Flyers' offense sputters again in loss to Devils

slideshow-flyers-team-sulk-ap.jpg

Flyers' offense sputters again in loss to Devils

BOX SCORE

The team captain walked out. Just left the building. Left it for others to face the music after a 15-minute team meeting.

That’s how far things have slipped for the free-falling Flyers, who lost again, 3-0, to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night in what might have been the easiest shutout among the 12 Marty Brodeur has had against the franchise during his brilliant career (see Instant Replay).

“When things aren’t going for you, you tend to look for the extra play,” Wayne Simmonds said. “When things are going for you, you just throw things at the net and get bounces and get stuff off the other team’s skates and sticks.

“You get the dirty goals. That’s where it has to start at practice [on Friday]. We got to come to practice, stop in the front of the net and bury every puck we can.”

The Flyers mustered 22 shots. Outside of two scrums in front of the net where the puck was at Brodeur’s feet, and two busted two-on-one rushes, the Flyers never really tested him.

Fans' frustration began with boos in the first period and carried through right to the end. They got even louder when Andrej Meszaros, who was checked off a puck for one Devils' goal, turned another puck over to Jaromir Jagr with two ticks left on the clock for an empty-netter that really put a spike in the final score.

“You hear the boos,” Simmonds said. “That just means we’re not doing our job. The fans react to what they see and it’s not good enough.”

Coach Craig Berube was tight-lipped again about the lack of motivation to carry through and make something happen. Not just five-on-five, but on the power play where the Flyers put up such a lazy effort, Brodeur only had to flick away two shots on three Flyer power plays the entire night.

“Yeah, very frustrating, especially the power play,” Berube said. “Outworked. The power play was outworked tonight.

“I think there are some games where you can go back and the power play looked good and the puck didn’t just go in.

“But on a consistent nightly basis you have to outwork the penalty killing of the other team and you have to create momentum for your team, and they did not do that tonight.”

Claude Giroux handles the first unit power play, but he left the building after speaking to club chairman Ed Snider, whom he patted on the back outside the dressing room.

Offering comfort to the owner? Shouldn't it be the other way around given Giroux still doesn’t have a goal this season?

No one would provide specifics about the team meeting except to say it addressed accountability, work ethic and competitiveness (see story).

Giroux has accountability to his teammates not to walk away and he chose to do so. That’s a problem on a losing club. He’s about to make $66.2 million starting next season when his eight-year extension kicks in. He needs to stand up and answer questions.

Will a team meeting help?

“I think they can be good,” Berube said. “I think they can recognize what they have to do better as a team and guys can talk about things. It’s not a hard game.

“It’s the competitiveness and a will to win and doing all the little things right to win, and right now we’re not good enough. We’re not doing good enough. That’s the bottom line.”

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."

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Wild 1

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Wild 1

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A much-needed win for the Flyers came in an unlikely spot: on the road against one of the Western Conference's top teams.

Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek scored for the Flyers, and Steve Mason made 24 saves in a 3-1 win over the Wild on Thursday. It snapped a four-game winless streak on the road and kept the Flyers' playoff hopes alive.

Mason allowed an early goal to Zach Parise but recovered, and Couturier tied the game in the first. The Flyers responded as a whole and Read scored for the second time in an as many games, while Voracek had his first goal in 11 games with his 18th of the season.

Goalie report
Playing for the 11th time in 12 games, Mason was a little shaky at the start after not covering the puck twice and then coming far out of the cage, leading to a wraparound opportunity for Minnesota. But after Parise's goal -- one of the times Mason thought he had the puck covered -- the netminder was very steady. He didn't get out of position and allowed less than two goals for the fourth time in 12 games.

The victory marked Mason's 100th in a Flyers uniform. He is third in franchise history behind Ron Hextall (240) and Bernie Parent (232).

Faceoffs
The Flyers were dominant in the faceoff circle on Thursday, winning 61 percent of the draws.

Power play
The Flyers didn't take advantage of their one opportunity in the game as defenseman Ivan Provorov was called for a hooking penalty halfway through their lone power play. The Flyers are now 3 for 40 on the power play over the past 12 games.
 
Penalty kill
The penalty kill had one of its better performances in recent games. The Flyers killed off both penalties and allowed just two Minnesota shots in the three minutes of penalty time. Entering the game, the Flyers had allowed 10 goals in 28 occasions on the penalty kill in the previous nine games.

A small move
With the win, the Flyers were able to pull closer to the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston lost, 6-3, at home to Tampa Bay, allowing the Flyers to close within six points with nine games left. The Bruins have only eight games remaining. Two of the teams between Boston and the Flyers -- the Lightning and Hurricanes -- did win Thursday, while the Islanders were idle (see wild-card standings).

Lines change
Looking for a spark, three of the four lines were changed for Thursday's game. Claude Giroux centered Read and Voracek. Valtteri Filppula was between Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde. Coach Dave Hakstol kept the line of Brayden Schenn, Couturier and Dale Weise together.

Blue line return
Defenseman Brandon Manning made his return after missing five games with a shoulder injury.
 
Scratches
Forwards Nick Cousins (upper body) and Roman Lyubimov (healthy), and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (healthy).
 
Up next
The third game of the four-game road trip is Saturday at Columbus. The Flyers are 0-1-1 against the Blue Jackets this season, including a 5-3 loss at home on March 13.