Flyers can't finish another comeback in SO loss

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Flyers can't finish another comeback in SO loss

BOX SCORE

The Flyers did exactly what had been asked of them for the first period of Thursday’s game. They hit the ice with energy, dictated the play and even took an early lead.

The problem, though, is that it didn’t last. In their 4-3 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators (see Instant Replay, the Flyers took control of the game early only to watch it slip out of their grasp.

And though they managed to claw their way back and force overtime and an eventual shootout, it wasn’t enough.

“It kind of felt like we started watching, standing around and watching, after the first 10 minutes,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We played solid, and then they kept going and going and going, and they never let up and they had a solid back half of the first period, they played well. It was unfortunate.”

Brayden Schenn scored just 1:26 after the opening faceoff and the Flyers took a commanding lead in shots that they carried through most of the first period.

“We were talking about to have a good start,” Andrej Meszaros said. “I think we did, maybe the first 10 minutes. Then we started kind of backing out, and it wasn’t the same. They had a good forecheck and cycle game, and we couldn’t handle that.”

But winger Eric Nystrom tied the game during an ill-timed five-on-three just after the midpoint of the first period, and things largely went downhill for the Flyers after that. David Legwand’s goal moments later put the Predators up 2-1 -- that one was scored on the man advantage, too.

Penalties, in fact, interrupted the Flyers’ momentum all night.

“I think penalties kind of killed us,” Simmonds said. “We got that other penalty on the five-on-four, made it a five-on-three. It obviously sucks that that happened, but most likely they’re going to score and that’s what happened.”

The Flyers gave up two shorthanded goals after having entered the game on a stretch during which they killed 30 of their last 31 penalties.

But going just 1 for 4 on their own power-play chances obviously didn’t help either.

“They had a couple cycle shifts, then we took a couple penalties,” coach Craig Berube said. “They scored. Even before that, though, they had some cycles that I thought we didn’t do a very good job of eliminating. Too much time in our end. And I thought the same thing in the second period at times, where they had the puck too much in our end, we didn’t stop the cycle and it kind of sucks the life out of us a little bit.”

The “Comeback Kids” as they’ve played like lately didn’t fall back entirely on their heels, however, despite playing a rather disorganized brand of hockey all night. Andrej Meszaros tied the game at 2 with just five seconds left in the second period, and Simmonds forced overtime when he scored with just 1:24 left in regulation.

“The way the game was going, we had our chances,” Steve Mason said. “And we were able capitalize with about a minute to go, but we just weren’t able to get the second point.”

The shootout went seven rounds, with only Schenn and Sean Couturier besting Nashville goalie Carter Hutton. Matt Cullen, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi scored for the Predators.

The strong start is something to build off of, the Flyers know. As is the fact that they fought past a third-period deficit once again -- something that’s becoming routine these days.

And though they were so close to earning two points they could almost taste it, the Flyers know Thursday’s end result could have been much worse.

“At least we got one point,” Simmonds said. “Obviously you want to get two points, that’s the ideal situation. But when you’re coming from behind like that, which we shouldn’t have been, it happens. It’s better to get one point than nothing.”

Flyers regroup behind Steve Mason for big win over Wild

Flyers regroup behind Steve Mason for big win over Wild

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When Zach Parise scored for the Minnesota Wild just 2:07 into Thursday's game, the Flyers were in another difficult position on the road.

This time, they responded with the type of game they've needed on the road all season.

The Flyers scored three unanswered goals by Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek to beat Minnesota, 3-1, and snap a four-game losing streak on the road (see Instant Replay).

"They're a tough team to handle in their transition," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Parise's goal. "It's quick and it's fast. The players on the bench were outstanding, talking, real calm. Just go out and push it the other way the next shift and I thought we were able to do that."

The Flyers responded with one of their best efforts on the road in nearly two months and pulled within six points of Boston for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference (see standings). The Bruins lost, 6-3, at home to Tampa Bay.

Steve Mason made 24 saves in goal for his 100th win with the Flyers as the team was rarely challenged thanks to an all-around performance that has been missing on the road. The Flyers entered the night tied for the second-fewest road wins in the conference this season.

"Certain things on the road, you've got to be a little more specific with your game and detailed, and I think we did a better job of that tonight," said Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz, who returned to the arena where he played 10 seasons with Minnesota. "Everybody throughout the lineup did that and that's why we got a big win."

