Flyers allow big lead to slip away in loss to Pens

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Flyers allow big lead to slip away in loss to Pens

BOX SCORE

They outdid Pittsburgh in everything at the start.

They even scored first.

They had a three-goal lead after one period.

And still, the Flyers lost Thursday night to the Penguins because … well, because they stopped playing Flyer hockey and never got themselves going again in a 5-4 loss.

Essentially, the Flyers kissed away two points they absolutely, positively had to earn.

“We talked about it after the first period that the Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t going to sit back and hand over two points,” Scott Hartnell said. “They were going to come hard.

“Low and behold, before you know it, it’s 4-4. We just can’t do that. It’s embarrassing to the fans, embarrassing to one another, and we let another two points slip away … It was a big letdown. I don’t know why we would have stopped playing.”

That’s 18 times now in the past 24 matchups between these two that the road team won.

Peter Laviolette’s club came into the week in eighth place. This latest loss drops them to 11th in the Eastern Conference standings.

Worse, the games this week against the “Big Three” so far have been a disaster.

The Flyers needed to get four of six points from their games against the Rangers, Penguins and Bruins before meeting Buffalo on Sunday. All they can get now is two on Saturday in Boston.

“When you have a 4-1 lead, the game is in your hands big time,” Kimmo Timonen said. “What happens in the second period, we go on the ice and we’re not there for some reason.

“That’s the mental issue to me. Somebody might [have] a different opinion. You have to be mentally prepared to go in there and do you job, [even] if it’s 4-1 or 1-4.

“Never change your game. That seems to be an issue for us, either way with the score.”

It really puts the pressure on for a win in Beantown.

“Go into Boston with a do-or-die attitude,” Hartnell said. “We’ve been saying it but now it’s time to get out there and back up our words and get a decisive win.

“We played a great 20, but 20 doesn’t get you anything these days.”

Ironically, the game-winner came off a turnover.

Eighteen seconds into the third period, Timonen tried to contain a puck at center ice and instead it came back the other way with Chris Kunitz scoring his second goal of the night, breaking the 4-4 tie.

“I tried to keep in,” Timonen said. “[Sidney] Crosby fell down and there’s a loose puck. I try to get it by the guy and he was close to me. That’s my mistake. I should have played it safe.”

Hartnell appeared to retie it with 12:53 left but the official ruled “no goal,” saying his stick was higher than the crossbar.

Laviolette felt the third period lacked “jam,” as well.

“Even going out for the third period and the score is 4-4,” Laviolette said. “Being able to finish off games.

“We have to do a better job than what we’ve done this year. We’ve had a lot of tie games and situations to win games and they’ve slipped away.”

Though the Flyers started out strong with a 6-1 shot advantage, all the real action came into the final 9:45 of the first period. It was 4-1, thanks largely to James Neal taking three penalties.

Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury seemed to have trouble the entire period with his catching glove, while Zac Rinaldo needed just a fight to get a Gordie Howe hat trick.

Tomas Vokoun started the second period for Fleury and finished the game.

Jakub Voracek began and ended the opening period with a power-play goal.

Neal’s early elbow to Claude Giroux caused Hartnell to say something to him after Voracek’s first goal and then the two tried to fight, with Hartnell picking up an extra minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The Pens' lone goal that period came off the resulting power play as Kunitz's first goal. He’s on a tear with six goals over his last five games.

Rinaldo gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead at 15:06, rebounding Nick Grossmann’s point shot just as a Flyer power play expired.

The Flyers scored twice in the final 1:43 with Timonen beating Fleury shortside, and then Voracek picking up his 19th point in 10 games with a shot off Paul Martin’s skate at 19:52, making it 4-1.

In retrospect, Neal seemingly took the Penguins out of the game. His slash on Flyer goalie Ilya Bryzgalov after a puck had been whistled dead was totally unnecessary.

Still, Pittsburgh came roaring back with two goals less than three minutes apart and then tied it by the end of the middle stanza.

“The effort is there but we need to execute out there,” Giroux said. “We have to find a way to close a game up. We knew they were a good team offensively …”

The second period began with Pascal Dupuis scoring at 5:30.

Mental mistakes plagued the Flyers against the Rangers on Tuesday and here, as well, with Braydon Coburn leaving Evgeni Malkin alone in the slot to take a Neal pass across the goal line from the corner.

As Coburn raced over too late, the puck caught his skate into the net. Just like that, it was a one-goal game.

Tyler Kennedy’s long-distance shot at 15:47 tied it, chasing Bryzgalov for Brian Boucher.

“You go from a real strong first period to an inconsistent second period that ends up costing you a [game],” Laviolette said. “Certainly, it’s not where we want to be.”

And yet, it’s exactly where the Flyers have been all season.

Sweden beats Canada to win 2017 IIHF World Championships

Sweden beats Canada to win 2017 IIHF World Championships

COLOGNE, Germany -- Sweden won the ice hockey world championship with a 2-1 victory on penalties over two-time defending champion Canada on Sunday.

Sweden goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped three penalties and Ryan O'Reilly hit the post for Canada, as Nicklas Backstrom and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored shootout goals for the Swedes to win their first title since 2013.

The game ended 1-1 after overtime when both sides came close to ending the contest with a "sudden death" goal only to be denied by outstanding goalkeeping.

Lundqvist and Canada counterpart Calvin Pickard, who saved William Nylander's first penalty for Sweden, were named best players by their respective teams after a game in which the Canadians narrowly outshot their opponents 43-42.

"This is how close it should be when you get to the final game," Sweden head coach Rikard Gronborg said. "It's a huge win for Swedish hockey."

