Instant Replay: Lightning 4, Flyers 2

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Instant Replay: Lightning 4, Flyers 2

BOX SCORE

TAMPA, Fla. -- Truly, a blown opportunity.

The Flyers had a chance during this two-game road trip to return home over the .500 mark, but instead dropped both games with disturbing losses.

They began the road trip two points out of a playoff spot and could have changed that. Instead, two flat efforts at Florida and now Tampa Bay.

Witness the 4-2 loss to the Lighting on Wednesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, in which the Bolts scored every which way: Even strength, power play and shorthanded.

That's pretty bad considering no Steven Stamkos and starting goalie Ben Bishop got hurt at the morning skate, although backup Anders Lindback was the scheduled starter, anyway.

Yeah, the Flyers got goals from Vinny Lecavalier and Mark Streit at the bitter end, but for 50 minutes they were outplayed, outhustled, outeverything.

Jon Cooper’s Bolts came out flying at the start. Just as in Florida, the Flyers were a tad flat and stayed that way much of the game.

Although Tampa outshot the Flyers 14-7 that period, the Flyers had the best scoring chance by being awarded a penalty shot and failing to convert. The gap in shots only widened throughout the night.

The turning point came past the midway mark of the second period when the Bolts scored twice to make it 2-0.

Ondrej Palat’s shorthanded goal was the crushing blow, as the Flyers did a very poor job of backchecking on the play.

The Flyers came into here having lost four straight in this arena while being outscored, 16-5.

The Bolts scored an empty-netter at the end, too.

Injuries
The Flyers announced during warmups that winger Matt Read would miss the game with a lower-body injury, presumably incurred during the 3-1 loss in Florida on Monday. That explains why Michael Raffl was in the lineup. Read rode a stationary bike in Tampa on Tuesday, as did some other players who elected not to skate. Read did not practice with the team on Tuesday (see story).

Jakub Voracek took a puck to the mouth in the second period but returned.

Vinny tribute
During the first TV timeout, the Lightning aired a video tribute on their humongous HD scoreboard, capturing highlights from Lecavalier’s 14-year career here. Lots of applause with him and Brad Richards holding the Stanley Cup, plus a standing ovation from the crowd. Lecavalier acknowledged the fans with a wave of his glove at the bench. The club had a second tribute to him later in the period for his charitable work within the community at the Vinny Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Penalty shot
Wayne Simmonds was awarded one with 3:14 left in the first period after being hooked from behind by Victor Hedman on a breakaway. Lindback got his right pad on Simmonds’ attempted backhanded lift shot.

Penalty shot count
The Flyers are 0 for 3. Simmonds twice failed to score; Adam Hall once. Coming into the game, players in the NHL were 2 for 21 on penalty shots. All-time, the Flyers are now 19 for 49.

The goalie
Ray Emery was outstanding in the second period, facing some very tough shots. Good combo save early on J.T. Brown’s shot in the slot, and then stopping his follow in the paint by covering up. The Flyers were loose in front of Emery.

Shades of Kane
Victor Hedman’s goal that made it 1-0 midway into the second period looked a lot like Patrick Kane’s Game 6 Cup clincher for Chicago back in 2010. Odd angle toss from the left goal line.

Special teams
The Flyers had a brutal mistake on the power play as Tampa scored a crucial shorthanded goal soon after Hedman’s goal to make it 2-0. Kimmo Timonen’s point shot was blocked. It resulted in a two-on-one with Hedman and Palat. Emery made the stop on Hedman, but the rebound went directly to Palat for an easy deposit. Both Claude Giroux and Voracek were slow on the backcheck. The Flyers were 1 for 2 on the power play.

Faceoffs
Tampa hammered the Flyers in the first period, winning 64 percent of the draws.

Fights
Scott Hartnell took a decision over Eric Brewer in a lively second-period match. It was Hartnell’s first fight this season.

Shots
The Flyers were outshot, 35-21.

Scratches
Read (injured); defensemen Hal Gill and Andrej Meszaros were healthy scratches.

Flyers-Oilers 5 things: Winning streak meets Connor McDavid

Flyers-Oilers 5 things: Winning streak meets Connor McDavid

Flyers (15-10-3) vs. Oilers (14-10-4)
7 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com, Pregame Live at 6:30

The hottest team in the NHL will meet the hottest young star on Thursday night when the Flyers host the Edmonton Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. McDavid and Co.
The Flyers are going for their seventh consecutive victory, which would tie their longest winning streak since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when they also won seven in a row.

In order to do so, they’ll have to slow down transcendent talent Connor McDavid and the prolific but streaky Oilers.

McDavid, a generational player, has thus far lived up to all the hype surrounding him as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. In just his second NHL season — and first with a healthy start after an injured-shortened rookie year (45 games) — the 19-year-old leads all of hockey in points with 36, while no other player has yet to eclipse 30.

