Flyers blanked again by Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets

uspresswire-flyers-tye-mcginn.jpg

Flyers blanked again by Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets

BOX SCORE

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: 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.”