Flyers' 'best game' wasted by another meltdown

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Flyers' 'best game' wasted by another meltdown

BOX SCORE

Updated: 11:24 p.m.

They had earned themselves a point. Maybe even a victory.
 
Now it was early in the third period and the Flyers were clinging to a 2-1 lead and likely thinking to themselves: Something bad will happen.
 
Sure enough, Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin stood behind the net. Chris Higgins was in front flanked by Claude Giroux and Braydon Coburn.
 
When Sedin started to make to his right, Nick Grossmann challenged. That’s when Sedin found Higgins with a pass and he buried a shot on goalie Steve Mason while others watched.
 
“We had an unchecked man behind the net and an open guy in front,” said Coburn, who was minus-3 in the game.
 
Added Giroux: “It happened pretty quick, but obviously, [Higgins] has to be picked up.”
 
It was another in a growing list of deflating third-period moments, a stanza in which the Flyers have been outscored 10-2 and saw yet another good effort wasted.
 
Ultimately, the Flyers lost 3-2 to the Canucks on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Tye McGinn’s two-goal effort was in vain.
 
“There’s a couple of breakdowns there on those goals that we definitely have to correct,” coach Craig Berube said.
 
“Giroux and Grossmann got a little mixed up on who was going and who wasn’t going. Sedin went to the other side and Grossy jumped on him a bit. He popped it out.
 
“We got to cover them. Grossy should stay with his guy. And Giroux should keep pressuring them.”
 
And Coburn? He watched the lead disappear. For good.
 
“You got to take it to teams in the third period and win the game,” Berube said. “We’re kind of sitting back a bit and waiting for something bad to happen ... we've got to get over that hump -- be mentally tough and go out and do it.”
 
Once upon a time, the Flyers had swagger to go after teams in the third period. Now they wilt.
 
“Three years ago when I came here, we had that attitude that no matter if we were down in the third period, there was no hesitation that we couldn’t come back,” Jakub Voracek said.
 
“Last two years, it feels like we’re up 2-1 or down one goal, the team would tie it. We are scared to make something happen on the ice. We've got to stick with the same game plan for all 60 minutes.”
 
Almost forgotten here was Voracek and his line had a scoring chance and failed prior to Vancouver turning the puck back up ice for the tying goal. If the Flyers score, Higgins' goal doesn’t happen.
 
“We played our best game and it’s frustrating, and [Mason] made the saves to keep us in the game,” said Giroux, the Flyers’ captain. “We’re getting better every game, that’s a fact. If anybody knows anything about hockey ... we played our best game.”
 
For 50-plus minutes they did, until disaster struck. And they still could have won it.
 
With 8:21 left to play, the Flyers got a power play. This is when special teams has to make a difference in a tight game. Yet, the Flyers still struggle to get points, shots and chances. They had one shot that entire power play as their skid hit 0 for 17.
 
Of the two power plays the Flyers had on Tuesday, they managed one official shot. That’s unacceptable.
 
Soon after that last power play, Ryan Kesler won it on a series of shots that had both the Flyers and Mason scrambling. Kesler had two goals.
 
Vancouver gets up the ice quicker than any opponent the Flyers have seen so far. The problem has been what the Canucks do with the puck once there. It took the third period for Vancouver to solve its dilemma.
 
Berube said he wanted to see the Flyers get to the net a lot quicker than they have been, and get some rebounds.
 
That is exactly what McGinn has done since rejoining this club after being sent to the Phantoms early in training camp.
 
He scored in the first period with a diving backhand effort, and gave the Flyers a 2-1 second-period lead with a follow shot in the slot, as well.
 
So in just two games, McGinn is the Flyers' leading goal scorer with three.
 
“We have to shoot the puck -- that’s how goals go in and I’m just seeing shots from the far side,” McGinn said. “They are simple shots, but sometimes the goalies just can’t handle it and it pops right out into the slot and that’s where we need guys to be.”
 
The Flyers' lead off McGinn’s first goal lasted all of 10 seconds. Jannik Hansen’s dump-in pass after the faceoff took a crazy carom off the back boards as Mason was going for the puck behind the net.
 
Kesler was alone in the slot for an empty netter.
 
“You can't let things like that affect you -- you can't always control what the puck does,” Mason said. “You control what you do after that and I thought we played a pretty strong game.”
 
McGinn regained the lead for the Flyers barely two minutes into the second period.
 
Voracek drove hard down the right boards and angled a backhander that goalie Roberto Luongo tried kicking. The puck nicked Giroux and landed in front of McGinn in the paint. He made it 2-1.
 
The Flyers had a chance to widen their lead near the period’s end on their power(less) play, but the Canucks have the third-best penalty killers in the NHL at 90.5 percent efficiency and suffice to say, they showed the Flyers why.
 
“It’s tough,” Berube said. “I told my team afterward, just keep believing. We’re going in the right direction.
 
“It was a hard-fought game. When you play a John Tortorella team, you are in for a dog fight. We knew that. I thought our guys competed really hard.”

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored 34 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Washington Capitals' nine-game winning streak with a wild 8-7 victory Monday night that included nine second-period goals.

Sheary had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 11th career hat trick during a frenetic second period, and Sidney Crosby collected his NHL-leading 27th goal to go with two assists. Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray got the win despite allowing seven goals on 28 shots.

The Penguins trailed 3-0 before scoring six goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period, more goals than the Capitals had allowed in a game all season. Pittsburgh led 6-5 after 40 minutes.

