Flyers open road trip with ugly loss to Leafs

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Flyers open road trip with ugly loss to Leafs

BOX SCORE

TORONTO – All it took to burst the Flyers’ bubble for a strong road trip start was 6 minutes, 15 seconds.

That critical, second period juncture Monday night at Air Canada Centre saw the Maple Leafs turn a tie game into an ugly 5-2 trouncing, as the Flyers' horrific road play continued.
 
“It’s not the chances, we had chances for sure,” said Flyer captain Claude Giroux of 46 shots.
 
“That six minutes in the second period killed us. That hurts. We were playing well. We have to learn from this and not back down.”
 
Three Leafs goals did the trick as Peter Laviolette’s club dropped to 1-6-0 on the road.
 
“There was room for simpler ideas at that point,” Laviolette said of the six-minute disaster where the Leafs had the Flyers pinned in their own end with mistakes.
 
“They’ve hurt us in the past and hurt is in the span of six minutes. It’s tough. The first one goes in, we shot ourselves in the foot, and then it unravels for five minutes.”
 
The six-game trip continues Tuesday night in Winnipeg.
 
“We gave them those turnovers,” Kimmo Timonen said of the middle stanza. “Sometimes you have to play a simple game and we didn’t do that.”
 
Timonen said the club’s road woes comes down to “individual preparation.”
 
“Doesn’t matter if you are home or away, you have to play consistent,” he said. “Once you come on the road you have to prepare yourself even more.
 
“There’s no fans behind you, no one cheering your name. That’s a learning process to me and it’s time to learn this right now.”

Starter Ilya Bryzgalov yielded four goals on just 14 shots before being replaced by Brian Boucher, who was hoping to make his first start against the Jets.
 
Bryz avoided the media by going out the rear door of the dressing room.
 
Not even a five-minute power play that same period could see the Flyers climb back; their continued lack of offense is alarming.
 
Oh yeah. James van Riemsdyk, in his first meeting against his former club, scored on a nice backhander against Boosh in the third period to really rub it in. How ironic that he moved right around Luke Schenn on the goal.
 
Usually, the Flyers give a pretty good effort. They needed a point in this one because there is no guarantee they’ll get one in The Peg, where they split the season series last year.
 
So, the seven points in four home games wasn’t a sign of what was to unfold here, after all.
 
“We need to find a way to be more consistent here and not have these highs and lows,” Nick Grossmann said. “We have to find ways to grind it out for 60 minutes.”
 
Laviolette wanted a strong start and he got it from the opening shift when Wayne Simmonds picked up his third goal at 38 seconds, rebounding a point drive from Schenn.
 
“After that goal, they were the better team – they were hungrier and when that happens, you create turnovers like they did in the second period,” Timonen said.
 
Bryzgalov got a ton of help later in the period when Mikhail Grabovski’s drive ripped off the cross bar and right post in a split-second.
 
No matter, the Leafs tied at 14:49 on Dion Phaneuf’s first point on home ice this season. Bryzgalov never saw his shot from the left point because Nikolai Kulemin was blocking his vision.
 
As usual, the Flyers had a couple of bad penalties at the end, and survived a 36-second 5-on-3 kill. Ironically, they also had the best chance shorthanded there, when it was 5-on-4 off the initial holding call against Zac Rinaldo.
 
Giroux, who was visibly angry after the game, stole a puck in the corner and fed Matt Read down the slot for what should have been an easy marker against goalie James Reimer.
 
Except Read’s initial shot sailed wide. The rebound came back to him. This time, Reimer made a sprawling left pad save.
 
The Flyers came out very lame in the second period and paid a steep price as Toronto scored twice in 28 seconds to take a 3-1 lead.
 
Colton Orr outworked Grossmann in the crease for the first goal at 2:05, but the fault lies in Tommy Sestito throwing the puck behind the net when he could have cleared it down the wall.
 
Then Matt Frattin got a short-side tip to make it 3-1 at 2:33. Laviolette called his timeout less than a minute later to settle things down.
 
Shortly before the four-minute mark, Reimer went down on the ice injured and had to be helped off. He was replaced by Ben Scrivens.
 
That didn’t help the Flyers at all because they again failed to clear the zone under Leafs pressure at 6:15 and paid the price on Clarke MacArthur’s wide-open one-timer from Nazem Kadri that blew the game apart.
 
Laviolette then yanked Bryzgalov, saying he wanted “a different change of direction in the game.”
 
“It’s six minutes you’d like to have back and do over,” Laviolette said.
 
