Flyers Notes: Frustration shows in line brawl

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Flyers Notes: Frustration shows in line brawl

Down by a touchdown with less than 15 minutes in the game, the home team often finds itself playing with a physical edge if it wants to stay alive.

It’s something normally seen in a football game, but not so much in hockey.

The Flyers on Friday found themselves in that situation against the Capitals (see story). Joel Ward scored a hat-trick goal to put Washington up 7-0. After the faceoff, Wayne Simmonds hit Steve Oleksy and Tom Wilson. Wilson, taking exception, dropped the gloves and fought Simmonds.

As Simmonds and Wilson fought, Ray Emery skated the length of the ice in pursuit of an unwilling Braden Holtby.

"He didn’t want to fight," Emery said. "And I said, basically, ‘Protect yourself.’ He didn’t really have much of a choice."

While Holtby and Emery tangled, Brayden Schenn took on Alexander Urbom, and Vincent Lecavalier fought Oleksy. Lecavalier suffered facial injuries in his fight, and subsequently won’t be in the lineup Saturday against New Jersey.

Reasoning for this line brawl boiled down to a simple factor -- frustration.

“As a group, I think it’s a frustrating night,” Emery said. “Frustration shows sometimes that way. We all grew up playing hockey, and sometimes that happens -- you don’t want anyone to get hurt, but we don’t take losses like that.”

In addition to the fighting majors, a variety of other penalties were assessed in the brawl. Emery was assessed two minor penalties for leaving his crease and an instigator -- both served by Claude Giroux -- as well as a game misconduct. Game misconducts were also issued to Schenn, Lecavalier, Urbom and Oleksy for secondary fighting. Aaron Volpatti also picked up a 10-minute misconduct.

In all, the brawl resulted in a total of 114 penalty minutes -- 64 from the Flyers, 50 from the Capitals. The brawl alone doubled this season’s high in penalty minutes in a game for the Flyers -- the previous high being 32, set in the Oct. 5 loss to Montreal.

“It’s a hockey fight,” Giroux said. “It’s going to happen. It’s part of the game. Obviously, we were flat. It’s not the first time that’s happened during a hockey game.”

The Flyers look to rebound from Friday’s frustration Saturday when they travel to Newark, N.J. to take on the Devils. While bouncing back from a 7-0 loss is easier said than done, coach Craig Berube offered a simple solution.

“We go play a game tomorrow,” Berube said. “Pick yourself up and go play. That’s it.”

Downie’s short stay
Steve Downie didn’t even last two periods as a Flyer before he left the game, but he left the Wells Fargo Center in apparently very dramatic fashion.

According to Holmgren, Downie was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania “for further tests and observation,” but according to reports, he left about half an hour after the game ended on a stretcher in an ambulance.

The Flyers declined to provide any other information.

‘Embarrassed’ response
Never mind all the debate about whether fighting belongs in hockey -- the Flyers’ general manager was OK with what occurred on the ice Friday.

Perhaps that’s putting it a bit lightly, but all things considered, Holmgren seemed at least satisfied that his team responded in some way to what transpired.

“When you get slapped around like that, it’s a response,” Holmgren said. “Do I have an issue with it? Probably not. It’s a response from an embarrassed hockey team.”

Pulling Mason
While Steve Mason did, in fact, look human in Friday’s loss, it wasn’t exactly his fault that he was pulled in the second period -- and not just because his teammates provided no support.

Berube made the decision after Mason allowed his third goal on eight shots. But his real hope was that he would send a message to the Flyers that would help redirect the course of the game.

“Just trying to get a response from our team,” Berube said.

Penalized
The 99 penalty minutes the Flyers took was the highest single-game total since March 5, 2004 against Ottawa -- the franchise record of 213.

Friday's total of 99 is the seventh-highest single-game total in Flyers history.

Last time ...
The Flyers were last shut out while allowing seven goals March 6, 2011, a 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Friday was just the ninth time in franchise history the Flyers have been shut out after allowing seven or more goals.

Flyers-Islanders 5 things: Still trying to clean up mistakes after bye week

Flyers-Islanders 5 things: Still trying to clean up mistakes after bye week

Flyers (22-19-6) at Islanders (19-17-8)
6 p.m. – CSN/CSNPhilly.com and streaming live on the NBCSports app; Pregame Live begins at 5:30.
 
The struggling Flyers head north Sunday night to battle the Metropolitan Division rival Islanders at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
 
Let’s take a closer look at Sunday’s matchup.
 
1. New week, same Flyers
Those hoping the Flyers would be a refreshed, recharged team after the bye week met a harsh reality Saturday night.
 
The Flyers were blown out of the Wells Fargo Center in a 4-1 loss to the Devils that saw the same things continue to haunt the home team — defensive breakdowns and a lack of offense, among other things.
 
It’s no secret this season is quickly slipping away from the Flyers. They’ve lost their hold on the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference to the upstart Maple Leafs and the Hurricanes, Panthers and Devils are breathing right down the Flyers’ backs. To pile on the good news, every other team in the East is within four points of the Flyers, including the last-place Isles, who have 46 points compared to the Flyers’ 50 points.
 
Needless to say, the margin for error is all but gone.
 
This has been said many times recently, but the emphasis still hasn’t waned — if the Flyers want to save this season, it has to start with the next game.
 
2. What’s the mindset?
Michal Neuvirth, who was pulled before the third period of Saturday’s game for “precautionary reasons,” had a striking quote after the loss to the Devils.
 
