Flyers start fast, but fail to hold off Devils

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Flyers start fast, but fail to hold off Devils

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. – Ilya Bryzgalov watched the entire game unfold from the ice. But like his teammates and undoubtedly their fans, the Flyers’ goaltender didn’t know where things went wrong Friday night against the New Jersey Devils.

“I don’t know,” said an obviously frustrated Bryzgalov. “You’ve got to ask the coach. He makes the statements.”

The Flyers sat back and watched a 3-1 first-period lead turn into an eventual 5-3 loss, bringing their record against Atlantic Division opponents to a dismal 1-4.

And as for the coach’s statement, Peter Laviolette didn’t have much to say other than what was immediately apparent to anyone who watched more than the first 20 minutes of Friday’s affair at the Prudential Center.

“We came out and played a good first period,” Peter Laviolette said. “The second period and the third period were not as strong for us offensively. We made a mistake and it ended up in our net.”

The game actually started off poorly for the Flyers, who gave up a goal to Travis Zajac on the very first Devils shot just 40 seconds after the first puck dropped. But instead of deflating and falling back on their heels after the early deficit, the Flyers responded.

Winger Wayne Simmonds kicked off an impressive first-period rebound with a backhanded shot from the slot on the power play that tied the game at 1. Less than two minutes later, Mike Knuble swept a shot up through a crowd of skaters and past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.

Forty-eight seconds after that, Matt Read added to the tally, giving the Flyers the 3-1 lead they simply weren’t able to hold onto. The three goals, scored in just 2:36, are the fastest the Flyers have ever scored against Brodeur – 23 seconds faster than their previous record against the veteran goaltender, set in 2002.

“It seemed like every shift we had that period, we were down there cycling pretty good,” Knuble said. “We had a couple of really good shifts right away.”

But once the second period kicked off, those strong shifts became a thing of the past. The Flyers allowed another early goal 26 seconds into the second period to Alexei Ponikarovsky, playing in his first game since returning to the Devils. Patrik Elias capitalized on an ugly turnover by Kimmo Timonen to tie the game at 3.

“In the first period, we were on the attack offensively,” Laviolette said. “The second and third period, not quite as much. They picked up their game a little bit. They had their chances in the second and the third – and they scored on them.

“That’s pretty much it.”

The Flyers managed to hold the Devils to just 19 shots (compared to their 28), which should have resulted in a better outcome. Bryzgalov played a solid game once again, but turnovers were once again a problem. Too many times, the Flyers missed passes or got just a bit too sloppy with the puck.

And when they did, the Devils were able to capitalize.

“We probably had a few too many turnovers in the neutral zone and they were quality chances that we gave up,” Luke Schenn said. “We kept them to a low shot amount, but a lot of those were too quality chances.”

As rough as the Flyers’ final period felt, they held the Devils to just three shots. David Clarkson’s goal with just about nine minutes left in the game felt like the final blow needed. The Devils added to it, though, with an empty-netter from Steve Bernier with less than two minutes to play.

The Flyers have now lost four of their last five regular-season games against the Devils, and their last six including the postseason. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially after the way Friday’s game looked after the first period.

“Guys were skating hard today,” Claude Giroux said. “It’s a hard rink to play in, but when you got a 3-1 lead, I think you need to find a way to get it done. We’re going to learn from this, obviously.”

The good news? The Flyers won’t have long to dwell on the loss. They’re back at it Saturday evening in Montreal, where they’ll face the Canadiens in less than 24 hours.

“You’ve got to forget about what happened tonight and try to win tomorrow night’s game,” Bryzgalov said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Claude Giroux's struggles mirroring Flyers' offensive issues

Claude Giroux's struggles mirroring Flyers' offensive issues

PITTSBURGH -- He was plus-1 with an assist.
 
No shots on goal and obviously, no goals.
 
Another day's useless energy spent by Flyers captain Claude Giroux, skating around the rink looking for the net and finding nothing but darkness.
 
He hasn't scored a goal in nine games, which is a major reason why the Flyers are 2-6-1 over that same span of time, including Saturday night's 4-2 loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field in the Stadium Series (see game recap).
 
Indoors, outdoors it makes no difference right now for Dave Hakstol's band of minstrels. As goes the captain, so go the Flyers, and it's rough sledding these days with the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference fast disappearing.
 
"Yeah, it’s frustrating," Giroux said this weekend. "You try to do the best you can do to help the team. Right now it’s not going in. I really believe we’re playing some good hockey, playing the right way and we’re going to get rewarded soon."
 
Asked whether he believed his own production is a mirrored reflection of the team he plays for, Giroux hedged.
 
