Flyers suffer big letdown in loss to Panthers


Flyers suffer big letdown in loss to Panthers


You sensed this would happen. Past history suggested it was a real possibility.

The Flyers had played an emotional, leave-it-all-on-the-ice game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They won in the final 1:31 when every player was spent.

Return home to Wells Fargo Center for Thursday’s back end of a back-to-back against the struggling Florida Panthers.

And …

“We all knew it was going to be a challenge,” Mike Knuble said. “And quite frankly, in the first 5-6 minutes, it was obvious we weren’t up for it and it cost us the game.”

It wasn’t so much the Flyers weren’t skating. It was a series of turnovers and sloppy defensive play that killed them in the opening period of a 5-2 spanking.

“I don’t usually make excuses; I’m usually straight-forward,” Kimmo Timonen said. “You saw a tired Flyers team today.

“Coming back from six-game road trip and play a really hard-charged game yesterday, get back at 2 a.m. We were tired.”

Before the game, coach Peter Laviolette addressed the letdown scenario with his team.

“We talked about positive things as opposed to negative things,” Laviolette said. “It’s a big game for our team. We want to make this game mean something. It’s an opportunity to get back to a starting point.

“We’ve been sub par the entire season so far and I think the guys recognize that. It’s been a … very tough ride with regard to a lot of things. Tonight is a chance to get back and take a quick breath.”

So much was riding on this. The first of five straight home games against lesser Eastern Conference opponents when the Flyers could fatten up on points get themselves into playoff position.

They could have reached .500 with this one win.

Gone. They are now 4-8 in back-to-backs and 2-4 in the second game.

“It is what it is, the schedule and games last night was hard fought and we came back. You want to prepare and put yourselves in position to win a hockey game,” Laviolette said.

“It was an important game tonight. It was evident in the first 10 minutes we weren’t as sharp, weren’t as crisp at last night … We didn’t make a lot of mistakes but the ones we made were point blank.”

Ilya Bryzgalov was very mediocre, giving up four goals on just 15 shots. He was yanked for Brian Boucher in the second period.

Take away a couple turnovers and the Flyers trail 1-0 after the first intermission instead of 3-0.

“It’s a frustrating one, a tough one to lose after all the effort we put in yesterday, all the battling we did, everything we fought for yesterday,” Danny Briere said.

“To come out today and have a game like this, we talked about coming out strong and playing hard.

“It was mental mistakes that did us in. We were trying to play hard … It’s mental mistakes that cost us. The first three chances to score, they scored.”

Florida’s first two goals were 29 seconds apart. Peter Mueller, working hard to get open in the slot, measured Bryzgalov and beat him at 8:15.

On the next goal, the Flyers botched an attempted pass through the neutral zone and it was picked off by Mike Weaver, who quickly fed Tomas Kopecky for a snap wrister to make it 2-0.

Laviolette immediately called his timeout. That trick worked in Pittsburgh -- as it often does. Not this time.

Barely two minutes later, Luke Schenn’s point shot was blocked by Panther rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, who raced up the ice so quickly that Timonen had no choice but to haul him down.

Penalty shot. Good call.

You know how Bryzgalov handles shootouts. Penalty shots -- same thing. Huberdeau came down the slot slowly, turned his body to the right, then backhanded the puck through the five-hole. Easily.

It was 3-0 and the Flyers were cooked.

“I’ve seen this happen a million times in my life,” Timonen said. “You’re coming back from a road trip, the hardest game is the next home game. It proves it’s mentally tough. We had a bad sleep last night.

“When you are mentally tired, you are not 100 percent into the game. You make easy mental mistakes and usually those things end up in the back of your net.”

Harry Zolnierczyk nearly got one back near the end of the period. Early in the second period, Sean Couturier had a partial breakaway and slid a backhander wide of the open side. Could have been 3-2 “if” they score.

Before the second period ended, Huberdeau tipped one past Bryzgalov. He leads the Panthers with eight goals (five in five games). That brought Boucher into the game.

“He’s very skilled, very slick,” Briere said of Huberdeau. “Offensively, he’s a very dangerous players. Pretty impressive for his first year in the league. I thought he showed a lot of poise with the puck.”