As bad as that was, the Flyers had a real chance to get back into the game when Korbinian Holzer was ejected with a five-minute major on Tye McGinn at 13:31.
 
The Flyers completely squandered the resulting five-minute power play with six shots. Scrivens made a glove save on Brayden Schenn – the only decent shot he faced.
 
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, speaking on Toronto radio after that period, said his team lacked confidence with the puck that entire power play sequence.
 
“That [power play] could have changed the tide,” Simmonds said. “We had chances. Pucks laying around. Guys diving everywhere.
 
“You have scrambles and sometimes you get the benefit of the bounces and sometimes you don’t.
 
“We've got to be better on the power play. We got a lot of chances here to get back in games and put games away and we’re not doing it.”

NHL Notes: Penguins, Senators have chance at history in Game 7

NHL Notes: Penguins, Senators have chance at history in Game 7

PITTSBURGH -- Craig Anderson is a realist, the byproduct of 15 years playing the most demanding position in the NHL.

The Ottawa goaltender would like to chalk his 45-save masterpiece in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against Pittsburgh up to his own brilliance. He knows that's not exactly the case.

"I think you need to be a little bit lucky to be good at times," Anderson said.

Ottawa has relied on a bit of both during its deepest playoff run in a decade and Anderson helped force Game 7 Thursday night. Yet here the Senators are, alive and still skating with a chance to eliminate the deeper, more experienced and more explosive Stanley Cup champions.

So much for the series being over after the Penguins destroyed Ottawa 7-0 in Game 5.

"I think, if you believe you're beaten, you're done already," Anderson said. "If you believe that you can win, there's always a chance."

All the Senators have to do to reach the Stanley Cup Final for just the second time in franchise history is take down one of the league's marquee franchises on the road in a building where they were beaten by a touchdown last time out.

No pressure or anything. Really. The Senators weren't supposed to be here. Then again, in a way neither were the Penguins. No team has repeated in nearly two decades and at times during the season and even during the playoffs this group was too beat up. Too tired from last spring's Cup run. The bullseye on their backs too big.

Yet they've survived behind the brilliance of stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, coach Mike Sullivan's impeccable decisions and a resiliency that has them one game from being the first Cup champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009.

Those Red Wings, by the way, fell to the Penguins in seven games. There have been several Game 7s for Pittsburgh in the interim on both sides of the ledger, though the Penguins are 2-0 in Game 7s under Sullivan. They edged Tampa Bay in Game 7 of last year's East finals and clinically disposed of Presidents' Trophy winner Washington in Game 7 of the second round earlier this month (see full story).

Predators: Goalie Rinne on smothering run
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Knocking the smile off Pekka Rinne's face right now is nearly impossible.

The longest-tenured player with the Nashville Predators, the 34-year-old goaltender finally will play in his first Stanley Cup Final in his ninth full NHL season.

"As a player, I feel like I've had a fairly long career and never had this opportunity," Rinne said. "So very fortunate and really appreciate this opportunity. I guess as a player you just enjoy being in this position. Enjoy the chance that you get, and you put your body on the line every night and give everything you have."

Teammates call the 6-foot-5 Finn the backbone of the Predators, and he's probably the best goalie in the world at the moment. He handles the puck like an extra defenseman. He foils the dump-and-chase efforts of opponents. And, oh, is he good in front of the net, aggressive with forwards in the crease, seeing seemingly everything and occasionally making saves with a Dominik Hasek-like contortion.

Not only is Rinne a playoff-best 12-4, his .945 save percentage ranks third all-time for a single postseason behind a pair of Conn Smythe Trophy winners in Jean-Sebastien Giguere for Anaheim in 2003 and Jonathan Quick for Los Angeles in 2012, according to HockeyReference.com. Rinne's 1.70 goals-against average is 10th all-time for one postseason.

"What he does every night, you can't put into words," Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said (see full story).

Blues: Sydor returns to Blues as assistant
ST. LOUIS -- Darryl Sydor has returned to the St. Louis Blues as an assistant coach under mentor Mike Yeo.

Sydor agreed to a three-year deal Wednesday.

The 45-year-old Sydor finished his 18-year NHL playing career with the Blues in 2009-10, then broke into coaching as Yeo's assistant the next season with the American Hockey League's Houston Aeros. Sydor went with Yeo to Minnesota and spent five years with the Wild before working as an assistant last season with the Blues' then-Chicago affiliate in the AHL.

Sydor was a defenseman for Los Angeles, Dallas, Columbus, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, winning Stanley Cup titles with Dallas and Tampa Bay.

Coyotes: Cunningham hired as pro scout
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have hired Craig Cunningham as a pro scout and say he will assist with player development.

