Flyers' season ends with Game 7 loss to Rangers

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Flyers' season ends with Game 7 loss to Rangers

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NEW YORK – Most times, words simply can’t express the emotions players and teams go through after a Game 7 loss.

It’s more gut-wrenching to lose a Game 7 than to get swept in four straight.

Trying to find an answer as to why the Flyers bowed out of the playoffs Wednesday night with a stunning 2-1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden (see Instant Replay) isn’t easy because there is no simple answer.

Or maybe there is, Flyers coach Craig Berube offered.

“The first few games we didn’t initiate enough or play with enough aggressiveness as a team,” he said. “We would have had another win there, maybe. Our game, overall, we didn’t play our best hockey in the series.”

They didn’t.

And yet, Flyers goaltender Steve Mason was superb. He could not be faulted after turning aside 31 of the 33 shots he faced. The Rangers should have had four or five goals in the second period when he faced 18 shots.

“He was great -- our goalies did a great job for us and kept us in all the games,” Berube said. “We let them win the second period.”

Mason, incidentally, divulged he had been suffering from a concussion when he missed the first three games of the series.

By all rights, the Flyers, who had such a strong second period in Game 6 -- three goals -- were an utter mess on both sides of the puck in the middle frame. Both of the Rangers' goals came that period. Even worse, they were scored after two horrible Flyers power plays that acted as momentum shifts for New York.

If there are two stats that will haunt the Flyers they are as follows: In the four games the Flyers lost in the series, their power play was 1 for 13. In the three games they won, it was 5 for 8.

The other side of it was the Flyers killed off 21 consecutive Rangers power plays and New York still won the series. Go figure.

“Sometimes it’s clicking and sometimes it doesn’t,” Jakub Voracek said. “It’s too bad. We got two opportunities today and if we scored a goal on it, it would be different. But it’s too early to get on it and think about it that way.”

As good as the Flyers' power play was overall in the series -- 6 for 21 -- the two botched ones that period were crucial in defeat.

“Special teams are obviously very important,” Vinny Lecavalier said. “They are very aggressive and they played well on the PK tonight.”

The Rangers had two shorthanded chances on those two Flyers power plays, better than the two shots the Flyers mustered with the man advantage.

Dan Carcillo, serving a penalty for too many men on the ice, got the first goal at 3:06, well after a Flyers power play ended. But he was still on the ice coming out of the box. Braydon Coburn -- minus-6 in the series -- left Carcillo alone.

The second failed power play saw some tic-tac-toe passing by the Rangers after it expired with Benoit Pouliot, who was in the box for goalie interference, getting the eventual game-winner.

Four Rangers scored goals in the series on the same shift leaving the penalty box.

“We moved the puck well, had a couple chances,” Claude Giroux said. “We have to make sure it goes in the net. It’s Game 7. You lose 2-1.

“It doesn’t get closer than that. I think we did a good job staying in the battle. We have a lot of character in this room. For a young team, I think it’s great. This is only going to make it stronger.”

As bad as the second period was, the Flyers got back in the game when rookie Jason Akeson scored off his own blocked shot early in the third on Henrik Lundqvist to make it a nail-biter.

That goal gave the Flyers a shot of adrenalin. The Flyers began a push but the Rangers answered with stronger defense around Lundqvist.

“It was all positive [on the bench],” Akeson said. “Everyone was giving it their all. It’s a tough way to go out, that’s for sure, when you’re expecting to win.”

That was the mindset because the Flyers had come back so many times before -- 11 comeback wins in the third period during the regular season. Not this time.

The game ended on a series of Rangers icings, one debatable with less than three ticks left on the clock that saw a faceoff at center ice instead of in the Rangers' zone.

That didn’t lose the game or the series for the Flyers.

“Everyone feels lousy,” Berube said. “But I’m proud of my players. They went through a lot this year. We were stuck in a hole for a while and they battled out of it.

“Stuck together and went to a Game 7. I’m proud of them. They’re a great bunch of guys and there’s a lot of character in our locker room.”

Indeed, they did, climbing out of a 1-7 grave in October to resurrect their season and playoff chances by the end.

“It’s the worst feeling ever,” Voracek said. “You come so close, do or die and lose that critical Game 7. That’s hockey. We got to make sure and learn from it and use it in the future.”

Best of NHL: Last-place Islanders take down rival Rangers

Best of NHL: Last-place Islanders take down rival Rangers

NEW YORK -- Andrew Ladd scored in the second period and Jaroslav Halak stopped 36 shots to lead the New York Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the crosstown-rival Rangers on Tuesday night.

John Tavares, Jason Chimera and Scott Mayfield also scored at the Barclays Center to help the last-place Islanders improve to 4-0-1 in their last five games.

Jimmy Vesey and Marc Staal scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 28 saves. The Rangers have alternated wins and losses in regulation in their last eight games.

Halak beat Lundqvist for the ninth time in their last 10 matchups. Halak had won eight straight -- including the last five after joining the Islanders before the 2014-15 season -- before Lundqvist ended the streak in the Rangers' 5-3 win in the season opener Oct. 13 at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist is now 1-6-1 in his last eight against the Islanders (see full recap).

Schwartz lifts Blues over Canadiens in OT
ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz got his second goal of the game in overtime, leading the St. Louis Blues to a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.

