Flyers undone by missed power-play chances

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Flyers undone by missed power-play chances

The Flyers looked good on the power play. Really good.

They had fans in the packed Wells Fargo Center on their feet Wednesday night at times during each of their seven power-play chances. There were pretty plays, lightning-fast shots -- everything you could ask for in a hockey game.

Except for the goals, though. There weren’t enough of those.

The Flyers were a disappointing 1 for 7 on the man advantage in their season opener, a sizable contributing factor to their 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs (see story). They looked strong and the effort was there, but it was all for nothing in the end.

“We’re doing the right things out there,” Claude Giroux said. “I had a couple of good shots, Hartsy (Scott Hartnell) had a one-timer in the slot and I think [Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan] Bernier got a glove on it, and Kimmo [Timonen] had a couple shots.

“The puck was going to the net. We had our chances, but we just couldn’t put it in.”

In total, the Flyers sent 13 shots in on net during the man advantage, but sent plenty more high or wide. Only Brayden Schenn was able to connect, with just seven seconds left on the clock in the first period.

It should have been a momentum changer.

“Definitely [frustrating],” said Vinny Lecavalier, who assisted Schenn’s goal. “I thought we moved the puck around pretty well. Both units had many chances. Grade-A chances, but couldn’t put it away.”

Last season, as you might recall, the Flyers actually excelled on the power play. They were third in the league and unstoppable at times. It was their even-strength play, then, that thwarted their postseason chances (they were actually successful on the kill, as well, ranked fifth in the league).

This year, though, they’re supposed to be even better on special teams. Two of the big offseason additions, Mark Streit and Lecavalier, were hyped not just as overall improvements but as power-play specialists, too.

Instead, the Flyers allowed far too many missed opportunities, which not only hurt them on the scoreboard but emotionally benefited the Maple Leafs.

“I really believe that when you kill a penalty, you get momentum,” Giroux said. “We had our chances. It’s frustrating because power play was clicking, ours and the other one. It’s frustrating, but you’ve got to stay positive. It’s only one game.”

Coach Peter Laviolette, actually, was positive when asked to reflect on his team’s power-play performance.

“I think the power play did a good job,” Laviolette said. “Both the units were able to get in and get the scoring opportunities and the looks they wanted. It would have been nice if one or two more could have fallen, but it didn’t happen.”

Of course, a lot of credit is due to Bernier, the Leafs’ goalie, who completely kept his team in the game, even through a stretch of 12:13 during which the Leafs failed to register a single shot. The Flyers sent 32 total shots in on him Wednesday night.

Had they been facing any other netminder, perhaps, there’d have been a much different outcome.

“He just battled and stopped the puck,” Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “Any of the loose pucks that were around, he seemed to have the ability to scoop up with his trapper or his blocker. He grabbed pucks and when there were loose pucks around he didn’t get many of the second opportunities.”

The Flyers now have a couple days of practice before they travel to Montreal on Saturday to face the Canadiens. In preseason, they were good at identifying mistakes and working to correct them. It's not that their power-play was a "mistake" per se, but there’s no doubt that after the loss to the Leafs they know what they’ll have to work on.

“Sometimes you get caught in those games where you feel like you are out-chancing them,” Schenn said. “… We did create some chances there, and we just have to find a way to finish -- and finish teams when you are getting those chances."

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

DETROIT -- Nikita Kucherov scored 3:28 into overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night.

Situated on the edge of the crease, Kucherov redirected a hard pass from Brayden Point into the net.

The Lightning are one point behind the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point (see full recap).

Islanders notch shootout win over Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- John Tavares and Anthony Beauvillier scored in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.

Beauvillier opened the shootout with a goal, and Tavares snapped a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the next round. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh, but Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since Dec. 29, stopped Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.

Anders Lee scored his 28th goal of the season, while Brock Nelson got his 17th and Casey Cizikas his eighth for the Islanders, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is tied with Boston at 82 points, but the Islanders have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have 18 wins in 31 games since Doug Weight was named interim coach on Jan. 17, replacing Jack Capuano.

