10 observations from Flyers-Rangers

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10 observations from Flyers-Rangers

Ten random observations from the Flyers’ 2-1 victory the New York Rangers (see Instant Replay).

Let’s start with some positives -- the Flyers finally won a game, after all.

1. Finally, some excitement! Seriously -- after a week off following that wretched loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was refreshing to see Matt Read hit the back of the net on a shorthanded breakaway Thursday night. I was at the Eagles game on Sunday, and I admit I was worried I’d have to watch a third straight game of, well, tedious play. Of course, it’s a shame that goal was neither five-on-five nor on the power play -- situations in which the Flyers really need to connect.

2. Nine games in to the 2013-14 season, the Flyers still haven't scored three goals in a game. But hey, it was nice to see them win a game 2-1, instead of lose one.

3. But the power play … ouch. At the end of this one, the Flyers had registered one goal in their last 25 opportunities on the man advantage. That’s not going to cut it -- especially when they squander opportunities like they had late in the second and early in the third against the Rangers: A five-minute power play. It’s curious why they’ve struggled so blatantly on the power play this season, considering even last year they were third-best in the league and it’s not as if their roster has changed wildly.

4. I’m sticking with the negative here for a bit, so bear with me. But did it seem to anyone else that the Flyers weren’t doing the one thing they’ve been saying all along they need to do? That is, keep things simple? Instead of the game plan -- peppering rookie Rangers goalie Cam Talbot with as many shots as possible and through lots of traffic -- too many times they tried to make a pretty play, or an extra pass, or some other unnecessary move.

5. Benoit Pouliot’s hit on Max Talbot: One of the scariest plays you’ve seen in hockey recently? That kind of hit from behind, unintentional though it might be, is exactly what the NHL is looking to eliminate from the game. Pouliot received a five-minute major (not that it really benefited the Flyers) as well as a game misconduct and will possibly receive a call from the league’s discipline office. However, the fact that Talbot returned to the game will likely save him from serving any kind of suspension.

6. Was Vinny Lecavalier really ready to return tonight? Yes, his skating is nowhere near where it was, say, five years ago, even when he’s healthy. But the Flyers’ center-turned-winger was not moving well at all Thursday night. This isn’t the time of year to rush back from injuries -- could he have been pushing it, wanting desperately to return and try to help his team out of its funk? Either way, not an impressive performance from the veteran Lecavalier against the Rangers.

7. For those reasons, I’m not ready to pass judgment on the Claude Giroux-Lecavalier experiment. Yet. I still think it’s a combination that could work, and eventually jump-start both players. Giroux needs a winger who’s able to not just accept a sneaky pass, but hold onto the puck and make a necessary play. He hasn’t really had one of those since … wait for it … Jaromir Jagr.

8. The Flyers made Cam Talbot look good. True, it can be tough to prepare for a rookie goaltender, but this guy isn’t the second coming of Henrik Lundqvist. By now, you probably saw the stat of the day: In college, Read (Bemidji State) had 12 goals and 12 assists in 13 games when facing Cam Talbot in college (Alabama-Huntsville).

9. Braydon Coburn’s goal, which brought the score to 2-1, was his second of the season. And that means he, a defenseman, is second on the Flyers in goal-scoring. That’s not acceptable, if the team wants to win games, that is.

10. So what do the Flyers need? At this point it’s obvious they need something, right? Is it just that they need the kids -- Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek -- to elevate their games? Or do they actually need help to be brought in from the outside? My opinion -- and I wrote about this in last week’s Random Observations -- is that they need help on offense. But who, and how? That’s the question.

Best of NHL: Nikita Kucherov hat trick lifts Lightning over Bruins

Best of NHL: Nikita Kucherov hat trick lifts Lightning over Bruins

BOSTON -- Nikita Kucherov had his third career hat trick to lead Tampa Bay to a 6-3 victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, snapping the Lightning's three-game losing streak.