Paul Stastny also scored for St. Louis, which has won four of five. The Blues rallied from a 2-0 deficit and have a point in their last 13 home games.

Tomas Plekanec and Paul Byron scored for Montreal, which completed a five-game trip 2-3.

Goalie Jake Allen made 28 saves to improve to 13-3-3.

Schwartz lifted a backhander past goalie Al Montoya with 1:22 left in overtime.

Stastny and Schwartz scored in a 2:51 span in the third period to tie it at 2 (see full recap).

Blackhawks blank Coyotes to snap modest skid
CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa had two goals, Scott Darling made 22 saves and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-0 on Tuesday night to snap a two-game slide.

Artem Anisimov and Dennis Rasmussen also scored to help Chicago maintain a three-point lead over St. Louis in the Central Division.

Darling made a handful of tough stops but wasn't heavily tested in his first shutout this season and third of his career. He started his third straight game in place of No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford, who had an appendectomy in Philadelphia on Saturday.

The 37-year-old Hossa scored his team-leading 13th and 14th goals in his 27th game -- surpassing his total of 13 last season in 64 contests (see full recap).

Confident Flyers extend winning streak to 6 straight games

Confident Flyers extend winning streak to 6 straight games

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They’ll admit it was choppy, sloppy hockey much of the night.

They didn’t bring their “A” game. Or “B” for that matter.
 
What the Flyers did have, however, was the confidence of a winning streak. And a hot goaltender in Steve Mason.
 
That was all they needed Tuesday to nudge the injury-riddled Florida Panthers, 3-2, in overtime at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
 
That’s six wins in succession for the Flyers, who moved to within two points of the Rangers and Penguins, both atop the Metropolitan Division. This equals the Flyers’ longest winning streak in five seasons, going back to December 2011.
 
“That's part of it, but the biggest thing was the saves we got,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “No doubt about that throughout the game. One of those nights where Mase was our best player.”
 
Mason had 42 saves, including a game-saver on Aaron Ekblad in overtime (see highlights).
 
Meanwhile, Wayne Simmonds continued his personal tear with another two-goal effort to give him 15 tallies on the season. One of the goals came on the power play as Simmonds now leads the NHL with eight power-play goals and 14 power-play points.
 
“I’m playing with great linemates and trying to give pucks up and get to the net,” Simmonds said. “It’s not all on me. It has a lot to do with my teammates.”
 
During the Flyers’ winning streak, Simmonds has seven points (five goals) as does Jakub Voracek, who nailed the game-winner with 8.6 seconds left in OT.
 
“Sometimes, it’s important for us if we don’t necessarily play great hockey, to win the game or get at least a point,” Voracek said. “That’s how you make it to the playoffs. Mase was outstanding with a lot of big saves. And we scored when we needed [to].”
 
Voracek notched the winner off a broken play from Claude Giroux.
 
“I was tired,” Voracek said. “It was a long hockey game. Three [games] in four [nights]. I lost the puck, G made the turnover happen and I knew if I turned around and shot it quick, he (goalie James Reimer) wouldn’t be able to get down.”
 
You’d never know this was a tired Panthers squad finishing up a six-game road trip given the way it out-skated and out-hustled the Flyers throughout the night.
 
“I think Florida played a great game. They played an outstanding game and they might have deserved better, but so many times this year we played teams and lost a game,” Voracek said. “So, it’s kind of good to get out of it [with a win].”
 
Florida outshot the Flyers, 14-3, at one point in the first period and led, 1-0, on Aleksander Barkov’s third goal in four games. He had a sweet give-and-go with Mark Pysyk across the high slot.
 
With less than three minutes remaining in the period, Reimer looked like a shortstop muffing a ground-ball hop as he fanned on Simmonds’ shot from 45 feet to tie the game. That was Simmonds’ first goal of the evening.
 
“I think the puck hit the top of their defenseman’s stick,” Simmonds said. “It was a lucky goal.”
 
Reimer made up for it during the second period with a sensational glove stab of Michael Raffl’s tip that was headed under the crossbar.
 
Yet he couldn’t do anything to stop Simmonds’ tip of Giroux’s shot from the high slot during a second-period power play.
 
Florida was energized for the third period while the Flyers tried to sit on that 2-1 lead. Mason stood on his head as he faced 17 shots.
 
“We have to change our mindset,” Simmonds said. “That’s the first time we’ve done that in a while.”
 
Mason had an incredible stop on Jussi Jokinen, but Jokinen got the tying goal nonetheless with 4:48 left in regulation to force overtime.
 
“It was a game where you had to come up with big saves,” Mason said. “Good game to come out with two points, but we all understand we have to be better.”
 
Speaking of better, rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov, evoking memories of Chris Therien, did a number on Jaromir Jagr to hold the all-time great without a point.
 
Also, that’s five games in a row now the Flyers haven’t allowed more than two goals. Don’t think that isn’t huge in their surge in the standings, as well as climbing out of their team goals-against hole.
 
“That’s unbelievable for us,” Simmonds said. “At the beginning of the year, to say we’d have five straight without giving up more than two would be a stretch.
 
“We’ve locked it down defensively and Mase has played unbelievable. We’ve been pretty good as five-man units.”