Flyers Notes: Some celebration in order?

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Flyers Notes: Some celebration in order?

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Claude Giroux was almost being sheepish in admitting it happened.
 
The Flyers actually allowed themselves a bit of celebration after clinching a playoff berth Tuesday night with a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center (see recap).
 
“A little bit [of celebrating] to be honest,” Giroux said of the postgame atmosphere in the Flyers’ dressing room.
 
The Flyers almost looked like they were celebrating on ice after making it 4-0 heading into the final period. They got a little too lax, and Florida scored twice to make it a bit hairy.
 
“We were playing pretty good to get into playoff position right now,” Giroux said. “We played well. The third period tonight wasn’t acceptable. We let [Steve] Mason playing by himself and we need to do a better job playing in the third period and get dialed in at the end of games like this.
 
“We kind of took our foot off the gas. It was unacceptable. ... We only have three games [left] to work on our game and get ready for the playoffs.”
 
The Flyers will practice Wednesday in Tampa before meeting the Lightning on Thursday night.
 
The goalie
For Mason, this will be only his second taste of playoff hockey. He dined five years ago in Columbus, where he won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, but admits it was so long ago it doesn’t matter.
 
“You see what the Flyers' fan base brings every single game, and it’s an exciting thing to be part of,” said Mason, who had 38 saves in the win. “I haven’t been part of a playoff series with this team.
 
“But watching on TV, there’s a great atmosphere within the Wells Fargo Center. Come the first game, it’s going to be rocking.”
 
Two goals
Giroux had his 11th career two-goal game as the Flyers improved to 20-2-1 when he scores a goal.
 
Both scores came less than three minutes apart in the second period to make it a 3-0 game.
 
“Obviously, those goals were huge for us to get the lead,” Giroux said.
 
Third period
Coach Craig Berube wasn’t happy with it.
 
“They made it closer than it should have been,” he said, adding that the first period wasn’t great, either.
 
“For me, it was turnovers and just sloppy play. Sloppy hockey more than anything. We didn’t execute very well. Too soft and we weren’t doing what we talked about in the game plan.”
 
The Flyers let their focus slip, then got it back.
 
Playoffs
The Flyers qualified  for the playoffs for the 37th time in their 45 years of play and the 17th time in the last 19 seasons.

Loose pucks
• The Flyers committed just one penalty in the game and killed off the ensuing Florida power play. It was their 20th consecutive successful kill on the road. They haven’t allowed a power-play goal on the road since Feb. 3 at San Jose.

• The Flyers scored four goals in the second period. That’s nine goals in the second period of the last three games. Prior to that, they had scored 65 second-period goals in 76 games this season (0.86 per game).

• The Panthers had 40 shots, marking only the fourth time Florida has ever recorded 40 or more shots in a game against the Flyers.

• Adam Hall had two assists for his 14th career multi-point game and first with the Flyers.

• Defenseman Nick Grossmann was a plus-4, which is the second-highest single-game rating of his career. He was plus-5 for Dallas in a 5-2 win over Calgary on Oct. 9, 2009.

Instant Replay: Capitals 4, Flyers 1

Instant Replay: Capitals 4, Flyers 1

BOX SCORE

Fresh off their poor Western Canada road trip, the Flyers faced the top team in the NHL for a Wednesday Night Rivalry tilt at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
The last time the Washington Capitals met the Flyers in mid-January, the Caps humiliated them, 5-0, in D.C.
 
No rout this time, but the Caps still defeated the Flyers, 4-1, as more precious points slipped away in the search for a wild card. 
 
Evgeny Kuznetsov had two goals for the Caps. His second was a crusher, coming in the final 2:01 of the second period to give Washington a 3-1 lead.
 
The Flyers are 3-6-1 since coming out of the All-Star break and 9-15-4 since their 10-game win streak.
 
Coach’s challenge
Barry Trotz challenged Jakub Voracek’s goal 23 seconds into the game for goaltender interference. It was an easy goal to overturn, too, as Dale Weise clearly pushed Braden Holtby aside before Voracek scored.
 
No goal
Trailing 2-0, Flyers rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov thought he scored in the opening minute of the second period. The game stopped and the Flyers celebrated while the officials huddled. Replays showed the puck hit the crossbar.
 
Points
Nick Backstrom’s first-period goal was his fifth goal and 15th point in his last 10 games.
 
Notable goals
Kuznetsov’s power-play goal went in and out of the net so quickly, no one was really certain it was a goal. That is why Sean Couturier remained in the box a good 30 seconds after it was scored.
 
Goalie report
Michal Neuvirth was making his fifth straight in goal.

Holtby had an excellent stop on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s backhander at the right post with 6:18 left in the first period.
 
Power play
The Flyers were 0-for-2. They mixed up their first unit and changed the personnel back to its former self, even putting Shayne Gostisbehere back on the point and Voracek back at the half-wall. Their second power play had several passes just a hair off for a clean shot.
 
