Flyers sloppy in season-opening loss to Penguins

Flyers sloppy in season-opening loss to Penguins
January 19, 2013, 10:52 pm
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BOX SCORE

Ilya Bryzgalov played well.

Claude Giroux, the new captain, had a couple of dazzling moves.

And while the Flyers were rusty, even sloppy at times, overall it wasnt a bad performance for a season opener on NBC against the vaunted Pittsburgh Penguins.

Maybe if Peter Laviolettes club had not had such a sluggish first period, the outcome -- a 3-1 loss -- would have been different.

After the first 13-14 minutes, we seemed to play more of the style were looking for, Laviolette said.

We controlled the play, at times. Lots of shots and opportunities to put the puck in the net. We werent able to capitalize on them.

Didnt help that the power play went 0 for 5, either.

And theres the rub. These two clubs will meet four times. There are 18 Atlantic Division games among the lockout-shortened 48-game schedule.

Most years, those are four-point games. This time, its urgent because you absolutely must win a greater majority of divisional games to have any chance of a playoff spot in the stacked Eastern Conference.

You need to take the points first, you cant sit back and hold something, Ilya Bryzgalov said, who finished with 24 saves. The first 10 games played ... if you dont take the points, you might find yourself in the bottom of the standings and never get out.

Pittsburgh held a 2-1 lead from the first 23 seconds of the second period till near the end, before getting an empty-netter.

Giroux had a third-period breakaway on a stretch pass from Scott Hartnell, but it was a tad offsides. That could have been a tying goal.

I dont know, did you see the replay? I saw it quick and yeah, exactly, its a tough call for the ref, Giroux said. Basically, you could call both sides. I wanted that breakaway. Obviously, I wasnt too happy.

The absence of exhibition games stood out for the Flyers, particularly on the power play.

They had six shots in the opening period, half of those with the man advantage, but were 0 for 3. Recall the Flyers scored a franchise-record 12 goals on the power play during their playoff series against Pittsburgh last April.

Problem was, passes werent crisp across the ice, either behind or ahead of sticks. Shots were high or wide. All of that is timing and gets worked out in game action, not practice.

There seemed to be a little bit of rust out there, Laviolette said. Our passing was a touch off a lot of passes go into the skates. I think that will come with time.

Giroux said he didnt know what to expect in the opener.

The first period was kinda ugly, he said. Guys were trying to put their legs back into the game. Systems were sloppy. Second and third, we played better.

We've got to find a way with no hesitation and know what to do. We had our chances and Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was pretty solid.

Some of the hesitation disappeared as the game wore on and there was more systems recognition.

Pittsburgh built a 2-0 lead in the first 7:20 of play with a power play deflection and a nasty goal off an offensive faceoff.

The Penguins clearly outhustled the Flyers at the start and had an 11-3 shot advantage at one point.

A disappointing start for sure, Hartnell said. I dont know if you want to chalk it up to not playing for eight months or whatever, or our legs that first. They got a power play goal. Special teams was the difference.

Tyler Kennedys tip of a Paul Martin drive on the power play gave the Pens their first goal at 4:40. James Neal added another at 7:20 right after a faceoff.

Kennedys tip might have also deflected off defenseman Luke Schenn, who was making his Flyer debut.

Im not sure if it hit Kennedy or Luke, but definitely a deflection, Bryzgalov said.

On the second goal, Giroux lost a draw to Evgeni Malkin, giving Neal an open shot in the slot.

The puck was underneath the legs and I just found when it was close to me and tried to squeeze my glove to the body, Bryzgalov said. It was too late.

It was deflating.

We just fell asleep off the draw, Hartnell said. Malkin wins it to Neal and he shoots it, and it was a little bit of a knuckle puck. Its not like we didnt scout that before. We had video of it, they showed it, and I think we were just messed up on our coverage.

Pittsburgh hammered the Flyers on draws that period, winning 63 percent of them. If you start with the puck, life is easier on the ice.

We wanted to have a good start, obviously, and we didnt do that, Hartnell said.

The Flyers' only goal on the first shift of the second period was nifty. Hartnell floated a saucer pass over defenseman Martin to Giroux, who had a step on Chris Kunitz to the net. He lifted the puck over Fleurys left pad at 23 seconds.

Several times in this game Giroux made some outstanding moves coming up the ice, and nearly found Hartnell with the puck in the slot later in the period.

It was tough, you go down 2-0, the shots arent in your favor and the first goal was a real tough one ... a fluke, Laviolette said. We also have to have better execution on that faceoff goal."

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net