“When you lose so many games, you lose confidence,” he told reporters.
 
He’s not kidding, and further proof of that came in the loss to the Devils, when the game was tied 1-1. In the second period, Radko Gudas was whistled for a clipping penalty and, boy, was it an awful call. It was nothing more than a hard hip check, aka a solid hockey play. Gudas got the two-minute minor and then Wayne Simmonds received an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct for protesting the call, giving Jersey a full two-man advantage.
 
Predictably, the Devils scored to take the lead. Also predictably, the Flyers unraveled after that point.
 
It just seems lately that when something goes wrong for the Flyers, it all goes wrong for the Flyers. And that’s a troubling trend.

3. Changes in Brooklyn
Superstar John Tavares is still there, but beside that, plenty has changed since the Flyers and Islanders last met, a 3-2 Flyers shootout win in November at the Barclays Center.
 
No more Jack Capuano behind the Isles’ bench, as he was recently canned amidst his team’s struggles. Assistant general manager Doug Weight, whom you may remember from his not so distant playing days, is the interim head coach for the Isles.
 
Remember goalie Jaroslav Halak, who started the two teams’ first meeting? It’s no longer his net in Brooklyn, as he’s had a falling out with the club, lost the starting job to Thomas Greiss and was recently put on waivers.
 
And the Isles have responded positively to the changes, as they’ve won three in a row heading into Sunday night’s contest. The last-place moniker is misleading because the Isles are still just five points out of the final wild-card spot and still have tons of talent.
 
4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let’s go with Travis Konecny. Let’s just say the Flyers are in need of an energy jolt these days and the rook has just the type of skillset to provide it. He scored his team’s only goal Saturday against the Devils and isn’t afraid to throw his body around if need be. He also scored against the Isles earlier this season. He’s now up to eight goals and 14 assists on the season.
 
Islanders: It has got to be John Tavares. The guy is an absolute star, but still could fit into the “underrated” or “under the radar” categories just because he plays for the Isles. I mean, check out this goal he scored earlier this year against St. Louis. Holy moly. While you’re at it, get a glimpse of this one he scored against Dallas last week. He’s got 19 goals and 17 assists on the year. In his career against the Flyers, he’s got 15 goals and 13 assists for 28 points, the third-most points he’s tallied against any team in the NHL.
 
5. This and that
• In a scheduling quirk, Sunday evening will mark the fourth straight time the Flyers and Islanders will play in Brooklyn. They haven’t met in Philadelphia in over a full calendar year — Jan. 9, 2016, a 4-0 Flyers win

• Sunday is the second of four meetings between the teams this season. They’ll also play Feb. 9 and March 30, both times in South Philly.

• Greiss will start in net for the Isles on Sunday. He’s recorded shutouts in his last two starts. For the season, he's 12-7-2 with a .927 save percentage and a 2.29 goals-against average.

• Reinforcements could be on the way Sunday for the Islanders, as forward Cal Clutterbuck (lower-body) and defenseman Johnny Boychuk (upper-body) could be ready to return to the lineup after injuries.

• Sunday’s game will be the second of a back-to-back set for both teams. The Flyers are 6-3-2 this year in such situations.

• The Flyers’ ugly road losing streak is up to nine games. A loss Sunday would make it a not-so-perfect 10.

Flyers' loss changes complexion after questionable penalty on Radko Gudas

Flyers' loss changes complexion after questionable penalty on Radko Gudas

There are good penalties. And bad penalties. And penalties which aren’t even penalties.

The last one would perfectly describe Radko Gudas’ hip check on Miles Wood that was whistled as clipping by referee Dan O’Halloran in the second period.

Even Wood was laughing as Gudas went to the box, realizing what a break he had gotten – a power play for nothing.

“He’s a pretty quick D-man,” Wood said. “I don’t think it should have been a call, but it was a good hit by him.”

That gave the Devils a power play. Then, when Wayne Simmond argued the call with O'Halloran, Simmonds drew two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. The resulting 5-on-3 New Jersey power play saw the Devils score to break a 1-1 tie.

Minutes later, the Flyers had a bad line change and it was 3-1. Game over. The Devils would go on to win, 4-1 (see game story).

Bottom line? The Gudas call changed everything.

“I was really surprised,” Gudas said. “I didn’t think it was a penalty at all.”

Is this oversimplifying the game to say everything changed with that one call?

“Are we really simplifying it?” Gudas asked. “I think that after those calls we have to get together as a group and make sure we kill these off. Unfortunately, we let them score on that power play. It was just unlucky.”

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol called it “an excellent hit” by Gudas. He wouldn’t go deeper than that.

The six muffed power plays gave him enough reason to believe the Flyers could have gotten back in it. His Flyers are 3-9-3 since winning 10 games.

You can’t underestimate how those two calls turned the tables on the Flyers in this game.

“Everyone has their own opinion on the hit and we were obviously frustrated on the hit,” Travis Konecny said. “We thought it was a clean hit and we reacted to it. We have everyone’s backs.

“We have all had the one’s where we are angry with the ref and the one who made a hit like that. There is a time for that moment there.”

Goalie Michal Neuvirth thought it was a difference maker.

“Oh, absolutely, we were playing better in the second period,” he said. “I thought we had a momentum. You know stuff like that 5-on-3 for two minutes, it’s tough to defend.

“I think it’s taking way too many penalties lately and you got to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”