Flyers can't overcome 2nd period in Game 7 loss

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Flyers can't overcome 2nd period in Game 7 loss

NEW YORK – With their backs against the wall a day ago at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers came alive in the second period, scoring three goals and commanding control of the game to keep their playoff hopes alive.

But Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, it was the second period that lost them the game. They all but fell apart entirely in the middle stanza of Game 7, giving up the only two goals the New York Rangers needed to win the game 2-1 (see story).

Largely because of what transpired in those 20 minutes, it is the Rangers, and not the Flyers, who will move on in the playoffs to face the Pittsburgh Penguins.

What a difference 24 hours can make.

“You look at the 60 minutes of the game, and the second period was what really cost us,” Steve Mason said.

The Flyers entered the period holding tight to the game’s momentum. They had a solid start in the first period -- stronger than any of the series’ preceding six games. They just couldn’t keep it going long enough.

The were outshot by the Rangers, 18-5, in the second period. Their overwhelming lead in faceoff wins evaporated. They had looked so strong during 5-on-5 play for the first time all series early on, but right from the start of the second period, they suddenly were outplayed at even strength.

“In the second period, they took it to us,” Mason said. “We had trouble breaking out of our own zone, they had odd-man rushes and we seemed to be spinning our legs and nothing was happening.”

The Flyers failed twice in the period to capitalize on power-play opportunities. But more than that, they actually gave the Rangers shorthanded chances and seemed to fall flat when each man advantage expired.

That was certainly the case on Dan Carcillo’s goal that gave the Rangers the 1-0 lead.

“When they got that goal, it was after a power play that wasn’t very good,” coach Craig Berube said. “They ended up getting a chance shorthanded off it, and we kind of went back on our heels.

“We didn’t do a very good job in the second period of making plays and getting the puck out of our end and we let them win the game in the second period.”

The Rangers’ second goal, knocked home by Benoit Pouliot about eight minutes later, all but solidified the end of the Flyers’ season. It was as simple as that, Jakub Voracek said.

“They had a couple chances, they buried two goals,” he said. “They had a couple chances, we didn’t. It was a big difference.”

The Flyers’ second-period frustrations were perhaps best exemplified by the one solid chance they had to beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with about four minutes left.

Claude Giroux had a perfect chance to best the Rangers’ goalie, teed up his shot … and sent the puck over the net.

“I was just trying to get away from the D,” Giroux said. “Not sure if he got his stick on it. Just trying to put it high because the goalie was low. I tried to shoot it high.”

He missed. The Rangers carried their 2-0 lead into the third period.

The Flyers’ late-game efforts weren’t enough. Though they were “positive” they would be able to tie the game up and force overtime in the third period, Giroux said, they simply couldn’t work past the 20 minutes of the game they threw away.

Rookie Jason Akeson scored a few minutes intp the third, but the Rangers clamped down on their lead, and the Flyers could do nothing but watch their season come to a premature end.

“We get a pretty big goal in the third early,” Voracek said. “We had a very good third period, we had a good push.

“But it was too late.”

Flyers' disallowed early goal costly for team struggling to score

Flyers' disallowed early goal costly for team struggling to score

It was just pouring out of Flyers swing forward Dale Weise after Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.

A disallowed goal because of him.

A strong game in every respect from his teammates.

A realization that things never seem to change for Dave Hakstol’s club.

“We come out with a great start,” Weise said. “Get on the forecheck. The building is lively. We score what we think is a first goal which we haven’t done a lot this year.

“I’m not going to say it’s a game-changer. Whatever it was, it didn’t end the game. But that’s a pretty big part of the game.” 

Weise ended up grabbing Caps goalie Braden Holtby. He said he did so for support or he would have knocked him over since he was trying to position his stick.

Funny things is, Holtby apparently never felt the contact. When the Caps challenged Jakub Voracek’s goal on the first shift of the game, it was overturned.

“Yeah, I obviously didn’t see the interference part I just kind of followed the puck and next thing I know it was kind of out of the play so a little fortunate, a great call by our video coaches,” Holtby said.

Weise wasn’t sure what he did amounted to much because it happened before Voracek’s shot and not during the act of shooting that would have prevented Holtby from getting position.

“To be really honest with you I don’t think I really touched him that hard,” Weise said.

Goals are so hard to come by these days for the Flyers. To score one a half-minute into play in a huge rivalry game, with them so desperate for points, and then to lose the goal and the momentum early, it becomes a significant event in the overall outcome.

The Caps made the most of their chances. Just like Calgary did last week.

“Winning and losing is so thin in this league and when you’re playing a team like that who just has loads of offensive talent, you give them one, two opportunities and they score on it,” Weise said.

“For a team like us that doesn’t score very often, that’s tough. We are playing behind the eight ball every night. It’s frustrating. I’m not going to lie and say it’s not in our head when we get down because you can see the way we play.