His 25 assists also rank atop the NHL, while his 11 goals are among the top 22 and his plus-8 rating is tied for ninth best between all centers.

“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said Wednesday. “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.”

And he has help.

Linemates Leon Draisaitl (11 goals, 11 assists) and Milan Lucic (eight goals, 12 assists) can do damage, as can Jordan Eberle (eight goals, 13 assists).

2. Defense wins games
The Flyers are playing better and cleaner in front of their goaltender — who has been great (see below) — and the results are showing.

The orange and black have gone five straight games of allowing two or fewer goals.

Why were they so up and down before this run? Well, they had surrendered two or fewer goals in just five of their previous 23 games.

“That’s unbelievable for us,” Wayne Simmonds said after Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Panthers. “At the beginning of the year, to say we’d have five straight without giving up more than two would be a stretch.

“We’ve locked it down defensively and Mase has played unbelievable. We’ve been pretty good as five-man units.”

3. Mase the man
A confident Steve Mason is a dangerous Steve Mason.

Right now, Mason has the net and is gaining steam by the game.

Over his past five outings, the 28-year-old is 5-0-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

Just as impressive, since Nov. 12, Mason is 8-3-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

“I've said it numerous times, I want to be playing lots of hockey,” Mason said Tuesday. “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 [head coach Dave Hakstol] calls my name, be ready."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: You always have to watch Simmonds, but especially now with the winger coming off back-to-back two-goal games. Simmonds leads the NHL with eight power-play goals and is second in man-advantage points (13) to only teammate Claude Giroux (14).

Oilers: With all the attention zeroed in on McDavid, we’ll go with the 21-year-old Draisaitl, who has seven goals in his last nine games and 14 points in his past 12. The No. 3 overall pick in 2014 is an intelligent playmaker capable of hurting you.

5. This and that
• Mason is 8-4-0 with just a 3.49 goals-against average and .872 save percentage in 13 career games against Edmonton.

• Oilers goalie Jonas Gustavsson will make his fourth start of the season. He’s 1-1-1 on the year with 84 saves on 91 shots faced, but is 0-4-1 lifetime against the Flyers with a 3.57 goals-against average and .865 save percentage.

• The Flyers are fourth in the NHL in goals per game (3.11), while Edmonton is seventh (2.93).

• The Oilers have lost 10 of their last 15 games (5-7-3).

Flyers skate update: Wayne Simmonds, power play key to beating Oilers

Flyers skate update: Wayne Simmonds, power play key to beating Oilers

Todd McLellan saw a lot of Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov as a junior player in the Western Hockey League whenever the Brandon Wheat Kings would turn up in Edmonton.

“I watched him play in junior and had a chance to see that Brandon team play in Edmonton twice last year,” said the Edmonton Oilers coach.

“Obviously, a smooth, confident [player] with great vision. He has patience with the puck. Those are his offensive assets. 

“But he also positions himself well, defensively. He accepts that responsibility. For a young d-man, he is ahead of a lot of others because he can play on both sides of the puck.”

Provorov rattled Jaromir Jagr Tuesday when Florida was here (see story). Tonight he gets his first NHL taste of Connor McDavid.

McLellan said the Oilers' biggest challenge against the Flyers will be stopping the NHL’s second-ranked power play. Edmonton has the 11th best penalty kill.

His concern is Wayne Simmonds (8 power play goals) and Claude Giroux (14 power play points). 

“That power play is deadly and it really hasn’t changed — it’s just clicking,” McLellan said. “It has a couple trigger points. Obviously, Simmonds has the most goals in the league  and Giroux has the most points. But there’s other pieces to that power play, which are exceptional. 

“Our penalty kill has been taking it on the chin and I had to ask our guys today, 'Is it the penalty kill or the penalties?' In my opinion, it’s as much the penalties as the penalty kill. We have to stay out of the box.  

“This is a confident Flyers team. They feel very good in the offensive zone and make things happen. Their goaltender [Steve Mason] has been making saves for them that keeps them confident going the other way. It’s a team on the rise.”

The Streak
The Flyers are looking to make it seven straight wins tonight against the Oilers. The last time they won seven in arrow was Dec. 2-15 in 2011. They did not have a morning skate.

On Mason
Tuesday’s win against Florida was Steve Mason’s 88th as a Flyer, moving him past Pelle Lindbergh into sixth in franchise history. Mason needs six wins to move into third place in franchise history. 

Debut
Defenseman Dillon Simpson will make his Oilers debut tonight in Philadelphia. He is the son of former Oiler Craig Simpson. 

The oddity? Last year, Keegan Lowe made his Oilers' debut here in Philadelphia. He is the son of Kevin Lowe, longtime coach and front office executive for the Oilers. 

Colors
The Oilers wear three colors during their morning skate. Their defensemen dress in orange; their third and fourth lines dress in white and their top six skaters dress in blue. Now that’s an NHL hierarchy.