Flyers continue to get hurt by shorthanded goals

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Flyers continue to get hurt by shorthanded goals

ANAHEIM, Calif. -– The Flyers have a pretty good power play.

Yet, for some reason they’re giving up shorthanded goals this season.

The Flyers are now tied with Edmonton for the dubious league leadership after yielding a ninth shortie on Thursday during a 5-3 loss to the Ducks at Honda Center (see game recap).

Thursday's shorthanded goal was pivotal because the Ducks were clutching onto a 3-2 lead in the final period. Kimmo Timonen’s pass was picked off by Saku Koivu and became a goal by Daniel Winnik at the other end.

“I make that pass 1,000 times,” Timonen said. “He made a nice reach. It’s my bad.”

Goalie Steve Mason said the ice was terrible at that point but not impossible. Mark Streit said it was so bad he needed a tennis racquet to handle the puck.

“It wasn’t anything to do with the ice,” Timonen said. “I have to make that pass.”

So why are the Flyers giving up so many shorthanded goals?

“We got one defenseman and four forwards, that’s probably one of the issues,” Timonen said. “But we also score a lot of goals.”

Coach Craig Berube says it’s execution.

“There’s always something that can be done,” Berube said. “The setup sometimes, if you don’t execute, they are going to get odd-man rushes. We got to do a better job of executing.”

Jakub Voracek isn’t sure what the problem is either.

“We’re playing the umbrella, [it's] just one bad pass, a fumble or they pick it or it bounces and it’s 2-1. Depends on the plays,” said Voracek, who is often on the point and was there on this goal, too.

“They make a play and make it happen. The ice was bad but I wouldn’t blame it on the ice. We still have to make those plays. Sometimes mistakes happen at a bad time.”

That was the worst time.

“It’s really hurting us,” Mason said.

There were a couple of other things in the game that were just as significant. A midair save by goalie Frederik Andersen on Vinny Lecavalier stood out. Another was the Flyers' giving up a goal in the final 35.1 seconds of the first period when it was a 1-1 game.

Still, if the Flyers score there on the power play, it’s tied and who knows what the outcome is.

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."