Flyers' Huge Comeback Falls Short After Frustrating Start (with video to make you crazy)

Flyers' Huge Comeback Falls Short After Frustrating Start (with video to make you crazy)

The first two periods of Saturday's matchup with the Devils couldn't have gone much worse for the Flyers. Sluggish, uninspired early play by the Flyers combined with crisp, aggressive answers from the Devils and some frightfully bad refereeing saw the home team struggling to stop the bleeding late in the first period and throughout the second.

Sergei Bobrovsky was relieved just shy of the game's midway point, the Flyers down 6-0 at the time. Ilya Bryzgalov came in and pitched a shutout while his skaters did everything they could to turn the game around, mounting a respectable comeback but ultimately falling by a 6-4 count.

A look at the action below, including video of the amazingly bad non-call that keyed the Devils' early dominance.

Now, while the expletives were flying around Delaware Valley living rooms and both bowls at the Wells Fargo Center, the refs weren't the only reason the Flyers lost this game. Not for lack of trying though. The zebras really jobbed the Flyers in this one, particularly early.

Less than three minutes into the game, the Devils were given a two-man advantage on a so-so call against Kimmo Timonen with Marc-Andre Bourdon already in the box. Some nice puck movement resulted in the puck being on a wide open Kurtis "Bananas" Foster's stick, and he emptied it out in a hurry.

The Devils kept the pressure up throughout the period, peppering Bob with 17 shots to the Flyers' seven. Two SOGs in the final minute of the frame made it 3-1 Devils, and they had Flyers fans ready to drag the refs through the streets of South Philly.

Here's video of how the first one came about, with the Flyers on a power play…

Dainius Zubrus clearly trips Giroux before stripping the puck off the prostrate centerman, then finds Ilya Kovalchuk for the Devils' league-leading 12th shorty.

To make matters even worse, Zubrus would score again with less than a second to play in the period. It was a very nice shooting effort by Zubrus, but … he should have been in the box at the time. Then, during the goal scoring/celebration sequence, Scott Hartnell took a high-sticking penalty, perhaps due to frustration over the non-call. On the ensuing power play to start the second period, the Devils scored again.

One blown call, which should have resulted in a 5-on-3 for the Flyers, directly impacted three goals the other way.

OK, enough whining (although there was more cause for it)…

The Flyers didn't respond well at all in the second period, conceding that goal and two more, including yet another Foster goal on the 5-on-3.

The third period was a whole different game. Bryzgalov relieved Bob in the second and didn't allow a goal the rest of the way. The offense came alive in the third, sparked by one of the few guys who had been playing well all afternoon—Wayne Simmonds. Simmer battled in front of the net to get multiple efforts off on Johan Hedberg, the final one beating him on a pretty swat.

Jaromir Jagr, who took a beating all afternoon and thinks he may have broken the tip of his finger on a slash, scored the Flyers' second goal, followed by Claude Giroux potting his 20th of the season on a power play and Jake Voracek giving us all that glimmer of hope to bring the game within two.

The game got pretty nasty in the third, and it was to the Flyers' advantage. One sequence in particular saw a full-line skirmish that saw a small parade to the box, including Zac Rinaldo, Simmonds, Anton Vochenkov, and Bryce Salvador, plus a pair of unlikely combatants. Brayden Schenn and Ilya Kovalchuk threw down in a bout the rookie won't soon forget, if he remembers it at all. He hung in there with the much larger Kovalchuk for a while, but ultimately took a nasty right hand to the grill.

The good news was, the surprise penalty killing weapon Kovalchuk was in the box for the ensuing Flyers power play, which was when Giroux converted.

The finish was to be admired, with no quit in
a Flyers team that was getting smoked by the Devils and jobbed by the refs for the better part of two periods. But the Flyers didn't play anywhere near their best hockey, which will net them the same result tomorrow if they repeat it against the Rangers.

Notes:
Simmonds has tied a career high in goals (16) and has three in four games against the Devils. He also has three in his past two games and six in over nine.

The day in misleading stats: The Flyers outshot the Devils by 10 (41-31). However, the shooting stats became far more true when broken down by period. The Flyers posted an amazing 24-1 shot total in the third, when they scored four unanswered goals. Per Elias, that 23-shot period differential is the largest in Flyers history.

Good to see Giroux score again after potting his first in a month on an empty netter on Thursday. Same for Jagr, who gave G the EN gift and reaped the reward today.

Two good post-goal signs of who this Flyers team is: Simmonds scored their first of the game, but had less than even a smile in celebration. In fact, he shook his head, seemingly still in disgust at the state of the game. When Jagr scored, there was no salute. These guys know their effort wouldn't be erased by a few goals, and individual marks were relatively meaningless in this bloodbath.

Bob can't be blamed for his showing, particularly not the pair of 5-on-3 goals he allowed. Either way, good to see Bryz come in cold and look sharp, stemming the tide.

If only we still had access to that 24/7-like footage for this one. Peter Laviolette looked ready to run onto the ice at several points to give the refs a hand in seeing the game a little more closely. 

Video Highlights:

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Shayne Gostisbehere’s fist pump was so vicious and mighty, the celebration was probably felt back in Philadelphia.

This was an exultation the entire Flyers felt, too.

When it started to look like the bye week wasn’t the break they needed, the Flyers reached down deep and got one Sunday night at the Barclays Center in the form of a 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders (see Instant Replay).

“It allows you to take a breath,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s one thing for sure.”

A sigh of relief for a team beaten and bruised — losers of three straight by a combined score of 15-4, not to mention 3-9-3 in its past 15 games. The Flyers had lost the day prior on home ice to the Devils, 4-1, with a performance not exactly inspiring confidence following five days off.

On Sunday, they trailed 2-0 in the second period.

