Flyers fall into 2-1 series hole with loss to Rangers

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Flyers fall into 2-1 series hole with loss to Rangers

Very little went right for the Flyers on Tuesday night in Game 3 of their Metropolitan Division semifinal playoff series against the Rangers.

Ray Emery, as usual, got little goal support. At the same time, he didn’t give his team much help with clutch saves.

The Flyers had zone time and 32 shots. Far too many were from the outside and didn’t represent any real threat to goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

And then there’s the matter of shot blocking. For the second time in three games, the Rangers frustrated the Flyers with their sticks. This time, they had 28 blocked shots.

It all added up to a 4-1 defeat, giving New York a 2-1 series lead while setting up a crucial Game 4 Friday for Craig Berube’s group (see Instant Replay).

“Everybody realizes it’s either 2-2 or 3-1 so, obviously, we want to win that game and move on,” Kimmo Timonen said.

“Disappointed, but that is playoff hockey. You lose a game, but you take the things you did good and the bad things and try to correct them and move on.”

For all that went wrong, there was a spell three minutes into the third period with the Flyers trailing 3-1 when Scott Hartnell got a brief look at the open left side of the Rangers' net and blasted a shot off of Lundqvist's stick and then the post with the puck ricocheting off the crossbar.

If Hartnell connects there, maybe the Flyers’ fate changes.

Competitively, the Flyers were not in it the remainder of the way and once Dan Carcillo, of all ex-Flyers, scored coming out of the penalty box, Berube yanked Emery for backup Steve Mason, who got 7:15 of time -- his first game action in 10 days.

Mason (whiplash/concussion) figures to start on Friday in Game 4 “if” he feels good enough.

“It’s been a while since I had some game action,” Mason said. “You can practice as much as you want but once the game rolls around, things happen quickly. You can’t control everything out there. It was pretty normal game out there.”

He said he’s ready for Game 4, too.

Question is, will the Flyers' power play be ready? After getting two goals in Game 2, it went 0 for 5 on Tuesday. On one man advantage, with the Flyers trailing 3-1, the Rangers blocked four shots and heads sagged.

They had four power-play shots overall. Special teams win a series and the Flyers aren’t getting consistency on their power play.

“They block a lot of shots, they’re pretty tight in front of the net and Lundqvist made a few good saves,” said Mark Streit, who had the Flyers' lone goal in the opening period after they again fell behind 2-0.

“We need to get pucks through. They’re good at blocking shots and it’s something we need to work on.”

Berube said his club did a better job getting pucks to Lundqvist, but not on the power play. Given how many there were in this game, it was a decisive factor in not taking advantage.

“The power play has got to get shots through and they didn’t,” Berube said.

Claude Giroux finally got his first two shots of the series, but the Flyers' top line with Hartnell and Jakub Voracek was outplayed and outscored by the Rangers' best unit of Derek Stepan, Rick Nash and Marty St. Louis. Stepan and St. Louis each have two goals in the series.

“We had a couple of good looks and just couldn’t bury them,” Voracek said. “They’re a very good team. When it’s 2-0, it’s very hard to come back. We did it last game but Lundqvist is one of the best goalies in the NHL and they are a very good road team.”

One of the things the Flyers were again unable to do is make East/West passes for one-timers, especially on the power play.

The Rangers just seem to have their sticks everywhere, cutting down passes, intercepting them, or at the very least, blocking them.

“We got to make sure the puck goes through,” Giroux said. “They did a very good job of blocking shots.”

Falling behind early twice now in the series is making things very difficult for the Flyers, while the Rangers have had far more dominant periods of play than them.

“That team plays really tight defense and blocks shot, so we would obviously like to have the first goal or even two,” Timonen said. “Sometimes it happens and we’ve come back 2-0 the last game. Obviously, we can’t do that every game.”

Best of NHL: Bruins snap 4-game skid, beat Islanders, move into playoff position

Best of NHL: Bruins snap 4-game skid, beat Islanders, move into playoff position

NEW YORK -- Riley Nash scored twice and backup goalie Anton Khudobin made 18 saves as the Boston Bruins beat the New York Islanders 2-1 Saturday night, snapping a four-game losing streak.

Nash broke a 1-1 tie with his second goal of the contest at 4:12 of the third period, beating Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss from the slot for his seventh goal of the season. Dominic Moore assisted on the decisive goal, which lifted Boston two points ahead of the Islanders for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

John Tavares scored for New York and Greiss finished with 16 saves.

Tavares had a golden chance to knot the score with just over six minutes left in the third period but rang the puck off the crossbar with the Islanders on their sixth power play of the game (see full recap).

Eichel, Sabres slow Leafs' push to clinch playoff berth
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored twice and set up another goal in the Buffalo Sabres' 5-2 win that slowed the youth-laden Toronto Maple Leafs' late-season surge to clinch a playoff berth.

Ryan O'Reilly and Dmitry Kulikov each had a goal and assist, and Evander Kane also scored in a game the Sabres took control of by scoring three straight times in the second period. Robin Lehner stopped 32 shots, and the Sabres continued their home dominance over their cross-border rivals by improving to 18-2-1 against Toronto in their last 21 games at Buffalo.

The Maple Leafs' hold on third-place in the Atlantic Division dwindled in having a three-game winning streak end and losing in regulation for just the second time in their past 10 (7-2-1). With 85 points, Toronto has a one-point edge over Boston after the Bruins beat the New York Islanders.

Auston Matthews scored his 34th to tie Toronto's single-season rookie record set by Wendel Clark in 1985-86. Connor Brown also scored for Toronto (see full recap).

