Flyers lack finesse, fight in blowout loss to Sharks

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Flyers lack finesse, fight in blowout loss to Sharks

BOX SCORE

It wasn’t ugly. It was Flyer ugly.
 
Five goals against in the second period. Two players coming off extended injury absences to burn them for two goals.

In short, this was not how the Flyers wanted to begin their 23-game stretch drive to the playoffs -- with a stunning 7-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
It was also the first of 14 home games to finish the season.
 
After a full week of hard practices and even harder scrimmages, the Flyers lacked fight.
 
“Not competing around our net, that’s what it came down to,” coach Craig Berube said. “People there, not getting sticks, not boxing people out. Not being hard on people. We didn’t compete hard enough to win the hockey game. Nobody.”
 
The game saw Steve Mason give up four goals on the first 13 shots, leave for Ray Emery, then return late in the third period because Emery, in his own words, had something that “didn’t feel right.”
 
Berube himself wasn’t sure about his goalie.
 
“Ray had an issue. Something was bothering him,” Berube said.
 
Strangely, the Flyers started out well, matched the Sharks in skating, and even led 2-1 going into what Scott Hartnell called a “disastrous” second period.
 
San Jose found another gear that period, crashed the net and scored five unanswered goals. The Flyers gave up five in Chicago earlier this season in one period.
 
“A frustrating game,” Hartnell said. “We wanted to be involved in the game. Even me, I was a little too emotional, reacting to refs calls or plays I didn’t make.
 
“I don’t know if there was a lot of buildup for this game over two weeks, but we channeled our energy in a negative way. And when I do it, it follows through to everyone else.”
 
Flyers captain Claude Giroux said he thought the team was playing well before a fluky goal from Raffi Torres tied it for San Jose. Then the Flyers “started panicking.”
 
“We didn’t stick with the plan,” Giroux said. “We got away from what we are supposed to do and when we don’t do what we’re supposed to do, we get in trouble.”
 
The Flyers noticeably sagged when it became 2-2 in the second period as the Sharks scored those five unanswered goals. Both Torres and Logan Couture, coming off long injuries, had two goals in the game.
 
“It almost looked like we stopped competing after they tied the game up,” Berube said.
 
The back-breaker there was Torres scoring with 2.2 seconds left in the period to make it 5-2.
 
“The most important part of the ice is in front of our net,” Hartnell said. “The last goal they scored with two seconds left, I was on the ice and kind of swung away [from them], leaving guys to whack away. It’s not fair to Mase or Emery when you leave them hung to dry like that.”
 
Time change
The Flyers' showdown in Pittsburgh on March 16 against the Penguins has been designated an NBC national telecast and will now start at 12:30 p.m. that afternoon, instead of 7:30 p.m.

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."