Flyers-Devils 10 observations: An inexcusable lack of fight

Flyers-Devils 10 observations: An inexcusable lack of fight

Ten things I think, I think after the Flyers' complete meltdown at Prudential Center at the hands of the New Jersey Devils, 6-2 (see game recap).
 
Obviously, the Flyers' wild-card hopes took a major hit when goalie Steve Mason exited with cramps after trying to make a save on Taylor Hall's breakaway goal in the third period.
 
Yet the effort in front of him even before the injury was appalling for a team that claims it wants to win the wild card.

Dave Hakstol's club showed more fight after the game than during regulation. That's inexcusable, even considering it was on the second night of back-to-back games.
 
1. This was a classic case of the Flyers' playing down to the competition a night after they kicked the Pittsburgh Penguins around the rink. The Devils, who aren't playoff-bound, were the hungrier team while the Flyers were too docile. New Jersey played with the kind of desperation that the Flyers should have shown given their place in the wild-card standings. Simply put, it's inexcusable and it's a reason why they won't make the playoff cut with 12 games left.
 
2. What is it about the Devils' penalty kill that simply frustrates the hell out of the Flyers? Hakstol's bunch is now 0 for 12 against New Jersey this season. After all, the Devils' PK units are just barely better than the Flyers' – 19th in the NHL. There's no rationale for the Flyers not scoring against them.
 
3. Hard to believe Harry, but John Hynes' Devils came into play having lost 10 consecutive games (0-8-2) and yet they came out challenging the Flyers. Truth is, this is a rivalry going back to the Meadowlands where New Jersey always showed up against the Flyers on home ice, regardless of where either team was in the standings.
 
4. The Flyers have had some issues this season with teams scoring off the faceoff against them. It happened recently at home against Columbus and it reoccurred against the Devils late in the first period when Travis Zajac won a faceoff from Valtteri Filppula. Kyle Palmieri came out of a pile in the high slot for a screen shot that Mason had trouble finding. That tied the game 1-1 when the Flyers should have gone into the intermission with a lead. Between the time the Flyers scored first and got their next shot, 11 minutes had elapsed.
 
5. Rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov has been the club's best defenseman this season. Like all young D-men, he makes mistakes. Most of them are turnovers. He had a bad one in the opening minutes against Pittsburgh on Wednesday and Mason had to make a save on Conor Sheary. Provorov made an uncharacteristic lazy-stick play in the second period behind his own net in New Jersey and the Devils' Adam Henrique jumped all over it for a go-ahead goal, 2-1.
 
6. The Devils' Joseph Blandisi scored a power-play goal for a 3-1 lead. New Jersey has 10 power-play goals against the Flyers' sagging penalty-kill units this season. Ten!
 
7. Zajac's line with Hall and Palmieri had a dominant game against the Flyers with two goals and two assists. The six goals by Jersey were a season-high.
 
8. The Flyers came back in the second half of the middle stanza to play better. Yet the fact that the Devils were outplaying them from the get-go is disconcerting given New Jersey is going nowhere and the Flyers are still mathematically alive in the wild-card chase. The Flyers had no shots through the first eight minutes of the third period. Where's the urgency?
 
9. Michal Neuvirth came off the bench when Mason got hurt and immediately was tested. This is where you need a save badly. Instead, Henrique put the game away at 5-2.
 
10. The total inconsistency of the Flyers with a brilliant effort against their most hated rival, followed by a tepid one against a team that is far below them, says volumes about their playoff aspirations or lack thereof.

Best of NHL: Nikita Kucherov hat trick lifts Lightning over Bruins

Best of NHL: Nikita Kucherov hat trick lifts Lightning over Bruins

BOSTON -- Nikita Kucherov had his third career hat trick to lead Tampa Bay to a 6-3 victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, snapping the Lightning's three-game losing streak.

Jonathan Drouin had a goal and two assists, Brayden Point had a goal and an assist and Anton Stralman also scored to help the Lightning pull three points behind the Bruins for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Peter Budaj finished with 28 saves for the Lightning to earn his 29th win of the season. Ondrej Palat had three assists, and Jake Dotchin and Victor Hedman added two each.

Riley Nashy had a goal and an assist for Boston, and David Pastrnak and Zdeno Chara also scored. Tuukka Rask stopped 23 shots as Boston, which won seven of the first eight games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, has now lost four straight and six of 11 (see full recap).

Oshie beats Bobrovsky to give Caps SO win
WASHINGTON -- T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington's 35th shot of the game. Orlov's goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead (see full recap).

Senators take down Penguins in shootout
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan scored in the shootout to lift the Ottawa Senators to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

Mike Hoffman scored in regulation for the Senators and Mike Condon finished with 34 saves, including two incredible point-blank stops in overtime to keep the game going.

Nick Bonino had the goal in regulation for the Penguins and Matt Murray stopped 29 shots.

After being outplayed for much of the first two periods, the Senators were much better in the third and tied the score 1-1 on the power play at 9:43 as Hoffman beat Murray over the shoulder with a wrist shot just 14 seconds after Matt Cullen was penalized for holding (see full recap).

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."