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.

Flyers suffer deflating outdoor loss to Penguins, fall in playoff picture

Flyers suffer deflating outdoor loss to Penguins, fall in playoff picture

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH – They won the battle inside the faceoff circle. Outshot their opponent badly. Blocked more shots, too.

And the Flyers still lost. Sound familiar?

Saturday's 4-2 defeat (see Instant Replay) to the Penguins at Heinz Field in the Stadium Series outdoor game likely confirms for general manager Ron Hextall it’s time to be a seller at the trade deadline with a playoff berth seemingly out of sight.

"We gotta score goals. We got good opportunities, but it’s getting old," Jakub Voracek lamented. "If we don’t find a way to win a game, nobody cares."

Not enough scoring from their pop-gun offense, which now has just 25 goals over their last 16 games. Which is a major reason why they've lost seven of their last nine.

"It's that cliché, gripping your stick and I don’t like to use that," Voracek said. "The bottom line, if we want to make the playoffs we got to score the goals. We're not scoring."

It was 36 degrees at puck drop and there were swirling wind gusts. Players said the first period was tough, but they adjusted as the game went on.

"It feels good. It feels awesome," Wayne Simmonds said. "It's the way ice hockey should be played."

So should a few wins with this club and it's not happening. They play well enough to win but ...

"We got to get going here," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We're [five] points back and that's the biggest thing and it's in all of our heads now. It's getting down to not a lot of games left and we've got to get two points."

Goalie Michal Neuvirth did not have a strong game facing 29 shots.

"We walk away with the wrong result," coach Dave Hakstol said. "We have a day in-between to turn the page and get back at it."

Things began Pittsburgh's way with Sidney Crosby scoring at 11:18, sneaking to the low right slot near the goal line to take a perfect pass from Jake Guentzel and one-time into the far side on Neuvirth for his 34th goal.

Brayden Schenn, centering a new line with Nick Cousins and Jakub Voracek, had a solid scoring chance in the final minute of the period, but Pens goalie Matt Murray turned his shot aside. Murray also had two good saves on Sean Couturier earlier from in-tight.

Nick Bonino, one of the heroes from the Stanley Cup Final last season, made it 2-0 at 6:44 of the second period on the power play. He scored almost from the same spot where Crosby scored.

Minutes earlier, Guenztel took a questionable hit to the head area from Brandon Manning which the Penguins felt was illegal (see video). Pittsburgh came back with Chris Kunitz rocking Ivan Provorov two shifts later.

Manning’s hit energized the Flyers, who owned the second period.

Hours before the game, Voracek said what most people were already thinking.

"I would expect this to be the biggest game of the year," he said. "You look at the standings. We can’t afford to lose."

Voracek wasn't kidding when he said the Flyers needed to do something here. He went behind the net 4-on-4 with Justin Schultz and came around the front with the puck to muscle it past Murray at 11:14, cutting the Flyers deficit in half.

Voracek's goal, his second in three games, gave the Flyers even more of a lift and they made a strong push to tie the game before the period ended.

"We spent a lot of time in their zone and we were very strong on the forecheck," Voracek said. "We had comebacks early in the season … but two penalties in the end, it's tough … How do you rebound? You have no choice. We're not out. We have to start winning."

The Flyers killed off a carryover penalty to start the third but immediately after, the Pens got a strong forecheck with Eric Fehr behind the net, getting the puck over to 40-year-old Matt Cullen, who snuck up on Neuvirth and stunned him with a wraparound.

That was a terribly costly goal and made it 3-1 but Gostisbehere got it right back minutes later with his first goal in 34 games off a point shot during the power play.

It was as close as the Flyers got. Pittsburgh scored off a faceoff to make it 4-2 in the final six minutes. Sean Couturier lost a draw to Evgeni Malkin and the Pens scored off a point drive Neuvirth couldn't find.

"That was deflating," Gostisbehere said. "We can be sad for ourselves all we want … bad bounces or we can say, 'well, it's lucky.' But you know, it keeps happening for a reason."

Instant Replay: Flyers fall in Stadium Series to Penguins, 4-2

Instant Replay: Flyers fall in Stadium Series to Penguins, 4-2

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH – The Flyers still haven't won an outdoor hockey game.

They dropped to 0-2-1 lifetime after Saturday night’s highly-competitive 4-2 loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field in the NHL’s Stadium Series.

Given the Flyers came into play five points out of the wild card and desperate for points, this was a fairly significant loss and sixth in their last eight games.

Shayne Gostisbehere's power play goal drew the Flyers to 3-2 at 6:48 in the third period, but the Pens scored a late goal off a faceoff to put it away.

Michal Neuvirth did not have a very strong outdoor showing.

Questionable hit
The Penguins thought Brandon Manning hit Jake Guentzel with a high elbow to the chin in the second period (see video). You can be sure the NHL will review it on Sunday.

Numbers
As cool as the Flyers' jerseys looked, it was nearly impossible to identify numbers from the press box because they blend into the jersey. White numbers would have been better for ID purposes.

Notable goals
Sidney Crosby's opening goal at 11:18 of the first period was his 36th lifetime against the Flyers in 57 games.

Goalie report
Matt Murray played well. Not much Neuvirth could do on the Pens' first two goals but clearly he fell asleep on Matt Cullen's critical wraparound goal early in the third period that made it 3-1.

Power play
Flyers had one good chance on their first power play with a shot from Mark Streit from the circle on Murray. Gostisbehere made it 3-2 with his first goal in 34 games from the point. Flyers were 1 for 4. 

Penalty kill
Penguins got a power play goal from Nick Bonino in the second period that made it 2-0, off a Guentzel assist, his second in the game.  Pens were 1 for 5.

Injuries
Michael Raffl was speared by Evgeni Malkin in the second period without a call. He limped to the bench but stayed in the game.

Fights
There was a scrum between Dale Weise and Chris Kunitz in the second period.

Scratches
Defensemen Nick Schultz and Michael Del Zotto – both healthy; forward Travis Konecny (knee and ankle).

Up next
Flyers are off on Sunday and resume practice Monday at Skate Zone. They will host Colorado on Tuesday.