The lone bright spot? Jakub Voracek picked up another goal late in the final period on a wrap around. He has seven goals and a team-high 19 points.

“We have to learn from this -- every game matters. We’re not 10-0,” Timonen said. “Every game matters and we’re fighting for a playoff spot. These games matter.”

Best of NHL: Shea Weber's PPG gives Canadiens' 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Shea Weber's PPG gives Canadiens' 5th straight win

NEW YORK -- Shea Weber's power-play goal with 2:57 remaining lifted the Montreal Canadiens to their fifth straight victory, 3-2 over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.

Paul Byron and Phillip Danault also scored to help Montreal improve to 6-0-1 and remain the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss. Al Montoya, who played for the Islanders from 2010-12, stopped 26 shots in his first start since Oct. 18 as the Canadiens beat New York for the seventh straight time.

John Tavares and Dennis Seidenberg scored for New York and Thomas Greiss had 26 saves in his second straight start and third of the season.

With the Islanders' Nick Leddy off for slashing, Weber fired a shot from the point for the tiebreaking goal. It was just the second power-play goal in 23 opportunities given up by New York's league-leading penalty-killing unit (see full recap).

Pirri, Rangers rally to topple Bruins
NEW YORK -- Brandon Pirri scored twice to help the New York Ranger beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey also scored for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots. The Rangers won their third straight game, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to improve to 5-2-0.

David Pastrnak and Austin Czarina scored for Boston. The Bruins have lost three straight to drop to 3-4-0.

Zane McIntyre made 26 saves in his first NHL start. He was called up prior to Boston's 5-0 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night to back up Malcolm Subban due to injuries to Tuukka Risk and Anton Khudobin (see full recap).

Pouliot scores twice, Oilers beat Capitals
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Benoit Pouliot scored twice, Cam Talbot made 34 saves and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Wednesday night to stretch their winning streak to four games.

Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic also scored for the Oilers (6-1-0). They have won four of five games at Rogers Place, their new downtown arena.

Alex Ovechkin scored for the Capitals (3-2-1). Braden Holtby made 25 saves (see full recap).

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Many, though not all hockey games, have a tipping point or pivotal moment that factors into the outcome.
Sometimes it’s obvious what it was and when the moment occurred. Other times, it’s overshadowed by something else on the ice.
Ask the Flyers which moment would define their come-from-behind 4-3 shootout victory over Buffalo on Tuesday and the response will be virtually unanimous: when Dmitry Kulikov leveled Jakub Voracek with a high hit that made contact to the head in the third period.
Voracek was forced off the ice under the NHL’s concussion protocol.
That hit incensed the Flyers, who went on to score two power-play goals and tie the game, 3-3. The comeback was on.
Yet there was a less obvious but significant point that happened late in the second period, and it concerned goalie Steve Mason.
Matt Moulson had given Buffalo a 3-0 lead on Michal Neuvirth at 15:43, when Flyers coach Dave Hakstol elected to make a goalie switch.
Rather than call a simple timeout to buy Mason some warm-up time and allow his team to collect itself on the bench, Hakstol challenged the goal, claiming “goalie interference.”
Replays won’t show any direct interference on the shot itself. Neuvirth was speared several seconds before the play developed.
Hakstol knew the goal would likely not be overturned, but his strategy was to buy time for Mason and his team. By using a challenge, he knew the review process would take a lot longer than the 60-second timeout.
Either way, he was going to use his only timeout.
“You know what, I think we needed a timeout at that time, anyway,” Hakstol said coyly. “Pretty low probability of it being successful. Everything worked out well in the end.”
Mason appreciated what his coach did, too. Buying extra time for you?
“Yeah, probably,” Mason replied. “Regardless of the situation, you’re sitting on the bench, you know? You’re not really gauged as much as when you’re playing, obviously. So, you just try and ramp things up as quickly as possible.”
Mason had two saves in that shortened period, five in the third period and one in the overtime to register his second victory.
“There’s a never-quit attitude in this room,” he said. “We showed in Chicago — we were just talking about that. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to close that one out.
“But guys have a belief that you get one [moment] and it comes. [Travis Konecny] got us going with his first NHL goal, which is great. The guys really pushed to capitalize on their chances.”