“We’re gripping the sticks. I really liked our effort though. I thought we played hard the whole night. Full marks to our team but it’s just kind of the same story every night.”

It’s trite but the term “snake bit” has been used a lot lately in talking about the Flyers since their 10-game win streak ended.

“That’s a good way to put it,” Weise said. “Look at that one there. Touch the goalie, goal disallowed. [Ivan Provorov] hits the cross bar. We had a couple other chances in tight. Snake bitten, I don’t even know if there’s a word for how I feel right now.”

It doesn’t get any easier this weekend with the Flyers' playing in their first outdoor game in five seasons.

Another even more bitter rival: the Penguins at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field on Saturday night. Taking two from the Pens will require a supreme effort and maybe a little luck for a change. The Flyers have been real short on luck all season.

The Flyers' dressing room after games, of late, has the feel of a morgue sometimes. Over the last 10 games, the Flyers have seven losses (including overtime). In six of those losses, they have scored one goal or no goals.

“We got a pretty positive group in here,” Weise said. “We try our best to come in every day and be positive. It’s a tough situation right now. Every day we’re fighting for our playoff life so that’s in the back of everyone’s mind.

“It makes it more frustrating when you’re playing, so well. I thought we played a pretty good game tonight. That goal disallowed we come right back. They make it two nothing on the power play.

“We kept going. We played well. We had a lot of chances. Good start to the second period again. We came out strong but we just can’t seem to finish.”

Veteran defenseman Mark Streit said they're playing well, but losing doesn’t make up ground in the standings. The Flyers remain three points out of the wild card going into the weekend.

Of their remaining 22 games, 19 are against the Eastern Conference, so mathematically, they have a chance to recoup points.

“We keep telling that we’ve been playing pretty well but lose a lot of hockey games,” Streit said. “We just got to find a way ...

“We have to find a way to turn it around, to get the bounces, just to get a little bit lucky out there, and to get the ugly goal. It’s tough. It’s frustrating. But it’s also the bloody truth.” 

Flyers gearing up for first outdoor game since 2012

Flyers gearing up for first outdoor game since 2012

It’s been five years since the Flyers played an NHL game outdoors: the 2012 Winter Classic.

Seems like yesterday, doesn’t it?

Citizens Bank Park. The day after New Year’s. Sun beating down amid 40-degree temperatures and the game being moved back to 3:30 p.m. to assure better ice.

Well, it’s going to happen again Saturday night at Heinz Field as the Flyers meet the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL’s Stadium Series.

Dave Hakstol’s team will practice Thursday morning at Skate Zone, fly to Pittsburgh, then practice Friday at 5 p.m. on the outdoor ice.

Seven current Flyers played in the 2012 Winter Classic: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Brayden Schenn and Michael Del Zotto, who played for the Rangers.

“It was kinda fun,” Del Zotto said this week. “Wasn’t that when [Danny] Briere had that penalty shot at the end? How much time was left? Couple seconds?”

More than that. There were 19.6 ticks left when Briere was foiled by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in a 3-2 loss, in which Mike Rupp, of all players, scored twice on Sergei Bobrovsky.

Even worse, the Flyers blew an early 2-0 lead.

“It was a ton of fun, just awesome,” Del Zotto recalled. “You try not to get too hyped up in the moment. That one, our first one and one of the first they had done. So much fun. It bring you back to your roots.

“For me, growing up, I had a backyard rink. I remember it was like yesterday being on that thing. All day every day I had a chance. But we also have to realize it’s a huge game for us. It’s a four-point game. Although it is outdoors or indoors, we need those points.”

Things could be rather wet. For starters, the temperature in Pittsburgh is supposed to hit 77 degrees on Friday. That could severely affect the Penguins skate at 2:30, the Flyers practice later and their family skate, as well.

Then on Saturday, the temperature drops into the low 40s but not before some significant rain. When the Penguins hosted the Washington Capitals in the 2011 Winter Classic, it rained but the ice didn’t melt.

“I'm sure they will do the best they can to have it ready,” Del Zotto said. “Unless it is really cold, the ice is always going to be chippy playing outdoors

“It doesn’t matter what the ice conditions are because both teams are playing with it. It’s not an advantage or disadvantage for either team. Both have to deal with it.”

In all, there are 14 Flyers, who have participated in an outdoor game either in the NHL, AHL, Europe or in college, during their lifetime.

Most of them say the hardest thing to get used to is ocular – looking through the glass and not seeing the fans. It’s like playing in an open environment all around you without people.

“It’s a little bit different, but you get used to it,” Del Zotto said. “After the anthem, you kinda get used to it. From there on, the game is going on and the crowd, you zone them out. You don’t even hear them and just focus on the game.”