Marchessault's hat trick helps Panthers blow out Blackhawks
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Jonathan Marchessault scored his first career hat trick, James Reimer stopped 25 shots for his first shutout of the season and the Florida Panthers routed the Chicago Blackhawks 7-0 on Saturday night.

Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and three assists, and Aleksander Barkov added a goal and two assists for Florida. Reilly Smith and Nick Bjugstad also scored to give the Panthers their largest margin of victory since an 8-0 win over Toronto on Feb. 5, 2008.

Marchessault had two goals in a 3-1 win over Arizona on Thursday. He has nine goals over his last nine games and leads the Panthers with 28.

Corey Crawford stopped 21 shots for the Blackhawks before being lifted at 4:59 of the third for Scott Darling, who allowed three goals on six shots.

Already leading 3-0, the Panthers poured in four goals in the third (see full recap).

Caps top Coyotes as Ovechkin reaches 30 goals for 12th straight season
WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin recorded his 30th goal of the season and Daniel Winnik scored two goals, including the game-winner late in the third period, as the Washington Capitals overcame listless stretches to beat the lowly Arizona Coyotes 4-1 on Saturday night.

Ovechkin became the third player in league history to score 30-plus goals in each of his first 12 seasons, joining Mike Gartner (15) and Wayne Gretzky (13).

Winnik scored with 4:39 remaining, Justin Williams added another goal not long and Winnik sealed the Capitals' fourth consecutive victory with an empty-netter.

Braden Holtby made 28 saves for Washington, which has won five of six to reach an NHL-leading 106 points and keep pace atop the competitive Metropolitan Division. The Capitals are three points up on the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Mike Smith stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced and Peter Holland scored the lone goal for Arizona (see full recap).

Flyers-Blue Jackets 10 observations: Strong effort not enough to overcome Sergei Bobrovsky

Flyers-Blue Jackets 10 observations: Strong effort not enough to overcome Sergei Bobrovsky

From Winnipeg to Minnesota to Columbus, the Flyers' final long road trip made its third stop Saturday afternoon in Ohio against a rather imposing Blue Jackets team.

The Blue Jackets clinched a playoff berth earlier in the week and in this one, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky earned his seventh shutout with a 1-0 victory -- his 40th this season, which is a career-high and a Columbus franchise record (see game story).

Dave Hakstol's team played a ferocious game -- two in succession now -- and demonstrated the urgency needed, even though its playoff odds took another turn for the worse.

The overall impact on the wild card remained temporarily unknown because of the Bruins-Islanders game to be played later Saturday night, but regardless of who wins, the Flyers will fall eight points out of the wild card.

The Flyers end their four-game road trip Sunday night in Pittsburgh in the back end of the back-to-back, where Steve Mason is expected to start in net.

Here are 10 things I think, I think.
 
1. Nationwide Arena hasn't been kind to the Flyers, who are now 0-5-5 in the building since December 2008. To say the Blue Jackets own the Flyers would be an understatement given they've won 13 of the last 15 games going back to Dec. 21, 2013.
 
2. Hakstol dusted off Michal Neuvirth for the front end of this back-to-back. Neuvirth's only start before Saturday was March 9 in Toronto, when Hakstol came under criticism for using him instead of riding Mason, who was on a 3-0-1 hot streak at the time. Saturday was just Neuvirth's third appearance in March, including in relief at New Jersey on March 16. He's been understandably rusty, yet he was very good in this game.
 
3. Hakstol, as he often does after a win, stuck with the same lineup he used during Thursday's 3-1 victory in Minnesota, which meant that rookie Travis Konecny -- who played less than 10 minutes against the Wild -- was again buried on the fourth line. He finished with 12:17 against the Blue Jackets.
 
4. Hakstol has pulled his goalie many times in the past with almost two minutes left on the clock. Why did he wait until the final 48 seconds Saturday to pull Neuvirth? What did he have to lose with a playoff berth on the line?
 
5. There is little question the Flyers' trading of Bobrovsky ranks among their top five worst trades in club history orchestrated just because of the team's enormous monetary commitment to Ilya Bryzgalov, who is chasing bears in the woods of South Jersey these days. All "Bob" has done in Columbus is win a Vezina Trophy and is the favorite for the award again this season. He is also among the candidates this season for the Hart Trophy. Bobrovsky came into the game 7-1 against the Flyers all-time with a 1.85 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. Bobrovsky had three saves on Wayne Simmonds alone in a scoreless first period and finished with 36 overall.
 
6. Nick Foligno has always been a Flyers killer over his career. The talented winger came into play with 21 points (14 goals) in 28 career games against the orange and black. The flyers shut him down Saturday, as Foligno had just two shots in the game.
 
7. The Flyers' penalty kill units were active with their sticks and attacking the puck on Columbus from all sides -- not allowing the Jackets a good setup. Ian Laperriere's PK units improved toward the end of this trip. The Blue Jackets were 0 for 2.
 
8. An unfortunate break of the stick for Simmonds led to Columbus' only goal late in the second period off an Alex Wennberg redirection. If Simmonds had his stick, Kyle Quincey doesn't outreach him for the puck near the blue line. Instead, it's a shot on net that's deflected for the eventual game-winner.
 
9. The Flyers' second power-play unit with Jordan Weal and Konecny produced four shots in the closing minutes of that second period, but again Bobrovsky was the ultimate difference then and in the final eight seconds with a save on Jakub Voracek and subsequent rebound scrum in front. Joey Mullen's power play has collapsed at the end -- 3 for 43 during the month of March. It was 0 for 3 in this game.
 
10. No criticism of the Flyers in this one. They did everything they could to win. That's all you can ask against a goalie that outright owns you. Again, however, the level of desperation they showed in this and the Wild loss should have been exhibited over a month ago.