Flyers don't show enough fight in loss to Rangers

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Flyers don't show enough fight in loss to Rangers

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK – Their coach, Craig Berube, put it best: The Flyers didn’t have enough fight.

Up against their divisional rivals the New York Rangers, in a building in which they haven’t won in more than three years, the Flyers simply didn’t have the necessary passion and energy to win a critical game.

They paid the price, losing one of their most important games of the season, 3-1 (see Instant Replay).

“Every game means a lot,” Berube said. “Teams are going to battle hard and we need to battle harder. We need everybody going, doing the right things out there. Tonight we didn’t have it. We didn’t have our best players playing tonight.”

Instead, the Flyers saw the Rangers’ Metropolitan Division lead over them grow to three points. The Flyers, after the loss, remained in third place. They’ve now lost back-to-back games after winning five in a row.

It’s the Rangers, in fact, who now lay claim to a five-game winning streak.

“They do the same thing every time,” Wayne Simmonds said, “The D got the puck, they sent three guys to the far blue line, and it is what it is. We didn’t reload well enough. We didn’t support the puck well enough. We didn’t bear down when we got our chances on [Henrik] Lundqvist.”

The Flyers will have to settle for a season series tie with the Rangers. They won two at home, but lost both games at the Garden, a building in which they’ve now lost eight in a row.

It didn’t have to turn out that way, though. The Flyers actually kept pace with the Rangers early, even outshooting them 15-6 in the first period. Though they trailed 1-0 thanks to Rangers winger Derek Dorsett’s first-period goal, it was after the first 20 minutes that things really started to go downhill for the Flyers.

“I thought the first period, we were good,” Berube said. “I think we played a pretty smart period in the first, did a lot of smart things. I thought we got outworked in the second period, especially on the walls. We weren’t very good on the walls.”

But right from the get-go in the second period, the Flyers were flat, Berube said. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh gave the Rangers a two-goal lead early in the period, and what little momentum the Flyers had seemed to dissipate entirely.

The Flyers went a stretch in the middle of the second during which they were outshot, 6-0.

“We got away from what was making us successful,” Steve Mason said. “You look at the intensity that we brought in games against Pittsburgh, and I just feel that it wasn’t there tonight. These are huge games for us, and for us to not come out with our best effort, we need better.”

Mason stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced. Across the ice, Lundqvist stopped 30 of 31. The Rangers’ defense proved to be too much for the Flyers. They struggled to hold on to the puck, turning it over far too much in the neutral zone especially.

The Rangers took a 3-0 lead midway through the third period on Dominic Moore’s goal that Mason never saw coming. And though Jakub Voracek saved the Flyers from being shut out -- on his 100th NHL career goal -- the little fight he showed wasn’t enough.

“We didn’t play our game,” Claude Giroux said. “It’s like we didn’t have any energy. Some lines did play well, did the right things. Our line wasn’t doing the right things out there, we were doing a lot of bad things.

“We’ve got to do a better job of getting ready and play better games.”

Claude Giroux's struggles mirroring Flyers' offensive issues

Claude Giroux's struggles mirroring Flyers' offensive issues

PITTSBURGH -- He was plus-1 with an assist.
 
No shots on goal and obviously, no goals.
 
Another day's useless energy spent by Flyers captain Claude Giroux, skating around the rink looking for the net and finding nothing but darkness.
 
He hasn't scored a goal in nine games, which is a major reason why the Flyers are 2-6-1 over that same span of time, including Saturday night's 4-2 loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field in the Stadium Series (see game recap).
 
Indoors, outdoors it makes no difference right now for Dave Hakstol's band of minstrels. As goes the captain, so go the Flyers, and it's rough sledding these days with the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference fast disappearing.
 
"Yeah, it’s frustrating," Giroux said this weekend. "You try to do the best you can do to help the team. Right now it’s not going in. I really believe we’re playing some good hockey, playing the right way and we’re going to get rewarded soon."
 
Asked whether he believed his own production is a mirrored reflection of the team he plays for, Giroux hedged.
 
"You try to play the right way, do what’s asked of you," he replied. "I've had a lot of chances, but at the end of the day, it has to go in. We’re done with excuses."
 
Thing is, Giroux really hasn’t had that many chances. Just 13 shots during this nine-game stretch. In four of those games, he had no shots at all.
 