Jonathan Drouin had a goal and two assists, Brayden Point had a goal and an assist and Anton Stralman also scored to help the Lightning pull three points behind the Bruins for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Peter Budaj finished with 28 saves for the Lightning to earn his 29th win of the season. Ondrej Palat had three assists, and Jake Dotchin and Victor Hedman added two each.

Riley Nashy had a goal and an assist for Boston, and David Pastrnak and Zdeno Chara also scored. Tuukka Rask stopped 23 shots as Boston, which won seven of the first eight games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, has now lost four straight and six of 11 (see full recap).

Oshie beats Bobrovsky to give Caps SO win
WASHINGTON -- T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington's 35th shot of the game. Orlov's goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead (see full recap).

Senators take down Penguins in shootout
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan scored in the shootout to lift the Ottawa Senators to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

Mike Hoffman scored in regulation for the Senators and Mike Condon finished with 34 saves, including two incredible point-blank stops in overtime to keep the game going.

Nick Bonino had the goal in regulation for the Penguins and Matt Murray stopped 29 shots.

After being outplayed for much of the first two periods, the Senators were much better in the third and tied the score 1-1 on the power play at 9:43 as Hoffman beat Murray over the shoulder with a wrist shot just 14 seconds after Matt Cullen was penalized for holding (see full recap).

Flyers regroup behind Steve Mason for big win over Wild

Flyers regroup behind Steve Mason for big win over Wild

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When Zach Parise scored for the Minnesota Wild just 2:07 into Thursday's game, the Flyers were in another difficult position on the road.

This time, they responded with the type of game they've needed on the road all season.

The Flyers scored three unanswered goals by Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek to beat Minnesota, 3-1, and snap a four-game losing streak on the road (see Instant Replay).

"They're a tough team to handle in their transition," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Parise's goal. "It's quick and it's fast. The players on the bench were outstanding, talking, real calm. Just go out and push it the other way the next shift and I thought we were able to do that."

The Flyers responded with one of their best efforts on the road in nearly two months and pulled within six points of Boston for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference (see standings). The Bruins lost, 6-3, at home to Tampa Bay.

Steve Mason made 24 saves in goal for his 100th win with the Flyers as the team was rarely challenged thanks to an all-around performance that has been missing on the road. The Flyers entered the night tied for the second-fewest road wins in the conference this season.

"Certain things on the road, you've got to be a little more specific with your game and detailed, and I think we did a better job of that tonight," said Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz, who returned to the arena where he played 10 seasons with Minnesota. "Everybody throughout the lineup did that and that's why we got a big win."

The beginning looked all too familiar, though.

An innocent looking dump-in slid to Mason, who tried to cover the puck. The puck went off his stick and Parise quickly poked it past Mason. The Wild had four quality chances early before the Flyers took control.

"They came hard early on in the game and to be able to match that speed; that was a completely different pace of game compared to what we came from in Winnipeg," Mason said. "So, it almost took a second to get your bearings straight to get up to speed."

The Flyers weathered the early flurry by Minnesota, which is safely in playoff position in the West but is facing its own late-season issues. The Flyers killed off both Wild penalties, allowing just two shots on the penalty kill.

Couturier's 12th goal of the season was critical in tying the game with 2:01 left in the first (see feature highlight).

"Coming into the room after the period, I think it's important when you get a big goal like that," captain Claude Giroux said. "You feel like you have the momentum a little bit, so it definitely helped us a lot."

Read provided the lead in the second and the Flyers, who are now 15-2-2 when leading after two periods, pressured in the third. They outshot the Wild, 9-4, in the final period.

"We didn't sit back," Hakstol said. "I thought we were confident with the puck and made some plays and spent a good amount of time in the offensive zone. We played with real confidence in our game."

Mason had been critical after the Flyers lost in Winnipeg on Tuesday, saying the team needed to be more desperate. The Flyers responded Thursday in the difficult position of being on the road and allowing the first goal.

"We knew we had to be better," Schultz said of Mason's comments. "I think on the road, you've got to be at least a .500 team and take care of business at home, and we haven't done that this year. So, obviously, we've got to get better and I think we did respond tonight. Now we have to build on it."