Flyers blanked again by Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets

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Flyers blanked again by Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets

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They played a very strong second period and had nothing to show for it.

So when it came around to the third period, which has been the Flyers' best period all season, everyone expected they would eventually erase a 1-0 deficit against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Instead, the Flyers came out inexplicitly flat against a team they could have pretty much buried in the Metro Division standings.

Even worse, they gave up a quick goal.

Poof! It was 2-0 and game over at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night, as the Blue Jackets are now just two points behind the Flyers in the playoff hunt for third place (see Instant Replay).

“We came out flat, we let them come into our zone too easy and just let move the puck around way too easy,” Scott Hartnell said.

“The first two periods we battled and were strong on pucks, but that third period, I don’t if it was that power-play goal they scored late [in the second], but to come out flat like that wasn’t our MO and it hasn’t been our MO all year.”

The loss allowed Pittsburgh to officially clinch the division title. The Flyers still need six points to earn a playoff spot.

This was Sergei Bobrovsky’s first start against his former teammates in Philadelphia.

“Yeah was special, definitely,” Bobrovsky said. “It was exciting. It was different; it’s tough to explain. I think it was different. It was special.”

As good as the former Vezina winner was in earning his fourth shutout, the Flyers didn’t make it hard enough on Bobrovsky with quality shots.

“Any time you don’t score, you didn’t test him enough,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “We certainly didn’t test him enough in the third period.

“We stopped playing our game for a while. They came at us hard and it looked like we got frustrated.”

Ten shots behind 2-0. Yeah, that won’t cut it.

“They had 22 blocked shots, which is too many and we have to do a better job of getting shots through,” Berube said. “Get rebounds. Bobrovsky challenges. You have to find a way to get rebounds and get rebound goals and we didn’t do that.”

They also had no help from their power play (0-4), which is now 0-7 in the past three games while the Flyers have been shut out consecutively now for the first time since the final two games of John Stevens’ tenure in 2009 (Nov. 28 and Dec. 3).

Berube’s bunch hasn’t scored in 130:25 when they got a late goal against Boston on March 30.

They could have had a penalty shot in the second period but it wasn’t called when Sean Couturier was hooked on a breakaway.

Meanwhile, Claude Giroux went pointless for his third straight game, something he has not done since October when he went five straight without a point to start the 2013-14 season.

“Even though we didn’t score, we did a lot of good things,” Giroux said. “Our third period has to be better.”

The power play was pretty much discombobulated. Then again, it’s been on the downside lately, too. A few dirty goals would likely get the confidence back up.

“The power play, some games it is going to go in and some it isn’t,” Giroux said. “We had our chances … You got to keep doing the same thing as when we were successful.”

Things only get harder for the Flyers from here, too. They meet the Bruins on Saturday in Boston to close our their “Deadly Dozen” of games against all playoff contenders.

So far, the Flyers are 6-3-2 with 14 points during this stretch. A few power-play goals and they would have won three in a row instead of losing three straight.

“We haven’t been able to score over the last two games, but we’re playing great defensively,” offered Wayne Simmonds.

“Obviously, our power play has to step it up. Special teams are a key. Our power play hasn’t been the best these last couple games.”

The big positive is the Flyers are playing well defensively. Their shutout string against opponents ended at 136:02 in the second period on James Wisniewski’s power-play goal -- his third shot on goalie Steve Mason in that sequence.

Hartnell said the focus now shifts to Boston and Sunday’s home game here against Buffalo.

“We have to leave these two games behind us and get a few points this weekend,” he said.

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Vanek, Nielsen lead Wings over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski push Sharks past Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers edge Panthers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).

Tanner Laczynski's development not being lost in sweet freshman year at Ohio State

Tanner Laczynski's development not being lost in sweet freshman year at Ohio State

TORONTO — First semester of college can often be a challenge for many students, but for Tanner Laczynski, the experience was a sweet one — literally. 

Part of Laczynski’s course load at Ohio State was “Chocolate Science.” According to the course website, students receive an “introduction to science and business of chocolate. Students develop and market a chocolate product as part of a virtual company. Students taste commercial products.” 

Laczynski, who plans to declare his major in business in his second semester, got a lesson in chocolates from around the world during the course. 

“Chocolate Science wasn't bad,” Laczynski said with a laugh a few weeks ago. “All I did was eat chocolate and write a paper about it. There's lots of different chocolate, and they all taste good.” 

Growing up 43 miles outside of Chicago in Shorewood, Illinois, Laczynski wasn’t a big football fan, saying there wasn’t much to cheer for with respect to the Bears, but since relocating to the Buckeye State, he’s taken up interest in the local team. 

“That's a big part of it,” Laczynski said of attending OSU. “I've been to two games, they haven't been the strongest opponents so kind of blowouts.” 

Laczynski was in the middle of a nap when the Flyers used their sixth-round pick to select him on the second day of the 2016 NHL draft. He was admittedly startled to be woken up by his parents, Ken and Dawn, along with sister Payton and brother Hayden.

“I'd just gotten back home from coaching some kids, it was early in the morning, came back, took a nap and my parents were all excited,” Laczynski said. “I was still tired from my nap, but woke up pretty quick. 

“They just kind of attacked me so I was kind of like, 'What's going on?' at first. That was unbelievable and it's a moment I won't forget."

After a quick phone call from his agent, Flyers amateur scout Nick Pryor and John Riley, in charge of player development in Philly, were on the phone to welcome Laczynski to the club. 

This season, the 19-year-old had six goals and 16 assists in 15 games prior to leaving to join Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championships.  

The under-20 tournament is the third time Laczynski has represented the U.S. internationally. He also wore Team USA colors for the under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and the under-19 World Junior A Challenge.

Through the first six games at the world juniors, Laczynski tallied one goal and an assist. He missed the semifinals against Russia because of an illness but was in the lineup as the Americans defeated the Canadians 5-4 in a shootout to win gold.

Despite being just three months into his first year at OSU, the Flyers remain in constant communication with their prospect. 

“I talk to John Riley quite a bit, he's always in contact with me sending me game film and sending me clips of NHL highlights and stuff like that,” Laczynski said. “We keep in touch, it's a relationship and it's nice to keep in touch with him.”

During his freshman season, skating has been an area of focus for the 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward.

“I think my big thing is my first couple steps, just my quickness, stopping, getting back on it. I think that's my biggest thing,” he said. “Once I get that down, I feel like I have the speed, but just build an extra step, just improve on that, I think that'll be a tremendous help to my game.” 

Laczynski, who spent three seasons in the USHL prior to committing to the Buckeyes, said he tries to model his game after one-time Flyer Jaromir Jagr. 

“He's kind of the guy that I watched a lot just because of his puck protection and everything,” Laczynski said. “I try to kind of use my body to protect the puck down low and create some chances in the offensive zone. 

“He's got a really good stick — I try to watch that and have an active stick in the defensive zone and offensive zone, as well.” 

In his conversations with Riley and Pryor, the expectations for Laczynski are clear.

“Their goal for me is just to consistently play nine out of 10 nights instead of that seven out of 10 nights and get my game elevated a little bit more, play more consistently,” Laczynski said.

“I think that's the biggest thing.”