“We've got to get better at dealing with adversity when something goes wrong,” general manager Ron Hextall said bluntly before the game. “We need to get back on the horse and get back going. Big deal, a team scored a goal. We need to react better to it.”

Finally, the Flyers reacted the way their GM had been hoping.

They flipped the deficit into a victory when Gostisbehere skated behind the net and put the puck on Claude Giroux’s stick for the game-winner with 1:40 left in the extra session. Gostisbehere whipped his arm through the air and embraced Giroux, along with Jakub Voracek, who started the play by stripping Islanders captain John Tavares.

“On a lot of different levels, it’s an important win,” Hakstol said. “It’s huge. And more importantly for us, a great effort. Thought we deserved the two points. Sometimes maybe that’s what it takes to get over the hump — a tremendous effort for 60-plus minutes. I thought we got that out of everyone tonight.”

For Giroux, it was his first goal since Dec. 21.

For Steve Mason, his first win since Dec. 21.

And for the Flyers, their first road victory since Dec. 14, as they went 0-6-3 in the previous nine games away from home.

Yeah, “it was needed,” as Wayne Simmonds said of the win.

“We’ve been fighting it lately and I thought that was a good game from start to finish,” he said. “I thought everyone played well. I think we made bounces go our way tonight instead of hoping and waiting.”

Simmonds scored what might have been the biggest goal of the game. The Flyers, down 1-0 in the second period, came up empty for 33 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play and the proceeding 5-on-4 advantage. The Islanders then padded the lead to 2-0 moments later, putting the Flyers’ backs against the wall.

But Simmonds kept his team from uncoiling with a goal at 14:10 of the period, giving the Flyers life at second intermission. If not for that score, who knows how the Flyers come out in the third period, trailing by multiple goals yet again.

"I think we were plying well,” Giroux said. “We had a lot of chances and [the puck] wasn't going in. Everybody on the bench was frustrated. When Wayne got that first goal, I think [there was] a little relief on the bench. I haven't seen a team celebrate so much just for a first goal. It was kind of a relief and we had a little boost out of that.”

Ivan Provorov scored the equalizer 1:47 into the final period when he maintained possession from the blue line to the circle, adeptly skating around two Islanders to put the puck on net. Provorov’s pass to Travis Konecny hit off the skate of New York’s Adam Pelech and into the net.

“I came off the bench and I saw [Brayden Schenn] was going into the zone, so I took a few hard strides, got the puck from him and I saw it was kind of an odd-man situation,” Provorov said. “I held on to the puck a little bit, saw T.K. going backdoor, passed it there and it went off their D skate.”

Just as important as the timely goals was the Flyers’ discipline. Against the Devils, the Flyers compiled 19 penalty minutes, forcing them on seven penalty kills. This time, the Flyers sharpened up, not allowing the Islanders a power play until midway through the third period. In total, they had just four penalty minutes and killed off both power plays faced.

That gave them a chance.

“We just kept saying it the whole time, ‘Keep going, keep going, guys,’” Simmonds said. “We just need one [goal] and from one comes two, and Mase held the fort.”

Mason made 17 of his 36 saves in the third period and overtime combined.

Now, the Flyers at least go into another important back-to-back — starting Wednesday at the Rangers before welcoming the Maple Leafs Thursday — with some confidence instead of a lost weekend.

“I thought the focus was purely on going out and playing well,” Hakstol said. “And you know, that’s harder to do than you might know — when you start to feel some of the pressure without a win in a little bit. I really liked that side of it. Even in that situation, all the guys played well. Hopefully that puts our entire team in the right direction.’’

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored two goals, Sidney Crosby added his league-leading 28th and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight game, 5-1 over the Boston Bruins 5-1 on Sunday.

Pittsburgh led 2-1 through two periods before breaking out in the third with three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 57 seconds.

Sheary scored his 17th and has nine goals in nine games. Bryan Rust added his 12th and Patric Hornqvist his 11th for the Penguins, who won a season-high seventh straight at home. Pittsburgh the NHL's best home team, is 13-0-1 in its last 14 home games.

Evgeni Malkin had two assists for a season-best seven-game point streak. Crosby added two assists for a three-point game. Matt Murray made 44 saves to win his fourth straight game.

David Krejci scored his 11th for the Bruins, who have lost four straight and five of their last six (see full recap).

Rangers shut out Red Wings in 1-0 OT win
DETROIT -- J.T. Miller scored at 1:56 of overtime to lift the New York Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season and 61st of his career. The Rangers managed only 19 shots in a game that featured few memorable chances by either team.

The winner came when Mats Zuccarello and Miller swooped in alone on Detroit goalie Jared Coreau. Zuccarello made a simple pass to Miller, who lifted the puck over Coreau for his 16th goal of the season.

Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall played for the first time since Jan. 4, returning from a lower-body injury. The Red Wings put forward Drew Miller on waivers (see full recap).

Atikinson lifts Jackets over Senators in wild OT win
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Cam Atkinson's second goal of the game at 1:09 of overtime lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets a 7-6 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

Atkinson had a breakaway after a shot by Senators captain Erik Karlsson missed the Columbus net and went around the boards out to Atkinson, who was at center-ice.

The Blue Jackets trailed 5-3 after two periods before Lukas Sedlak and Matt Calvert scored 31 seconds apart to tie it less than 2 1/2 minutes into the third. Atklnson then gave Columbus a 6-5 lead with 9:10 remaining, before Kyle Turries tied it for Ottawa on the power play less than 2 minutes later.

Nick Foligno, Scott Harrington and Zach Werenski also scored for the Blue Jackets, and Joonas Korpisalo finished with 28 saves.

Zach Smith and Mike Hoffman each had two goals and Mark Stone also scored for the Senators. Mike Condon had 22 saves (see full recap).