself even more.
 
“There’s no fans behind you, no one cheering your name. That’s a learning process to me and it’s time to learn this right now.”

Starter Ilya Bryzgalov yielded four goals on just 14 shots before being replaced by Brian Boucher, who was hoping to make his first start against the Jets.
 
Bryz avoided the media by going out the rear door of the dressing room.
 
Not even a five-minute power play that same period could see the Flyers climb back; their continued lack of offense is alarming.
 
Oh yeah. James van Riemsdyk, in his first meeting against his former club, scored on a nice backhander against Boosh in the third period to really rub it in. How ironic that he moved right around Luke Schenn on the goal.
 
Usually, the Flyers give a pretty good effort. They needed a point in this one because there is no guarantee they’ll get one in The Peg, where they split the season series last year.
 
So, the seven points in four home games wasn’t a sign of what was to unfold here, after all.
 
“We need to find a way to be more consistent here and not have these highs and lows,” Nick Grossmann said. “We have to find ways to grind it out for 60 minutes.”
 
Laviolette wanted a strong start and he got it from the opening shift when Wayne Simmonds picked up his third goal at 38 seconds, rebounding a point drive from Schenn.
 
“After that goal, they were the better team – they were hungrier and when that happens, you create turnovers like they did in the second period,” Timonen said.
 
Bryzgalov got a ton of help later in the period when Mikhail Grabovski’s drive ripped off the cross bar and right post in a split-second.
 
No matter, the Leafs tied at 14:49 on Dion Phaneuf’s first point on home ice this season. Bryzgalov never saw his shot from the left point because Nikolai Kulemin was blocking his vision.
 
As usual, the Flyers had a couple of bad penalties at the end, and survived a 36-second 5-on-3 kill. Ironically, they also had the best chance shorthanded there, when it was 5-on-4 off the initial holding call against Zac Rinaldo.
 
Giroux, who was visibly angry after the game, stole a puck in the corner and fed Matt Read down the slot for what should have been an easy marker against goalie James Reimer.
 
Except Read’s initial shot sailed wide. The rebound came back to him. This time, Reimer made a sprawling left pad save.
 
The Flyers came out very lame in the second period and paid a steep price as Toronto scored twice in 28 seconds to take a 3-1 lead.
 
Colton Orr outworked Grossmann in the crease for the first goal at 2:05, but the fault lies in Tommy Sestito throwing the puck behind the net when he could have cleared it down the wall.
 
Then Matt Frattin got a short-side tip to make it 3-1 at 2:33. Laviolette called his timeout less than a minute later to settle things down.
 
Shortly before the four-minute mark, Reimer went down on the ice injured and had to be helped off. He was replaced by Ben Scrivens.
 
That didn’t help the Flyers at all because they again failed to clear the zone under Leafs pressure at 6:15 and paid the price on Clarke MacArthur’s wide-open one-timer from Nazem Kadri that blew the game apart.
 
Laviolette then yanked Bryzgalov, saying he wanted “a different change of direction in the game.”
 
“It’s six minutes you’d like to have back and do over,” Laviolette said.
 
As bad as that was, the Flyers had a real chance to get back into the game when Korbinian Holzer was ejected with a five-minute major on Tye McGinn at 13:31.
 
The Flyers completely squandered the resulting five-minute power play with six shots. Scrivens made a glove save on Brayden Schenn – the only decent shot he faced.
 
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, speaking on Toronto radio after that period, said his team lacked confidence with the puck that entire power play sequence.
 
“That [power play] could have changed the tide,” Simmonds said. “We had chances. Pucks laying around. Guys diving everywhere.
 
“You have scrambles and sometimes you get the benefit of the bounces and sometimes you don’t.
 
“We've got to be better on the power play. We got a lot of chances here to get back in games and put games away and we’re not doing it.”

With increased workload, Steve Mason settling in as unquestioned No. 1 goalie

With increased workload, Steve Mason settling in as unquestioned No. 1 goalie

As Steve Mason has gone recently, the Flyers have gone right with him.

That theme held true in Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Florida Panthers, as the Flyers extended their winning streak to six games on the back of a 42-save performance from Mason.

For Mason, it was not only his fifth consecutive win, which equals a career high, but also the fifth straight game that he’s surrendered no more than two goals.

"Biggest thing is the saves we got, no doubt about that,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought Mase, it was one of those nights where he was our best player."

"He's been amazing,” Jakub Voracek said. “He's had a lot of streaks like this through his career. Last five, six games, he's been outstanding. Last year he pushed us to the playoffs, he was outstanding. When he got traded here, he was outstanding. It's good to see him play like that."

"Mase was the difference tonight,” Wayne Simmonds said.

On a night where the Flyers’ overall play could be best described as sloppy, Mason was sharp from the opening puck drop.

