Flyers give up lead in shootout loss to Panthers

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Flyers give up lead in shootout loss to Panthers

BOX SCORE

A listless start.

And two wasted power-play chances in the third period in which the best the Flyers could muster was one puny shot.

Twice now, the Flyers have had a chance to piece together a three-game winning streak.

Twice they’ve failed.

All the good vibes from Tuesday’s thrilling victory over Tampa Bay faded into the cold air Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center against a far lesser opponent, as the Florida Panthers won 3-2 in a shootout.

“We need to find a way to show up, especially at home in the first period. It’s huge,” Flyer captain Claude Giroux said.

“We need those points right now and we’re a desperate team at the start of the season, so we need those points.”

They need to stockpile some points before heading to Canada for back-to-back games next week against Toronto and Winnipeg. So picking up at least one was important.

Yet, you don’t want to be looking back in April and seeing how you threw points away against Buffalo, Washington and Florida when they were there for the taking.

Panther rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, age 19, won it during the shootout, the only part of Ilya Bryzgalov’s game that remains poor from a year ago.

“Sometimes guys, you gotta give them credit,” Bryzgalov said of Huberdeau’s backhand/forehand move. “They are skilled and working on some moves.”

Most of the Flyers placed the blame on a tepid opening period.

“I think that has been the story all year,” Matt Read said. “I don’t know what it is or how to fix it, but we have been coming out flat every game.

“Against Tampa Bay it was the first time we came out and we took control after the opening faceoff and we have to learn from that and take it to teams right away.”

Danny Briere said the leadership group talked specifically about building off the Tampa win and not allowing an early letdown against the Panthers, especially in the first period.

“We were a little slow out of the game and gave them the momentum they needed,” Briere said. “Instead of being on the offense, we were on our heels. Maybe if we come out better we jump to a 1-0 lead instead of playing from behind. The first period I’d like to have back.”

How does it happen after such a competitive game two days earlier?

“You play such a high-tempo game with a lot of emotion, it’s tough to come back right away with the same kind of effort,” Briere said. “You see it all the time, everywhere.

“We tried to warn about it -- everybody was talking about it today. Tough to find that jump in emotion.”

The Flyers had some untimely penalties in this one. Like a tripping call on Bruno Gervais near the mid-point of the third period, leading 2-1.

Steven Weiss used what appeared to be a partial screen to go top shelf and tie it. The Flyers had killed off 17 of 18 power plays until that point.

Even then, the Flyers had two power plays in the final nine minutes, yet failed to mount a really serious challenge on Jose Theodore.

That, too, was pivotal.

“We just couldn’t get the pucks to settle down,” Read said. “Both units out there … too much of the puck going along the wall and we couldn’t get it set up. When we did get it set up we weren’t just making the simple plays and getting pucks to the net.

“I think at a time like that when it’s a tie game, late in the game, we’ve got to get pucks to the net and look for rebounds, a dirty goal. It just didn’t happen for us tonight and we have to keep working on that and learn how to close out games.”

Mike Knuble felt the same way.

“The guys on the second unit, myself included, we couldn’t quite get a handle on it, but when things are going your way that’s how you improve your spot in the standings, capitalizing right there, being timely, like a timely goal,” he said.

“Real timely situation for us to score and pull out a win with five or six minutes left. It’s frustrating to not be able to manufacture more. We’ve manufactured a lot in the overtime and had a great overtime and probably deserved a little bit better in that.”

The Panthers had more bite this time as Weiss and Kris Versteeg were back in their lineup. Both were injured during the 7-1 loss to the Flyers on Jan. 26.

Peter Laviolette talked about a carryover of an excellent all-around game, yet that didn’t happen. No energy, no jam, no nothing at the start.

So which was worse? The start or two, wasted third-period power plays?

“Well, I don’t think you want either one of them,” Laviolette said. “You know you want your power play to be effective and there were some good looks, not the ones in the third period.

“And certainly I don’t think it had the same tempo as the second period, parts of the third period and the overtime. The first period in general just seemed quiet. Both sides.”

Jack Skille made it 1-0 at 10:52 on a shot that bounced under Bryzgalov -- a soft goal.

The only redeeming part of the period came at 11:44 when Jakub Voracek tied it with a power-play goal.

He faked ever so short from the right circle, then unloaded into the net off an assist from Kimmo Timonen, who agreed to a one-year contract extension for $6 million on Thursday (see story).