Penalty kill
The Caps had the Flyers chasing their passes all over the ice on their power play. They were 1-for-2 in the game.
 
Injuries
The Caps lost defenseman Matt Niskanen in second period with a lower-body injury.
 
Fights
There were several scrums on one board play in the second period but no fights.
 
Scratches
Forwards Jordan Weal (concussion) and Travis Konecny (left ankle and knee), defensemen Nick Schultz (healthy) and Michael Del Zotto (healthy).
 
Up next
The Flyers practice on Thursday 11 a.m. at Skate Zone. They leave later that day for Pittsburgh and will practice Friday at 5 p.m. at Heinz Field for the Stadium Series outdoor game against the Penguins on Saturday.

Flyers Skate Update: Power-play shakeup seems to be working

Flyers Skate Update: Power-play shakeup seems to be working

VOORHEES, N.J. — They had taken another “0-for” on the power play on the road and lost a game in which they deserved to at least get a point.

Dave Hakstol had seen enough. Numbers don’t always tell a story. Yet, in the Flyers' case, they did: 4 for 42 on the power play over 12 games, including that 3-1 loss at Calgary.

The next morning in Edmonton, Hakstol met privately with Jakub Voracek to discuss, among other things, the power play. That night, Hakstol moved Voracek off the first-unit power play and replaced him with Ivan Provorov.

He then told Shayne Gostisbehere to change his location on the power play on the half wall and let Provorov, the Russian rookie, worry about the blue line.

In the two games since, the power play is 3 for 6 and has the Flyers back up to ninth in the NHL after falling to 13th during that 12-game span of utter futility.

How the power play goes tonight against the Washington Capitals is critical if the Flyers have any shot of taking points away from the top club in the league (see game notes).

“It’s a little bit different look,” Hakstol said. “We’re comfortable with either of the setups we have there. Whether it’s with Jake on the flank of the [Claude] Giroux unit or having Ghost there.

“Both are effective. Within the game, we can go back and forth with the other. We’ve had some pretty good play out of the other unit, regardless of the setup.”

Provorov has a very accurate point shot. Gostisbehere has the hardest shot of any on the top unit. The rest of the first unit — Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds — hasn’t changed.

“We can’t score,” Provorov said bluntly. “We needed to change something up to spark the scoring. It definitely helped us. Now the two units have a different setup in the zone.

“Just a little different. It took us first game to get used to. We did pretty good in the second game [Vancouver].”

Ghost has never played the half wall. He thinks this will help him snap a 32-game goal drought. He had three assists — two on the power play — against the Canucks on Sunday (see story).

“It’s completely different,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve always been at the top [blue line]. It’s definitely a different perspective from that view. I think I’ll get a lot more shots and plays that can be made.”

Voracek watches him when that unit is on the ice and offers advice after the shift.

“I have been talking to Jake a ton for pointers,” Gostisbehere said. “When I am out there, if you see something I could have done, please tell me. He is such an easy guy to talk to. He will give you the pointers right away.”

Hakstol said moving Ghost closer to the net has a payoff.

“He is in a pure one-timer side there if he gets himself in the right position,” Hakstol said. “But there is still some work we have to do there in terms of his overall positioning in that spot.

“He brings a different element than Jake does in that spot. Both of them were very, very effective in that spot. They just have different weapons.”

Even though there have been changes, Voracek still rotates back to the first unit if Provorov is on the ice the previous shift before the power play begins.

Because of Travis Konecny’s knee and ankle injuries, Sean Couturier’s second unit has changed the most. Mark Streit anchors from the point with Couturier, Nick Cousins and Matt Read below the blue line and Voracek on the right wall.

That unit has more player rotation on the ice than the top unit.

Hakstol doesn’t buy the argument the Flyers' power play crashed because it became too predictable. 

“In the game now, there’s not much hidden,” Hakstol said. “Everyone knows what the other team is trying to do, regardless of 5-on-5 or special teams.

“For us, it was a good time to make a small change that changes the look for our guys on the ice.”

Loose pucks
• A dozen players showed up for the optional morning skate at Skate Zone, more than half of what was expected. 

• Michal Neuvirth will start in goal tonight against Washington. 

• On Tuesday, Voracek got hit with a puck below the belt during a tip drill in which Voracek tipped a shot into himself. “Feeling better,” he said today. 

• This morning was goalie Steve Mason’s turn to get hit. He took a point shot from Andrew MacDonald in the mask. Mason was temporarily shaken but no damage to either him or his mask.  

Lineup
F:
Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Voracek
Raffl-Cousins-Read
VandeVelde-Bellemare-Lyubimov

D: Provorov-Manning
Gostisbehere-Streit
Del Zotto-Gudas

G: Neuvirth