Flyers suffer first loss on trip, 2-1 in Colorado

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Flyers suffer first loss on trip, 2-1 in Colorado

BOX SCORE

DENVER -- They had the rushes they needed. They had plays that seemed to set the table for them.

What the Flyers didn’t have in the final five minutes of a 2-1 loss to the Avalanche was enough shots.

They had three shots to that point in the period, but would finish with seven more over the final frantic minutes of the game on goalie Semyon Varlamov, who stole points.

That’s the essence of why the Flyers couldn’t keep their western road trip record at a perfect 4-0, incurring their first loss in the five-game swing (see Instant Replay).

“Their defense had good gaps on us all night,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “We could have shot the puck more, but I tend to always think that.

“Putting the puck on net from anywhere is a good play if you got people who are supposed to go there. Things happen. If you pass up shots, you pass up goals.”

Sean Couturier was among several players driving hard those final minutes but not finishing with a shot on goal. Something always seemed to stall the rush up ice.

“I know what you’re talking about,” Berube said. “We had some rushes and we kind of pulled up or looking for late guys and it got deflected. Normally, our guys drive and put it on net. You don’t have to shoot it hard. Put it on net. Rebounds come out.”

The Flyers had 30 shots in the game, yet not enough early in the final period. Despite that, they still had quality chances throughout the game on Varlamov.

“We had a lot of chances,” Scott Hartnell said. “He was moving east-west and he was there to make the stops. Sometimes you run into a hot goalie and you can’t do nothing about.

“We fought hard, had lots of chances but the shifts we didn’t play well turned it over and the puck ended up in our net.”

Colorado made an early push in the third period and the Flyers made a late push back, but again, it wasn’t enough.

“We were screening, we had a couple of point-blank chances, people driving the net,” Hartnell said. “Most games, you do that you get bounces or you get rewarded for your hard work. Tonight we got stoned.”

Wayne Simmonds, who had the lone Flyer goal in the second period to make it a 2-1 game, also had a good chance in the final minute from distance.

“We had our chances, we played a good game but we didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Simmonds said. “Ultimately, that’s the game.

“Varlamov played really well. We could have done some better things as a team, but as a whole, we played pretty decent.

“It would have been nice to pick up any points in this game. We have to build on it going into Phoenix.”

Flyers goalie Steve Mason agreed.

“The effort was there,” Mason said. “We had a lot of chances to go ahead. The puck just wasn’t bouncing our way, but not for lack of effort. The guys worked hard to create chances.”

Flyers captain Claude Giroux said he felt winded out there with the thin Denver air by the third period but kept going. The atmosphere here is something the Flyers aren’t used to because they don’t come to Colorado enough.

“We had a lot of chances to tie it up. The effort was there, guys worked really hard and Mase had the saves to keep us in the game,” Giroux said. “Lot of chances with pucks on the goal line.”

Flyers-Oilers 5 things: Winning streak meets Connor McDavid

Flyers-Oilers 5 things: Winning streak meets Connor McDavid

Flyers (15-10-3) vs. Oilers (14-10-4)
7 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com, Pregame Live at 6:30

The hottest team in the NHL will meet the hottest young star on Thursday night when the Flyers host the Edmonton Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. McDavid and Co.
The Flyers are going for their seventh consecutive victory, which would tie their longest winning streak since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when they also won seven in a row.

In order to do so, they’ll have to slow down transcendent talent Connor McDavid and the prolific but streaky Oilers.

McDavid, a generational player, has thus far lived up to all the hype surrounding him as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. In just his second NHL season — and first with a healthy start after an injured-shortened rookie year (45 games) — the 19-year-old leads all of hockey in points with 36, while no other player has yet to eclipse 30.

His 25 assists also rank atop the NHL, while his 11 goals are among the top 22 and his plus-8 rating is tied for ninth best between all centers.

“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said Wednesday. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice.”

And he has help.

Linemates Leon Draisaitl (11 goals, 11 assists) and Milan Lucic (eight goals, 12 assists) can do damage, as can Jordan Eberle (eight goals, 13 assists).

2. Defense wins games
The Flyers are playing better and cleaner in front of their goaltender — who has been great (see below) — and the results are showing.

The orange and black have gone five straight games of allowing two or fewer goals.

