Flyers hit new low with another head-scratching loss to Devils

Flyers hit new low with another head-scratching loss to Devils

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. -- Call it "The Nightmare in Newark."

A film directed by the Flyers and one you've already seen before.

Needing just about every game left on the regular-season slate, the Flyers walked into the Prudential Center on Thursday in favorable position, at least one would think on this specific night.

After all, the Devils had lost 10 straight games and were virtually playing for nothing, unlike the Flyers, clinging for dear life onto their playoff hopes.

In actuality, none of that meant a darn thing. The Flyers were manhandled, yet again, by New Jersey, this version a 6-2 embarrassing loss (see Instant Replay). For Dave Hakstol's team, that's now three losses in three tries against the Devils this season by a combined score of 14-3.

What gives?

"For whatever reason, we don't perform to our capabilities in this arena," Brayden Schenn said. "I don’t know what it is. They were hungrier right from the start tonight and they deserve this win."

How can the Flyers fall so badly in such dire circumstances?

The scary thing is no one really had an answer.

"We were flat," Jakub Voracek said. "No idea why. We knew it was another big game for us."

The Flyers scored first with three minutes left in the opening stanza when Claude Giroux and Voracek created a wide-open shot for Michael Del Zotto.

From there, it was all downhill as the plot turned ugly.

New Jersey scored the next three goals to grab a commanding 3-1 lead in the second period. The Flyers got one back, but then allowed a bad breakaway tally to Taylor Hall early in the third that resulted in Steve Mason's exit because of an injury sustained on the play (see story).

The Flyers went quietly into the final buzzer while the Devils never let off the gas.

It was a listless finish by the Flyers, who had four shots in the third period of which their effort was questioned afterward.

"No, I don't think anybody's giving up," Giroux responded.

"That doesn't mean we're giving up. No one is going to give up here until the end of the season. We're going to keep working and keep working on our game."

Can they be angrier?

"Yeah, we're angry," Giroux said. "We know we're a better team, we know we can be in a better position. That's not the case and we need to keep working, keep working to be a better team."

Hakstol didn't see quit in the third period.

"No, the team didn't give up.

"We didn't win enough of the races and battles tonight. That's the bottom line."

When asked for reasons why that was, why the Flyers were so thoroughly outplayed and slower, Hakstol wouldn't expand.

"I'm not going to get into it," he said. "We're on the second night of a back-to-back, but at this time of year, none of us are going to make excuses for that. It's a fact of life.

"The fourth goal against early in the third period kind of took the wind out of the sails. … Not a real push once we got down by two."

The Flyers are now further down and nearly out in the Eastern Conference playoff race. On Thursday, the Maple Leafs (78 points) beat the Lightning (77) to jump them and the Islanders (77) -- who lost to the Jets -- for the current grip of the second wild-card bid.

The Flyers, at 72 points, have 12 games remaining -- including two more against these Devils.

"We're in a bad position," Voracek said. "Every game we go into, we have to win.

"We just didn't have it today, which is weird battling for the playoffs."

Puzzling, indeed.

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."