Other than that, nothing that period.

The overall intensity on both sides picked up in the second period as did Bryzgalov’s play. He faced eight shots and most of them were quality in nature.

It also helped that the Flyers took the lead at 2:42 on Read’s fourth goal of the season against Florida.

Credit Knuble for doing some tough digging at the net, standing his ground at the right post, trying to tuck it under Theodore.

The puck squirted out near the circle where Read popped it into the net, making it 2-1.

Bryzgalov had several good saves in the second half of that period, including one on Shawn Mattias and two on Brian Campbell. He also had a nifty shorthanded save on Marcel Goc, as well.

“We had opportunities to get the point and we did not find success,” Bryzgalov said. “Bottom line.”

Loose pucks
The Flyers were 4-7 in shootouts last season. Including this loss, they are 23-42 in 65 shootouts all-time.

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: The expansion draft, who to protect and best guesses at Vegas' selection.

Dougherty
We have and will continue to discuss in detail the entry draft, but we haven't talked much about the June 21 expansion draft. That's what we're doing today.

The expansion draft will affect the Flyers' plans this summer because they will be losing a player to Vegas, but the impact will be a minimum. They will not lose any core pieces.

How the expansion draft works: Teams have two options in protecting players. They can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie. The expectation is the Flyers will protect seven forwards, three D-men and a goalie.

There are six forwards and two defensemen who are obvious protections: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Valtteri Filppula, Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are exempt.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will have decisions to make on who the seventh forward and third defenseman he protects. Then there is the goalie protection.

That leaves forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nick Cousins, Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Jordan Weal and Dale Weise; and defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning.

Losing any of those six forwards would not be major blows to the Flyers. Now on the blue line, it gets interesting. My prediction is that the Flyers will choose to protect Manning with the hope Vegas takes MacDonald's contract.

Probably isn't going to happen.

Of the goalies, I don't think Vegas will have any interest in Anthony Stolarz, especially since he tore his right MCL in April. So that should cut the question here. That would mean the Flyers protect Michal Neuvirth, whom they signed to a two-year extension.

So what is my best guess at who Vegas plucks from the Flyers?

I think it will be a toss-up between Laughton and Raffl. I suspect the Flyers will re-sign Weal before the draft and then protect him, or have a verbal understanding they'll sign him after the expansion draft. Both parties appeared interested in him coming back.

My pick? Let's go with Laughton, a former first-round pick who turns 23 on Tuesday.

Laughton hasn't panned out as the Flyers hoped. He spent last season in Lehigh Valley and both Leier and Weal earned call-ups over him. I think that is a telling sign here.

So I'm predicting Laughton going to Vegas, where a change of scenery helps him out and the Golden Knights get a young forward that can slot into a third- or fourth-line role and still has upside.

Hall
There's a lot to the expansion draft — tons of possibilities and things can still change before June 21 that could impact the Flyers' decisions.

Albeit unlikely, Steve Mason could re-sign, which would obviously affect the Flyers' protection plan at goalie. Assuming that doesn't happen, I think the Flyers protect Neuvirth, especially considering Stolarz's health is in question this offseason and he may not be the true goalie of the future. Stolarz is also a pending restricted free agent, so he'll have to receive his qualifying offer from the Flyers before the expansion draft.

Now, let's say the Flyers go with the seven-forward, three-defensemen approach.

The blueliners are pretty clear: Gostisbehere and Gudas will be protected, as it comes down to MacDonald and Manning. I feel the organization thinks a bit more of MacDonald and his versatility compared to Manning, whose two-year deal last summer was likely strategic on the Flyers' part in planning for this expansion draft.

As for the forwards, Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn, Filppula and Couturier are staying put. I believe Weal will be re-signed and protected.

Ultimately, I could see Raffl being Vegas' choice. At 28 years old, he's not super young or inexperienced, but also not old by any means, and the winger can play all four lines because of a well-rounded game that complements different styles.

Raffl's injuries last season (abdominal, knee) may cause red flags. At the same time, the Golden Knights should be intrigued by the two seasons prior in which Raffl played all 82 games of 2015-16 (and was a plus-9) after scoring a career-high 21 goals in 2014-15.

A loss of Raffl wouldn't be ideal, but not as damaging given the Flyers appear to be gaining more depth and youth at forward.

Paone
June 21's expansion draft will be the biggest wild card of the NHL summer. And that's not just some corny pun because it involves an expansion team from Vegas.