General manager John Chayka announced the two-year contract Wednesday that allows Cunningham to remain in hockey.

Cunningham collapsed on the ice with a cardiac disturbance prior to a game Nov. 19 while playing for the American Hockey League's Tucson Roadrunners and required emergency life-saving care. He had part of his left leg amputated and saw his playing career end.

But the 26-year-old who was captain of the Roadrunners last season says he's excited to start the next chapter of his hockey career in the Coyotes' front office. Chayka called Cunningham a "smart, hard-working player with an incredible passion for the game" that he believes will translate to his new job.

NHL Playoffs Senators battle past Penguins to force Game 7

NHL Playoffs Senators battle past Penguins to force Game 7

BOX SCORE

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators bounced back nicely two days after a blowout loss put them on the brink of elimination.

Anderson stopped 45 shots, Mike Hoffman scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period and the Senators beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 Tuesday night to force a decisive Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 36-year-old Anderson was coming off a pair of rough outings, including Sunday when he was pulled after yielding four goals in Ottawa's 7-0 loss in Game 5 at Pittsburgh.

"You can't change what happens in the past," said Anderson, who has credited work with a sports psychologist early in his career for helping him manage the mental side of the game. "From that moment on you have to look forward and get ready for the next one."

Hoffman fired a slap shot through traffic off a pass from Fredrik Claesson to put the Senators ahead at 1:34 of the third. Bobby Ryan also scored a rare power-play goal for Ottawa.

It was quite a response after the drubbing in the previous game.

"I think the biggest message for us was if somebody told us back in training camp in September that we'd have an opportunity to win Game 6 in the Eastern Conference final at home in front of our fans we would've taken it," Ryan said. "So let's not dwell, let's not kick ourselves and put our heads down. Let's embrace this opportunity to extend this for two more days together and go from there."

Evgeni Malkin gave Pittsburgh, vying for its second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the lead early in the second period and Matt Murray finished with 28 saves.

"I thought we played a real good game," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought we dominated zone time. We had lots of chances. We didn't score tonight. The puck didn't go in the net, but if we continue to play the game that way, then I believe we'll get the result."

Game 7 is Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with the winner advancing to face the Nashville Predators for the championship.

Ottawa was primarily looking for a return to structure in Game 6, beginning with a smoother start -- which they got. Notable in a scoreless opening period were two effective penalty kills, one of which saw Viktor Stalberg get the best opportunity short-handed.

Pittsburgh had four shots with the man advantage, but Anderson stopped them all. It was evident early that he had his game back in this one. He stopped Nick Bonino off a rebound in transition, Scott Wilson off a deflected shot by Phil Kessel, and Bonino again when Kyle Turris gave the puck away.

Anderson then stopped 22 of 23 shots in the second period.

"I think Anderson was the reason that they got this one, he played big for them," Murray said. "But in our room we just focus on what we need to do. We played really well, we just didn't get the bounces and weren't able to put one home."

Anderson's performance was a reminder for Senators coach Guy Boucher of why he took the job with Ottawa in the first place last May.

"I'll be honest with you, if I didn't have a No. 1 goalie, I didn't want the job," Boucher said. "I've lived it for quite a few years, and it's hell when you don't have it because everything you do turns to darkness, and there's nothing that really matters when you don't have a real No. 1 goaltender.

"It's like a quarterback in football and a pitcher in baseball, and we have it," Boucher added.

Murray was also sharp. The 22-year-old, who replaced Marc-Andre Fleury after Game 3, made maybe his finest save of the first on Derick Brassard, who found an open lane down the middle of the ice following a pass from Ryan.

The Penguins appeared to have opened the scoring just over three minutes into the second, but Trevor Daley was deemed to have interfered with Anderson following an Ottawa challenge.

Less than two minutes later though, Pittsburgh took the 1-0 lead anyway off a few moments of brilliance from Malkin. The playoff scoring leading (24 points) bounced off a check from Zack Smith behind the goal and after being stopped on his drive to the net, followed up with a nifty backhand rebound to beat Anderson.

It was the 153rd career playoff point in 142 games for Malkin -- three back of Sidney Crosby for second among active players behind Jaromir Jagr -- who had been jarring with Hoffman a few minutes earlier.

The Senators had little going until a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage for 1:24 just past the midway point of the period. The Ottawa power play, which had gone 0 for 29 in the previous 10 games, came through with Ryan ultimately wiring a one-timer short-side to tie the score.

It was the sixth goal and 15th point of the playoffs for Ryan, who is second on the Senators behind captain Erik Karlsson (16 points).