Lars Eller scored twice for Washington, and T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky also found the net. Philipp Grubauer made eight saves after coming on in relief of Braden Holtby, who was pulled during Pittsburgh's second-period deluge (see full recap).

Eichel scores twice to give Sabres' 4-1 win over Stars
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals and the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday.

Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into the first period. Ennis returned after missing 30 games with a groin injury that required surgery.

Jake McCabe also had a goal and Robin Lehner made 31 saves after missing the past three games with an illness.

The Sabres snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Stars for the first time in four matchups.

Radek Faksa scored for the Stars in the opener of a three-game road trip. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots. Dallas has lost two in a row and six of eight (see full recap).

Bishop anchors Lightning to 2-1 win over Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brian Boyle scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning opened a six-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Ben Bishop made an early mistake that led to Kyle Clifford's goal for the Kings, but bounced back to make 31 saves in his second start back from a three-week absence with a lower-body injury.

Tyler Johnson scored in the first period for the Lightning, who won for just the second time in seven games.

Peter Budaj stopped 27 shots for the Kings.

Both teams played without stars due to illness. Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed his first game since Nov. 20, and All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman missed his first game of the season for Tampa Bay (see full recap).

Changes coming? Ron Hextall says Flyers 'not very happy right now'

Changes coming? Ron Hextall says Flyers 'not very happy right now'

WASHINGTON — As the Flyers filed into the visiting locker room of the Verizon Center, no temper tantrums were thrown, nor were any chairs.
 
In the end, “What good does that do?” head coach Dave Hakstol asked.
 
Instead, the Flyers’ dressing area Sunday felt like a morgue. Players quietly and somberly stuffed their gear away. Once all dispersed, in walked Ron Hextall — and none too pleased.
 
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks for us,” he said softly, “and quite honestly, we’re not very happy right now.”
 
For a man that loathes losing more than anyone, nobody expected him to be. That much was already understood during the third-period catastrophe of his team’s demoralizing 5-0 defeat to the Capitals.
 
What wasn’t known was what follows? The Flyers have gone from 10 consecutive victories — the franchise’s longest winning streak in 31 years — to 11 losses over the following 14 games and a state of dismay.
 
As the Flyers limp into their NHL mandated five-day bye week, do players sense an imminent shakeup within the roster?
 
“It’s a good question,” Claude Giroux said, “but I don’t know.”
 
Despite never losing his sense of prudence, Hextall ruled nothing out.
 
“Obviously we always keep an eye on the big club and the Phantoms, as well,” Hextall said. “Right now, we’re going to stick with what we’ve got here and move forward. But on a day-to-day basis, I always look at how we can make our club better and, if there’s something that we think makes our club better, we’ll do it."
 
If Hextall wants to add some fresh blood from within, the organization is not lacking for young and spry prospects full of energy down at Lehigh Valley, where the Phantoms are 24-10-2 and third among the entire AHL entering Monday.
 
For the Flyers, who have surrendered a league-worst 144 goals, could defensemen T.J. Brennan, Travis Sanheim or Robert Hagg be options? Brennan owns NHL experience, has 30 points and is a plus-10 with Lehigh Valley. Sanheim, a big and touted prospect, is also a plus-10 to go along with seven goals and 11 assists. And Hagg, a seasoned 21-year-old, is “just about NHL-ready,” according to Flyers assistant general manager Chris Pryor, via ESPN’s Craig Custance (see Future Flyers Report).
 
“The worst thing you can do is overreact when things aren’t going right and that’s not going to happen,” Hextall said. “But if we can find a way to make ourselves better, we will.”
 
Hextall’s biggest gripe with his current team is its dearth of mental fortitude.
 
“Right now we’re making a lot of mental mistakes and it’s killing us,” he said.
 
And then it snowballs, Hextall said, which good teams prevent from happening.
 
“When things are going wrong, all of a sudden something happens and things tend to really go wrong,” he said. “That’s where we have to get better. Mentally we have to be better, have to be better. If something goes wrong, let’s move on. It happened a lot earlier in the year where things go wrong and we fought through it. Right now, the negative energy seems to be a landslide.”
 
Following the meltdown in Washington, players didn’t question the effort.
 
“We care,” Michael Del Zotto said. “No one likes losing. It’s not fun for anyone. But sometimes effort's not enough. Everyone wants to win in this league. It's a matter of execution. Whether it's offensively or defensively in all situations, we're not doing it.”
 
Hextall believes the effort has been “sufficient.”
 
“Again, the mental mistakes,” he said. “It seems like when something goes against us, it goes against us hard and that’s something we’ve got to battle through. You can’t let a little bit of adversity turn into a lot of adversity. You’ve got to nip it in the bud and we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
 
As for the leadership structure and coaching, Hextall defended both.
 
“Our leaders haven’t been good enough. Neither have our lesser guys,” Hextall said. “Nobody’s been good enough right now. You don’t win 10 and then go through a stretch like this without responsibility being everywhere.
 
“Line changes, different D combinations, flipping [Steve Mason] and [Michal Neuvirth]. Everything that’s there, Hak has tried. In the end, it comes down to our whole group just being better and not reacting the way we do when something negative happens. That’s the game of sports, right?”
 
The game goes away for the Flyers this week (see 10 observations). When it returns, who knows which team we’ll see.
 
“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror, hold ourselves accountable,” Del Zotto said. “As far as changes and personnel moves, that's out of our control.”
 
That, of course, is up to Hextall.
 
“We’ve got to keep our heads now,” the GM said. “Nobody’s going to get us out of this. It’s the whole group. This isn’t about one thing or one move or one player not playing or one player playing. This is about our whole group.”