Penalty kill costs Flyers in loss to Sabres


Penalty kill costs Flyers in loss to Sabres


BUFFALO -- They talked about having a quick start to the lockout-shortened season.

How critical early games were to gain momentum and avoid a slip in the standings.

How important points against divisional rivals would be.

How all the parts needed to quickly click in unison.

Two games into the Flyers 48-game blitz, and special teams have already become a headache for coach Peter Laviolette.

Like five power-play goals against the Flyers' penalty kill units.

OK, one was an empty netter by the Penguins, but still, the trend here is definitely not good after Sundays 5-2 shelling by the Sabres at First Niagara Center.

Theres lots of things, but yes, we have to be better in that area, Laviolette said. the penalty kill we have to look at it and work at it.

Every day is a new opportunity, but we gotta get on track here, get a win in the column and moving in the right direction.

The Sabres scored three power-play goals. New Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn was in the box for two of them.

The first one was a roughing, then one hooking and one tripping, one of those minor penalties you definitely cant take those and put your team down a man, he said.

He became best buds with the box, visiting three times. Schenns last misdemeanor was deadly as the resulting power play saw Tyler Myers shot from distance go off Kimmo Timonens skate and break a 2-2 tie with about five minutes left in the game.

Definitely, this is the area we have to work on, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said of the penalty kill. Every game is so important with a schedule in a short season. They are.

Were in the bottom of the standings. We gotta change the situation quickly if we want to be part of the playoff race.

Buffalo iced it minutes after Myers' goal on a Cody Hodgson crash-the-crease doozy.

Of course, the Flyers had two goals waved off one in the final minutes because the officials lost sight of the puck yet the need here is for more urgency on special teams.

In a shortened season, were thinking of getting a split this weekend or in a best case scenario, winning two, Scott Hartnell said. Its frustrating. Were losing battles we shouldnt be.

Were not getting breaks like the other team. A power play and it goes off Kimmos skate and in. Its a frustrating start.

You cant blame the penalty kill in losses unless they are scoring four-to-five goals, but it has been the difference these first, two games. I think we have to look at it.

Just like the Pittsburgh loss, it took the Flyers until the second period to find their legs and energy.

Back-to-back games with travel in between in less than 24 hours resulted in the Flyers skating with heavy legs at the start. But unlike on Saturday, they did seem to have their hands in this one, as their passing and puck movement was far better.

Those back-to-backs are not easy, but I think we got our legs going and our second period was again our best period, Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. We need to find a way to play the first period like that.

Giroux agreed the team is missing Danny Brieres stick right now.

He can get those big goals for us, Giroux said.

The officials also grabbed control of the game again -- not allowing anything and whistling bogus roughing calls, in addition to the wave-offs.

Not an excuse, Giroux said.

To be honest, I dont know about the replays if there were goals or not, Giroux said.

Any time theres two goals taken away, obviously, it can change a game. Obviously, bounces are not going our way right now.

Buffalo led 1-0 after one period on a one-timer from the left circle by Steve Ott during the Sabres' first power play. Ott had never scored in a season opener during his previous eight years in the NHL.

Max Talbot had the equalizer waved off later because of light contact from Ruslan Fedotenko on goalie Ryan Miller. Talbot batted the puck out of the air.

It looked fairly clean to me; our player was outside the crease, Laviolette said.

The Flyers also lost Zac Rinaldo in the first following a collision with Robyn Regehr. Rinaldo suffered a nasty skate cut above the right knee that required 20 stitches. He did not return.

Much like the Penguins game, the second period saw a turnaround.

Sean Couturier picked up his first goal at 2:23 with a tip-in of Andrej Meszaros wicked point shot to tie it.

At 4:57, the Flyers finally scored their first power play goal after going 0-for-7 to start the season. Giroux ripped a one-timer from the circle off a nice feed from Timonen to give the Flyers their first lead in two games.

They just couldnt hold it.

A bench minor for too many men coupled with Luke Schenns hooking call gave Buffalo a 5-on-3 power play.

As that penalty was about to go into a 5-on-4, the Flyers tried an ill-fated rush into the Sabres' zone. Coupled with Scott Laughton coming out of the box and then a bad change at the bench between Couturier and Talbot, the Sabres caught a break.

I dont think we had the right D out there but those things happen, Hartnell said. Sooner or later it is going to be us getting the breaks and taking advantage of the other teams mistakes.

The result was tic-tac-toe passing starting with Buffalos Jason Pominville to Drew Stafford, who found Thomas Vanek on a breakaway. He deked goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and just like that, it was 2-2.

It was indicative of the way the entire, lost weekend went for the Flyers.

Oh yeah, Vanek had five points in the game.

Its not the start weve been looking for, losing two in a row, Giroux said. We just have to fight through it and come back.

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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.”

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

The kid finally has his first NHL goal.

Travis Konecny scored at 4:30 of the third period (see video) during the Flyers' 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Tuesday night (see story).  

His was the first of three power-play goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and get the Flyers into overtime.

First markers are always that much more special when they make a difference in a comeback victory, such as this one with the Flyers in a brutal stretch of six games in nine days.

“I am just excited that it happened,” Konecny said. “But the thing for me that was more exciting was coming back after that 3-0 [deficit] and an overall exciting night for us.”

The three power-play goals were a season high for the Flyers.

“We got going those two power plays ... our power plays set a tone,” Konecny said. “When that gets going, it makes it hard for the other team to stop us.

“It’s awesome because we know what they can do [on the top power-play unit]. They have been sticking with it and fighting the puck, whatever it’s been the past couple of games, but you know what they are capable of — you can see it the past couple of years. 

“You knew it was coming and tonight is the perfect night to get it going and I am sure that they are going to keep rolling with it.”

Schultz sits
The decision to sit 15-year veteran blueliner Nick Schultz to get Radko Gudas back into the lineup wasn’t easy but it made sense on several levels. Gudas had been suspended for six games.

First, Schultz doesn’t play on the power play, whereas Andrew MacDonald carries heavy minutes with the power play and penalty kill.

Brandon Manning? Not happening. He’s been the Flyers' best defenseman this season. Mark Streit? Doesn’t work because he quarterbacks the second-unit PP and is essentially teaching that duty to rookie Ivan Provorov.

“It’s real tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s part of the business and [Schultz has] done an excellent job. He’s always very well-prepared.

“We talked about what’s best for our team and we feel like Gudy going in, especially on a back-to-back, gives us fresh legs and a fresh body coming back into the lineup.”

Hakstol recently has had to switch around his defensive pairs to get more defensive coverage and consistency on the ice. For instance, moving Provorov from Streit to Manning.

He discounted Schultz’s age (34) as a true factor in the decision.

“I think the more flexibility you have, the better, whether it be for rest or for the injury situations,” Hakstol said. “First and foremost, I think we’re still looking for the true consistency that we need through our entire team, but certainly your D pairs are a big part of that. 

“Before we start getting to a comfort level of guys playing with different people, first we have to find true consistency. We’ve been pretty good, but we’ve had stretches where the consistency needs to improve, as well.”