It'll be the first piece of player movement during the offseason, coming before the entry draft and free agency. But since it will be the first piece of player movement of the offseason, it will help mold how the Flyers and the rest of the teams around the league approach their summers.

None of the Flyers' "big guns" will be on the move and my gut tells me the Flyers will be protecting Neuvirth as they want him to shoulder the starting load this coming season.

We don't know exactly what Vegas is looking for in the expansion draft because general manager George McPhee is keeping that close to the vest. But if I'm the Golden Knights' GM, youth is at the top of my wish list.

That leaves three Flyers to stick out in my mind — Weal (25), Cousins (turns 24 in June) and Laughton (turns 23 on Tuesday).

After the sparkplug Weal was down the stretch with eight goals and four assists in 23 games, the Flyers should reach a new deal with the UFA and keep him in Philadelphia.

That leaves Cousins and Laughton.

My instinct tells me Vegas will gamble (sorry, still getting used to this whole Vegas having a team thing) on Laughton, a former first-round pick.

There's a reason he was a first-rounder in 2012. The guy can play, even if he hasn't shown it consistently in Philadelphia. But remember he's been yanked back and forth between the AHL and NHL on numerous occasions and when he's been with the big club, he's either been in the press box as a scratch or been tossed back and forth between center and wing. That constant instability in both level and position can be detrimental to a young player. Vegas would give Laughton a fresh start, a fresh home and some fresh stability.

Plus, I know there are only so many protections to go around, but Cousins is a guy the Flyers should want to keep around. Just 16 points (six points, 10 assists) in 60 games isn't good enough offensively, but not many Flyers were great offensively last season. Everyone needs to be better there. But Cousins has that pest intangible that can be so effective, especially in the rugged Metropolitan Division, where basically every game is a rivalry game. It's a good quality to have.

NHL Notes: Predators' P.K. Subban rides whirlwind to Stanley Cup Final

NHL Notes: Predators' P.K. Subban rides whirlwind to Stanley Cup Final

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It has been an extraordinary 11 months for P.K. Subban.

The defenseman moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference. Left his native Canada to live in the American South. Blended in with new teammates, created a new home and learned a new system of money, too.

Oh, and along the way the former star for the Montreal Canadiens played a key role in Nashville's stirring run to the Stanley Cup Final.

The best way to sum up Subban's approach? C'est la vie.

"I just tried to have the right attitude when change comes my way," Subban said. "I think when you have an open mind, an open mind is like a gold mine. You just have an open mind, you can only go up from there regardless of what comes your way and just always try to approach things in a positive way."

The Canadiens and Predators shocked the NHL last June 29 when Nashville swapped captain Shea Weber for Subban in a rare one-for-one trade of All-Star defensemen. Adding Subban's offensive skills immediately made the Predators a popular pick to be right where they are now as the Western Conference champions.

The stylish Subban has as much flair on the ice with his goal celebrations as off with his hats and stylish suits. The Predators and their fans have embraced all of it.

"When it happened, I came in here with the right attitude and just wanted to be a part of this team and do whatever I can do to help a team win," Subban said (see full story).

Penguins: Team rides maturity, resilience back to Cup Final
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz stood shoulder to shoulder at center ice as midnight approached, crowd on its feet, Prince of Wales Trophy in hand. Another shot at the Stanley Cup in the offing.

On the surface, it could have been a scene ripped from 2008 when the longtime Pittsburgh Penguin teammates earned their first crack at a championship together, the one that was supposed to be the launching pad for a dynasty.

A closer look at the weary, grateful smiles told a different story.

This team has learned over the last decade that nothing can be taken for granted. Not their individual greatness or postseason success, even for one of the NHL's marquee franchises. Not the cohesion it takes to survive the crucible of the most draining championship chase in professional team sports or the mental toughness (along with a dash of luck) needed to stay on top once you get there.

So Crosby paused in the giddy aftermath of Pittsburgh's 3-2 victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the helter-skelter Eastern Conference finals to do something the two-time Hart Trophy winner almost never does. He took stock of the moment, aware of how fleeting they can be.

"Every series you look at, the margin for error is so slim," Crosby said. "We've just continued to find ways and different guys have stepped up. We trust in that and we believe in that and whoever has come in the lineup has done a great job. That builds confidence. We've done it different ways, which is probably our biggest strength" (see full story).