"You try to play the right way, do what’s asked of you," he replied. "I've had a lot of chances, but at the end of the day, it has to go in. We’re done with excuses."
 
Thing is, Giroux really hasn’t had that many chances. Just 13 shots during this nine-game stretch. In four of those games, he had no shots at all.
 
Teammate Jakub Voracek says it’s going to come for Giroux. But when? Time is running out on the Flyers.
 
"He's always been a streaky player," Voracek said. "And not streaky that he's going to go on a tear for 10 games and then disappear for 10. He was streaky for 18 and then struggled for two, then he had another 20 games.
 
"It's only a matter of time. I think the last two games he played really well. For the guys who don't watch the hockey game, they look at the stat sheet and say, 'Oh, he didn't have any points.' But that's the way it is."
 
The Flyers used the word "desperation" before and after their outdoor loss to the Penguins. They played another pretty good overall game, but one thing stood out: they didn't make it difficult enough for Pens goalie Matt Murray in terms of traffic.
 
Pittsburgh's fourth goal was an example of what the Flyers couldn't do – screen out the goalie.
 
"I thought in the first couple periods we – not a whole lot, but I thought there were a few opportunities where we didn't make it difficult enough for [Murray] to find the puck," Hakstol said.
 
"But we had enough quality, no question. We did have good quality. Is it enough? Obviously tonight it wasn't. We didn't win the hockey game."
 
There were spurts where the Flyers carried the play, showed momentum, and then it died. When Shayne Gostisbehere made it a 3-2 affair early in the third, the Flyers needed to seize the moment. They didn't get the equalizer.
 
Eight minutes later, the Penguins scored from the point off a lost faceoff draw between Evgeni Malkin and Sean Couturier. Michal Neuvirth didn't see the puck soon enough. On Matt Cullen's wraparound goal that made it 3-1, Neuvirth was unaware.
 
Neuvirth wasn't very good in this game.
 
"There's no question they had two or three spurts where they carried some momentum for short periods of time, but I thought overall through the 60 minutes, our group did a good job and played the type of game that we wanted to play," Hakstol said.
 
Giroux was asked this weekend how much pressure he is putting on himself right now to salvage the Flyers' fading playoff hopes.
 
"It’s tough not to put a lot of pressure on yourself when it’s not going the right way," Giroux said. "At the end of the day, you have to take a step back and know what you’re playing for.
 
"I’ve been playing since I was three years old and I love the game so much, just try to go out and enjoy the game even if it’s not going your way. You have to find a way to love the game and play with passion."
 
You've seen the Flyers do that throughout all this losing – 3-7-1 in their last 11 – but passion doesn't always result in goals. Voracek had a goal in this game. His second in three games.
 
The Flyers need a bunch of guys to get going simultaneously like last season when they made their playoff charge. Over the last 16 games (6-9-1), the Flyers have scored just 25 goals. That's a bad trend that needs to be reversed immediately.
 
"Obviously, we haven't been able to score a whole lot," Hakstol said. "There's been a lot made of that. And you know what, fairly so. I think that's fair.
 
"Yet tonight, I look at the opportunities at this time of year, the type of opportunities and the number of opportunities that we generated were pretty reasonable.
 
"We've got to stick with it. We've gone through a tough stretch here, and through that stretch we've played for the vast majority, we've played some pretty good hockey.  ... We've got to make sure that we completely stay together as we have, and we've got to keep pushing the envelope."
 
Hakstol was pleading his case.
 
Whether he wins it, is another story.

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

As if Saturday night's deflating loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field wasn't enough, the Flyers could be coming out of the defeat minus a defenseman in the lineup.

Brandon Manning will have a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Monday morning for his hit on Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel during the second period of the Stadium Series game.

That means a suspension is looming.

Just over three minutes into the second stanza on Saturday, Guentzel tried to corral a bouncing puck as he exited the Penguins' zone. He did not see Manning, who flattened him with a huge hit.

While the hit did seem a bit late in real speed to the naked eye, no interference penalty was called and play continued. Manning did look to leave his feet to the deliver the hit and make contact with Guentzel's head, though, so both could work against him during the hearing.

Video of the hit in question can be seen above.

Guentzel was not injured on the play, stayed in the game and finished the evening with two assists.

Manning has a clean history as he has never been suspended in the NHL.

If Manning does get suspended by the league, Michael Del Zotto is likely to draw back into the Flyers' lineup Tuesday against visiting Colorado.

Del Zotto, who is a prime candidate to be moved before Wednesday's trade deadline, has sat out the past three games as a healthy scratch.