Teammate Jakub Voracek says it’s going to come for Giroux. But when? Time is running out on the Flyers.
 
"He's always been a streaky player," Voracek said. "And not streaky that he's going to go on a tear for 10 games and then disappear for 10. He was streaky for 18 and then struggled for two, then he had another 20 games.
 
"It's only a matter of time. I think the last two games he played really well. For the guys who don't watch the hockey game, they look at the stat sheet and say, 'Oh, he didn't have any points.' But that's the way it is."
 
The Flyers used the word "desperation" before and after their outdoor loss to the Penguins. They played another pretty good overall game, but one thing stood out: they didn't make it difficult enough for Pens goalie Matt Murray in terms of traffic.
 
Pittsburgh's fourth goal was an example of what the Flyers couldn't do – screen out the goalie.
 
"I thought in the first couple periods we – not a whole lot, but I thought there were a few opportunities where we didn't make it difficult enough for [Murray] to find the puck," Hakstol said.
 
"But we had enough quality, no question. We did have good quality. Is it enough? Obviously tonight it wasn't. We didn't win the hockey game."
 
There were spurts where the Flyers carried the play, showed momentum, and then it died. When Shayne Gostisbehere made it a 3-2 affair early in the third, the Flyers needed to seize the moment. They didn't get the equalizer.
 
Eight minutes later, the Penguins scored from the point off a lost faceoff draw between Evgeni Malkin and Sean Couturier. Michal Neuvirth didn't see the puck soon enough. On Matt Cullen's wraparound goal that made it 3-1, Neuvirth was unaware.
 
Neuvirth wasn't very good in this game.
 
"There's no question they had two or three spurts where they carried some momentum for short periods of time, but I thought overall through the 60 minutes, our group did a good job and played the type of game that we wanted to play," Hakstol said.
 
Giroux was asked this weekend how much pressure he is putting on himself right now to salvage the Flyers' fading playoff hopes.
 
"It’s tough not to put a lot of pressure on yourself when it’s not going the right way," Giroux said. "At the end of the day, you have to take a step back and know what you’re playing for.
 
"I’ve been playing since I was three years old and I love the game so much, just try to go out and enjoy the game even if it’s not going your way. You have to find a way to love the game and play with passion."
 
You've seen the Flyers do that throughout all this losing – 3-7-1 in their last 11 – but passion doesn't always result in goals. Voracek had a goal in this game. His second in three games.
 
The Flyers need a bunch of guys to get going simultaneously like last season when they made their playoff charge. Over the last 16 games (6-9-1), the Flyers have scored just 25 goals. That's a bad trend that needs to be reversed immediately.
 
"Obviously, we haven't been able to score a whole lot," Hakstol said. "There's been a lot made of that. And you know what, fairly so. I think that's fair.
 
"Yet tonight, I look at the opportunities at this time of year, the type of opportunities and the number of opportunities that we generated were pretty reasonable.
 
"We've got to stick with it. We've gone through a tough stretch here, and through that stretch we've played for the vast majority, we've played some pretty good hockey.  ... We've got to make sure that we completely stay together as we have, and we've got to keep pushing the envelope."
 
Hakstol was pleading his case.
 
Whether he wins it, is another story.

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

As if Saturday night's deflating loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field wasn't enough, the Flyers could be coming out of the defeat minus a defenseman in the lineup.

Brandon Manning will have a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Monday morning for his hit on Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel during the second period of the Stadium Series game.

That means a suspension is looming.

Just over three minutes into the second stanza on Saturday, Guentzel tried to corral a bouncing puck as he exited the Penguins' zone. He did not see Manning, who flattened him with a huge hit.

While the hit did seem a bit late in real speed to the naked eye, no interference penalty was called and play continued. Manning did look to leave his feet to the deliver the hit and make contact with Guentzel's head, though, so both could work against him during the hearing.

Video of the hit in question can be seen above.

Guentzel was not injured on the play, stayed in the game and finished the evening with two assists.

Manning has a clean history as he has never been suspended in the NHL.

If Manning does get suspended by the league, Michael Del Zotto is likely to draw back into the Flyers' lineup Tuesday against visiting Colorado.

Del Zotto, who is a prime candidate to be moved before Wednesday's trade deadline, has sat out the past three games as a healthy scratch.