Claude Giroux: Flyers are a 'desperate team'

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Claude Giroux: Flyers are a 'desperate team'

It was right there for them. Then it slipped away.

The Flyers had a one-goal lead in the third period of Thursday’s game against the Panthers at Wells Fargo Center. Things looked good. Six games earlier, in Florida, the Flyers throttled the Panthers and won by six goals. It appeared as though the orange and black would get a second victory over Florida in as many games this season. It seemed that way, but it didn’t go down that way.

The Flyers gave up a power-play goal in the third period that tied the contest. They had chances to win in overtime that didn’t work out. Then they watched the Panthers’ first two skaters score during the shootout. And that was that. Florida won, 3-2 (see story).

The Flyers picked up a point, but they didn’t seem so happy about it. They are 4-6-1 now. Almost a quarter of the lockout-shortened season is already gone -- just like that, while you were blinking or getting up to get a beverage from the fridge. One point would be fine on most nights in most seasons, but this year is different.

After the game, Claude Giroux did not look happy. He stood in the locker room with his arms folded and gave his appraisal of the situation. It was not a cheery take on the team's affairs.

“We need those points,” Giroux said. “We need that shootout win. We’ve got to get it done.”

That wasn’t all. He went further.

“We’re a desperate team right now,” Giroux added.
 
The Flyers played with energy and urgency in the overtime, but Giroux and several other players didn’t pat themselves on the back of their sweaters for it. Quite the opposite, actually. To hear them tell it, anything they did right on Thursday was overshadowed by what went wrong: their slow start in the first period and their missed opportunities on two power plays in the third period.

“We should be a desperate team,” Kimmo Timonen said when asked if he agreed with Giroux’s assessment of the season. “But the way we came out in the first period, that’s not a desperate team. That has to be a good teaching point for us moving forward. Every game matters. Every period matters. We’re not the team that’s 10-0. We can’t afford to lose the first period like that. Based on that, I think we lost a point [on Thursday].”

Peter Laviolette didn’t disagree. He said the first period “just seemed quiet.” He wasn't so thrilled with the rest of the game, either.

“We had opportunities in the middle period and on the power plays, chances to win a game and we didn’t do it,” Laviolette said.

It is how things have gone for them this year. There have been chances to win but not enough actual victories. After being one of the best offensive teams in the league a year ago, the Flyers have scored more than two goals just twice in 11 games. It is not what they or anyone else expected.

In any other season, the slow start would be unfortunate -- something on the order of a mild irritation. Again, this is not any other season. The slow start is clearly chafing them. You can hear the frustration in so many answers to so many different questions.

“I don’t know what it is or how to fix it,” said Matt Read, who scored his fourth goal of the season. “We’ve been coming out flat every night.”

Read shook his head a little as he talked. His frustration was evident. He couldn’t hide it. None of them can.

“When it’s a tie game late in the game, you’ve got to get pucks to the net and look for rebounds, a dirty goal,” Read continued. “It just didn’t happen. We need to keep working on that. We need to learn how to close out games.”

The Flyers picked up a point on Thursday. They didn’t sound too excited about it. That’s how it goes when the season is shorter and accelerated. The desperation sets in quicker.  

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Vincent Trocheck scored with just under 5 seconds remaining to lift the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.

Jonathan Marchessault also scored and James Reimer stopped 26 shots to help the Panthers complete a 5-0 road trip -- their first perfect trip of at least that many games in franchise history.

Reimer has won five straight decisions and has not lost in regulation since Jan. 7 against Boston, going 6-0-1 since.

The Panthers moved into a tie with Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division, but have the edge because they have a game in hand on the Bruins.

Kyle Brodziak, playing for the second time after missing 10 games due to a broken foot, scored for the Blues and Jake Allen finished with 31 saves. St. Louis lost its second straight since winning six in a row (see full recap).

Coyotes use three-goal 1st period to beat Ducks
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Radim Vrbata capped Arizona's three-goal first period and the Coyotes held on for 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.

Christian Dvorak and Jakob Chychrun also scored for Arizona, and starting goalie Mike Smith had 27 saves before leaving about 4 1/2 minutes into the third period after a collision in the net. Marek Langhamer helped kill a power play after being pressed into action for his NHL debut and stopped six of the seven shots he faced.

The Coyotes have won four of their last six.

Langhamer gave up Ryan Getzlaf's second goal of the night with 26.8 seconds to play, but thwarted two quality shots in the final seconds.

Jonathan Bernier gave up three goals on six shots in the first period for the Ducks. John Gibson came on to start the second and stopped all 14 shots he faced (see full recap).

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers’ “Ghost” headed home Monday on a high note — for a change.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere recorded three assists for the first three-point night of his NHL career Sunday as the Flyers edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the final game of a three-game Western Canada road trip (see story). In one night, he matched his offensive output of his previous 10 games played. 

He was a healthy scratch for three games in the meantime. On many other occasions, he has struggled while dealing with the NHL’s proverbial sophomore jinx following a standout rookie season. 

“It’s been a while coming,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s good to get some points, but I thought it was more important to get two points for our team.”

The win moved the Flyers (28-24-7) within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently held by Toronto, in the Eastern Conference. With considerable thanks to Gostisbehere, the club’s much maligned power play scored on two of three man-advantage opportunities. 

“He played great,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere. “He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger.”

Gostisbehere’s first assist enabled the Flyers to get off to a quick start offensively as Simmonds deflected in his point shot only 1:11 into the game. On the Flyers’ second goal, Gostisbehere head-manned the puck to Sean Couturier on a rush. Jakub Voracek easily put Couturier’s big rebound into a gaping net with Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller caught out of position.

One minute and 27 seconds later, Brayden Schenn took Gostisbehere’s pass and put in a shot from the slot. Altogether, Gostisbehere’s assists enabled the Flyers to build an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbeliveable skill,” Simmonds said. “He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

Gostisbehere now has four goals and 18 assists on the season. Until Sunday, the 23-year-old had seemed like an apparition of his former self. 

He had a less-than-ideal recovery period from offseason hip (labrum) and abdominal surgeries, due to his participation with Team North America in the World Cup. Then he suffered a facial cut in the Flyers’ season opener and took a bruise on his right hand in December.

He also struggled defensively to the point where he was scratched — for the first time in his NHL career — in November and was later benched and pulled out of the lineup again. Heading into Sunday’s game, he had a woeful minus-22 mark, but he was only on the ice for one Canucks' goal.

He helped the Flyers shut out the Canucks in the first and third periods. 

“We don’t like how they came back, but we held the lead and, like I said, we got the two points,” Gostisbehere said.

Ghost’s offensive showing evoked memories of his seemingly other-worldly 2015-16 season. In 64 games last season, he notched 17 goals, the most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf, then with Calgary, who scored 20 over a full 82-game schedule in 2005-06. Gostisbehere also enjoyed a historic 15-game point streak in 2015-16, the longest ever for a first-year rearguard, and he was a runnerup for the league’s Rookie of the Year award.

His return to form Sunday bodes well as the Flyers face two Metropolitan Division rivals this week, first Washington at home on Wednesday and then the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday in an outdoor game that will pack plenty of hype and pressure. 

After those games, the Flyers face a more compressed schedule than they have lately. The Feb.12-27 portion of their calendar contains only five games. But starting Feb. 28, they will play their final 21 games of the regular season over 41 days as they push to make the playoffs.

“We definitely know we’re a playoff team, for sure,” Gostisbehere said. “It shows. It’s a big test for us (this) week, playing these really good teams.”