Despite facing of barrage of shots early, Mason was locked in, stopping 14 of the whopping 15 shots he faced in the first period. The only blemish on his opening period record was a goal from the slot area off the stick of Aleksander Barkov, who beat Mason to his short side on a perfect cross-ice feed from Mark Pysyk.

After the Flyers rebounded with a cleaner second period to take a 2-1 lead, Mason was forced to stand on his head for the final 20 minutes of regulation. The Panthers dominated puck possession yet again in the third, outshooting the Flyers, 17-4, and tying the game at two with just under five minutes remaining.  

"It was a game where you had to come up with big saves,” Mason said. “We spent a lot of time in our own end. It was good to come up with two points, but I think we all understand we have to be better."

While Jussi Jokinen, who was unaccounted for on a Florida rush, tallied the equalizer late in the third period, the Flyers were lucky that wasn’t the go-ahead goal thanks to a highlight-reel save by Mason earlier in the period.

An Aaron Ekblad shot from the point hit a screened Mason in the shoulder and bounced right onto the stick of Jokinen, who went around Mason and shot the puck on an open net.

But Mason made a last-ditch effort and dove at the puck, just getting his glove on it to protect the Flyers’ lead and cap off a spectacular save

"The original shot came through cross body and hit me in the shoulder so I didn't pick that up initially through the screens,” Mason said “Went down to my right there and just made a desperation attempt to get anything on it and fortunately I was able to get the glove on it.

“They had their chances. We were able to come through when we had to. Simmer comes up with some key goals again. At the end of the day we have to be better. The first period we weren't good enough, the second was a little bit better, but then again in the third we have to be better overall."

Mason began the season as a part of a goalie tandem with Michal Neuvirth. Neither goalie got off to a hot enough start to put a claim on the position, but Mason was trusted into the No. 1 role after Nuevirth went down with a lower-body injury against the Wild on Nov. 12.

Through his first 10 games prior to Nuevirth’s injury, Mason was stopping just .874 percent of the shots fired his way, while allowing an average three goals per outing.

Since then, Mason’s made 11 of a possible 12 starts and his increase in workload has coincided with his turnaround, boasting a .929 save percentage since becoming the consistent starter. During his current five-game winning streak, the 28-year-old carries a .947 save percentage and a 1.80 goals against average. 

And Mason getting hot at the same time he’s back as the Flyers’ unquestioned starting goaltender isn’t any coincidence either.

"You do read things at a higher level and that's something that you always work for,” Mason said of the increased workload. “To be reading plays and kind of reading things before they happen. It all goes back to practicing and working hard. You work hard sometimes you get rewarded for it.
 
 “I've said it numerous times, I want to be playing lots of hockey. This is a position that I'm used to being in and where I'm most comfortable. So just have to keep continuing to put my work in and whenever Hak calls my name be ready."

Best of NHL: Last-place Islanders take down rival Rangers

Best of NHL: Last-place Islanders take down rival Rangers

NEW YORK -- Andrew Ladd scored in the second period and Jaroslav Halak stopped 36 shots to lead the New York Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the crosstown-rival Rangers on Tuesday night.

John Tavares, Jason Chimera and Scott Mayfield also scored at the Barclays Center to help the last-place Islanders improve to 4-0-1 in their last five games.

Jimmy Vesey and Marc Staal scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 28 saves. The Rangers have alternated wins and losses in regulation in their last eight games.

Halak beat Lundqvist for the ninth time in their last 10 matchups. Halak had won eight straight -- including the last five after joining the Islanders before the 2014-15 season -- before Lundqvist ended the streak in the Rangers' 5-3 win in the season opener Oct. 13 at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist is now 1-6-1 in his last eight against the Islanders (see full recap).

Schwartz lifts Blues over Canadiens in OT
ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz got his second goal of the game in overtime, leading the St. Louis Blues to a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.

Paul Stastny also scored for St. Louis, which has won four of five. The Blues rallied from a 2-0 deficit and have a point in their last 13 home games.

Tomas Plekanec and Paul Byron scored for Montreal, which completed a five-game trip 2-3.

Goalie Jake Allen made 28 saves to improve to 13-3-3.

Schwartz lifted a backhander past goalie Al Montoya with 1:22 left in overtime.

Stastny and Schwartz scored in a 2:51 span in the third period to tie it at 2 (see full recap).

Blackhawks blank Coyotes to snap modest skid
CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa had two goals, Scott Darling made 22 saves and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-0 on Tuesday night to snap a two-game slide.

Artem Anisimov and Dennis Rasmussen also scored to help Chicago maintain a three-point lead over St. Louis in the Central Division.

Darling made a handful of tough stops but wasn't heavily tested in his first shutout this season and third of his career. He started his third straight game in place of No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford, who had an appendectomy in Philadelphia on Saturday.

The 37-year-old Hossa scored his team-leading 13th and 14th goals in his 27th game -- surpassing his total of 13 last season in 64 contests (see full recap).