Why were they so up and down before this run? Well, they had surrendered two or fewer goals in just five of their previous 23 games.

“That’s unbelievable for us,” Wayne Simmonds said after Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Panthers. “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.”

3. Mase the man
A confident Steve Mason is a dangerous Steve Mason.

Right now, Mason has the net and is gaining steam by the game.

Over his past five outings, the 28-year-old is 5-0-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

Just as impressive, since Nov. 12, Mason is 8-3-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

“I've said it numerous times, I want to be playing lots of hockey,” Mason said Tuesday. “This is a position that I'm used to being in and where I'm most comfortable. So just have to keep continuing to put my work in and whenever [head coach Dave Hakstol] calls my name, be ready."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: You always have to watch Simmonds, but especially now with the winger coming off back-to-back two-goal games. Simmonds leads the NHL with eight power-play goals and is second in man-advantage points (13) to only teammate Claude Giroux (14).

Oilers: With all the attention zeroed in on McDavid, we’ll go with the 21-year-old Draisaitl, who has seven goals in his last nine games and 14 points in his past 12. The No. 3 overall pick in 2014 is an intelligent playmaker capable of hurting you.

5. This and that
• Mason is 8-4-0 with just a 3.49 goals-against average and .872 save percentage in 13 career games against Edmonton.

• Oilers goalie Jonas Gustavsson will make his fourth start of the season. He’s 1-1-1 on the year with 84 saves on 91 shots faced, but is 0-4-1 lifetime against the Flyers with a 3.57 goals-against average and .865 save percentage.

• The Flyers are fourth in the NHL in goals per game (3.11), while Edmonton is seventh (2.93).

• The Oilers have lost 10 of their last 15 games (5-7-3).

Flyers skate update: Wayne Simmonds, power play key to beating Oilers

Flyers skate update: Wayne Simmonds, power play key to beating Oilers

Todd McLellan saw a lot of Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov as a junior player in the Western Hockey League whenever the Brandon Wheat Kings would turn up in Edmonton.

“I watched him play in junior and had a chance to see that Brandon team play in Edmonton twice last year,” said the Edmonton Oilers coach.

“Obviously, a smooth, confident [player] with great vision. He has patience with the puck. Those are his offensive assets. 

“But he also positions himself well, defensively. He accepts that responsibility. For a young d-man, he is ahead of a lot of others because he can play on both sides of the puck.”

Provorov rattled Jaromir Jagr Tuesday when Florida was here (see story). Tonight he gets his first NHL taste of Connor McDavid.

McLellan said the Oilers' biggest challenge against the Flyers will be stopping the NHL’s second-ranked power play. Edmonton has the 11th best penalty kill.

His concern is Wayne Simmonds (8 power play goals) and Claude Giroux (14 power play points). 

“That power play is deadly and it really hasn’t changed — it’s just clicking,” McLellan said. “It has a couple trigger points. Obviously, Simmonds has the most goals in the league  and Giroux has the most points. But there’s other pieces to that power play, which are exceptional. 

“Our penalty kill has been taking it on the chin and I had to ask our guys today, 'Is it the penalty kill or the penalties?' In my opinion, it’s as much the penalties as the penalty kill. We have to stay out of the box.  

“This is a confident Flyers team. They feel very good in the offensive zone and make things happen. Their goaltender [Steve Mason] has been making saves for them that keeps them confident going the other way. It’s a team on the rise.”

The Streak
The Flyers are looking to make it seven straight wins tonight against the Oilers. The last time they won seven in arrow was Dec. 2-15 in 2011. They did not have a morning skate.

On Mason
Tuesday’s win against Florida was Steve Mason’s 88th as a Flyer, moving him past Pelle Lindbergh into sixth in franchise history. Mason needs six wins to move into third place in franchise history. 

Debut
Defenseman Dillon Simpson will make his Oilers debut tonight in Philadelphia. He is the son of former Oiler Craig Simpson. 

The oddity? Last year, Keegan Lowe made his Oilers' debut here in Philadelphia. He is the son of Kevin Lowe, longtime coach and front office executive for the Oilers. 

Colors
The Oilers wear three colors during their morning skate. Their defensemen dress in orange; their third and fourth lines dress in white and their top six skaters dress in blue. Now that’s an NHL hierarchy.