Lundqvist's twin brother Joel, who captained Sweden, claimed his third worlds gold, one of only two Swedes ever to do so after Sven Tumba in 1953, 1957 and 1962.

"They're both really good guys," Swedish forward Joakim Nordstrom said of the Lundqvist brothers. "On the ice, they really bring a lot to our team but off it too, their presence in the locker room, it's been huge for our team. Joel is a terrific captain."

Sweden claimed its first win over Canada in the final after defeats in 1997, 2003, and 2004.

"It feels like the curse is broken," said Marcus Kruger, who had lost worlds and Olympic finals with Sweden before.

The respect between the sides was evident from the off as defenses held firm in the opening two periods.

The breakthrough came against the odds, with Backstrom penalized for slashing, when Victor Hedman scored short-handed with 20.8 seconds left in the second period.

It was a strange goal from distance as the defenseman just lifted the puck and it somehow bounced in through Pickard's legs. Joel Lundqvist's presence may have distracted the Canadian goaltender.

"It was a fluke goal," Kruger said.

Canada had twice as many shots in the second period.

O'Reilly equalized when he scrambled the puck in off a rebound from Mitch Marner.

It was tense, and fans were left gasping as the action swung from end to end.

Nate MacKinnon missed a good chance to clinch the win for Canada on a power play before overtime when both goaltenders maintained their exceptional form.

Henrik Lundqvist, who was a late addition to Gronborg's roster after the New York Rangers' elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs, ultimately proved the hero.

"He's been great since he came in here. We know what his track record is like. He's a winner and he really showed that today, overall in the game and especially in the shootout, too," Kruger said.

MacKinnon, Brayden Point, O'Reilly and Mitch Marner all missed their shots.

Canada coach Jon Cooper, who said he was immensely proud of his team's effort, was gracious in defeat.

"I want to congratulate Sweden. They were an exceptional team, it was a lot of fun to play them," Cooper said.

"If we were going to lose to somebody, I'm glad those guys won."

Earlier, Nikita Kucherov sealed a 5-3 win for Russia in the bronze medal match against Finland.

"It's not the medal we wanted," Russia head coach Oleg Znarok said.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins pounce on Senators to move 1 win away from Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins pounce on Senators to move 1 win away from Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan calls it "getting to our game."

It means he wants his team to attack opponents with speed, aggression and a dash of responsibility.

Physically translated, it looks like the 60 minutes the defending Stanley Cup champions put together Sunday in a 7-0 demolition of the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Dominant from the opening faceoff to the final whistle, the Penguins moved within one game of a return trip to the Cup final by overwhelming the Senators with wave after wave of pressure, the kind that became the club's trademark during its sprint to a fourth championship last spring.

Seven players scored and 11 finished with at least one point to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 on Tuesday in Ottawa. Seemingly on the ropes after getting pummeled 5-1 in Game 3, the Penguins have outscored the Senators 10-2 over the last six periods to gain control.

"When we play the type of game we play tonight it allows us to dictate the terms and play the style and the identity of this Penguins team," Sullivan said.

One well aware that despite how easy it looked during its most lopsided playoff victory in five years, much work remains to be done.

"They have a good ability to respond, so we're going to be challenged here in Game 6," said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who scored for the third straight and became the 22nd player in NHL history to reach 100 career playoff assists when he sent a slick backhand no-look pass to Phil Kessel early in the third period. "We know that and we've got to be at our best."

The Penguins might already be there. The power play went 3 for 3. The penalty kill turned the Senators away four times and extended Ottawa's power play drought to 0 for 29. Matt Murray stopped 21 shots for his first playoff shutout in Pittsburgh's most complete performance of the postseason.

"I think that was a big part of our success last year was that we had all four lines going and chipping in offensively," forward Matt Cullen said. "But more than that, spending time in the offensive zone and grinding and playing some good hockey and I think the last couple games, especially, that's been key."

The Senators quieted the Penguins early in the series, holding them to three goals through three games by playing disciplined hockey. It collapsed in the first period on Sunday, as turnover after turnover kept giving Pittsburgh the kind of chances that makes it such a difficult out this time of year.

The Penguins chased Ottawa's Craig Anderson by beating him four times in the first period, the last a "why not" flip from behind the goal line by fourth-line forward Scott Wilson that banked in off the goalie.

Replacement Mike Condon didn't fare much better. When Cullen beat him 1:54 into the second to make it 5-0, the competitive portion of the afternoon over. As if to raise the white flag, Ottawa coach Guy Boucher held defenseman Erik Karlsson, forward Derick Brassard and defenseman Cody Ceci out of the final 20 minutes to help them get rested up for Game 6.

Karlsson, who is playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel, said he will "absolutely" be ready for Game 6. The rest of the Senators insist they'll be ready too. They became the third team this postseason to lose by at least six goals. The other two -- Edmonton in the first round against San Jose and Anaheim in the second round against the Oilers -- came back to win the next game and eventually the series.

"Just like a plumber wakes up one day, is having a great day, the other day he's not having a good day," Boucher said. "Just one of those bad days."

Notes
Bryan Rust had a goal and an assist in his return from a concussion that sidelined him for Games 3 and 4. ... Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley also scored for Pittsburgh. ... The margin of victory was the largest in a conference final since Detroit beat Colorado 7-0 in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. ... Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin played in his 141st postseason game, surpassing Jaromir Jagr for the most in franchise history. ... The Penguins scratched D Justin Schultz (upper body) and F Patric Hornqvist (upper body). F Conor Sheary was a healthy scratch. ... Carter Rowney had three assists for Pittsburgh. ... Boucher said Anderson will start Game 6. ... Pittsburgh F Nick Bonino had two assists. His truck broke down on the way to the rink. Kessel picked him up by the side of the road and brought him to the arena.