The beginning looked all too familiar, though.

An innocent looking dump-in slid to Mason, who tried to cover the puck. The puck went off his stick and Parise quickly poked it past Mason. The Wild had four quality chances early before the Flyers took control.

"They came hard early on in the game and to be able to match that speed; that was a completely different pace of game compared to what we came from in Winnipeg," Mason said. "So, it almost took a second to get your bearings straight to get up to speed."

The Flyers weathered the early flurry by Minnesota, which is safely in playoff position in the West but is facing its own late-season issues. The Flyers killed off both Wild penalties, allowing just two shots on the penalty kill.

Couturier's 12th goal of the season was critical in tying the game with 2:01 left in the first (see feature highlight).

"Coming into the room after the period, I think it's important when you get a big goal like that," captain Claude Giroux said. "You feel like you have the momentum a little bit, so it definitely helped us a lot."

Read provided the lead in the second and the Flyers, who are now 15-2-2 when leading after two periods, pressured in the third. They outshot the Wild, 9-4, in the final period.

"We didn't sit back," Hakstol said. "I thought we were confident with the puck and made some plays and spent a good amount of time in the offensive zone. We played with real confidence in our game."

Mason had been critical after the Flyers lost in Winnipeg on Tuesday, saying the team needed to be more desperate. The Flyers responded Thursday in the difficult position of being on the road and allowing the first goal.

"We knew we had to be better," Schultz said of Mason's comments. "I think on the road, you've got to be at least a .500 team and take care of business at home, and we haven't done that this year. So, obviously, we've got to get better and I think we did respond tonight. Now we have to build on it."

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Wild 1

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Wild 1

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A much-needed win for the Flyers came in an unlikely spot: on the road against one of the Western Conference's top teams.

Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek scored for the Flyers, and Steve Mason made 24 saves in a 3-1 win over the Wild on Thursday. It snapped a four-game winless streak on the road and kept the Flyers' playoff hopes alive.

Mason allowed an early goal to Zach Parise but recovered, and Couturier tied the game in the first. The Flyers responded as a whole and Read scored for the second time in an as many games, while Voracek had his first goal in 11 games with his 18th of the season.

Goalie report
Playing for the 11th time in 12 games, Mason was a little shaky at the start after not covering the puck twice and then coming far out of the cage, leading to a wraparound opportunity for Minnesota. But after Parise's goal -- one of the times Mason thought he had the puck covered -- the netminder was very steady. He didn't get out of position and allowed less than two goals for the fourth time in 12 games.

The victory marked Mason's 100th in a Flyers uniform. He is third in franchise history behind Ron Hextall (240) and Bernie Parent (232).

Faceoffs
The Flyers were dominant in the faceoff circle on Thursday, winning 61 percent of the draws.

Power play
The Flyers didn't take advantage of their one opportunity in the game as defenseman Ivan Provorov was called for a hooking penalty halfway through their lone power play. The Flyers are now 3 for 40 on the power play over the past 12 games.
 
Penalty kill
The penalty kill had one of its better performances in recent games. The Flyers killed off both penalties and allowed just two Minnesota shots in the three minutes of penalty time. Entering the game, the Flyers had allowed 10 goals in 28 occasions on the penalty kill in the previous nine games.

A small move
With the win, the Flyers were able to pull closer to the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston lost, 6-3, at home to Tampa Bay, allowing the Flyers to close within six points with nine games left. The Bruins have only eight games remaining. Two of the teams between Boston and the Flyers -- the Lightning and Hurricanes -- did win Thursday, while the Islanders were idle (see wild-card standings).

Lines change
Looking for a spark, three of the four lines were changed for Thursday's game. Claude Giroux centered Read and Voracek. Valtteri Filppula was between Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde. Coach Dave Hakstol kept the line of Brayden Schenn, Couturier and Dale Weise together.

Blue line return
Defenseman Brandon Manning made his return after missing five games with a shoulder injury.
 
Scratches
Forwards Nick Cousins (upper body) and Roman Lyubimov (healthy), and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (healthy).
 
Up next
The third game of the four-game road trip is Saturday at Columbus. The Flyers are 0-1-1 against the Blue Jackets this season, including a 5-3 loss at home on March 13.