Halak, a former All-Star, made 37 saves (see full recap).

Cracknell nets first hat trick in Stars' win
DALLAS -- Adam Cracknell got his first hat trick in seven NHL seasons and the Dallas Stars handed the San Jose Sharks their fifth straight loss, 6-1 on Friday night.

Cracknell opened the scoring in the first period, capped a three-goal flurry in the second and beat goalie Aaron Dell on a short-handed breakaway in the third for his career-high 10th goal of the season.

The Sharks entered two points ahead of Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division despite their longest losing streak of the season. San Jose has been outscored 16-5 during the stretch.

Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars.

Joe Thornton scored for San Jose on the power play in the second period. Dell had 23 saves.

Dallas' Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves four nights after shutting out San Jose (see full recap).

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

You know Dave Hakstol has reached crisis measures when he takes a skill player in Travis Konecny and throws him onto the fourth line while promoting Matt Read to the top line.

This was risk-taking at its craziest to generate some enthusiasm and life into a Flyers squad that didn't show much of a pulse a few nights earlier in Winnipeg.

Guess what?

It worked during a 3-1 victory on Thursday, the Flyers' fifth straight win over the Wild going back a few years (see Instant Replay).

Their playoff hopes still flicker.

As much as the fan base hated the lineup moves, consider this: general manager Ron Hextall was very explicit this week in saying that the roster Hakstol has right now is what it is. Hextall is not going to promote any young Phantoms into a bad situation when they are headed for what could be a decent playoff run in the AHL.

Therefore, as my former colleague Bill Lyon would say, here are 10 things I think, I think …

1. The Flyers began the game as they have so often this season with yet another turnover and scoring chance against them. Rinse and repeat. The Flyers had three turnovers in less than five minutes to start the game.

2. Minutes later, Steve Mason coughed up a bad rebound off his stick and Zach Parise burned him with a gimme goal for a 1-0 lead. Mason had issues in this one with rebounds that were looking like grenades, but he settled down with a strong final two periods with 24 saves. This was Mason's 100th win as a Flyer (see game story).

3. You had to see it to believe it. Sean Couturier with a nice backhand shot through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to make it a 1-1 game near the end of the opening period (see feature highlight). I haven't seen that kind of offensive move from Couturier in quite some time. Question is, why can't he do that nightly instead of semiannually? That's the offensive spark you know Couturier is capable of providing.

4. The Wild were very aggressive in this one as they were trying to clinch a playoff spot, so the Flyers had to match that intensity. The Flyers more than matched it. This was far, far better than what Hakstol's team brought to the ice in Winnipeg. Not even close, as the Flyers dominated.

5. Matt Read had a quick stick -- no other way to explain it -- on his goal in the second period off a series of Wild turnovers that came about because of a play set up by Jakub Voracek. That goal seemingly stunned Dubnyk. It was Read's second goal in the last two games. He was all over the ice in this one. Many nights this season, Read was invisible. Not this game.

6. The Flyers had some genuine scoring chances in this game. You had to wonder where this desire to skate, create and score was all through the month of February and into March. The Flyers had strong forecheck pressure and a rebound-attack mentality the entire second period. If that had happened with regularity down the stretch, this team would be sitting in the wild card right now.

7. While the shake-up of the lines obviously benefited Read, it did little for Konecny and actually set him back. He was invisible. No shots. No hits. Invisible with little ice time. Really can't figure this move out but obviously, Hakstol is upset with him for some reason.

8. Minnesota went all in at the NHL trade deadline to get Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, forking over four draft picks, including a first-rounder. The Wild were leading the Central Division before losing six straight (and eight of nine) that allowed Chicago to regain the top spot in the division. The Wild don't look like the same confident, surging team it was a month ago in the Western Conference.

9. Minnesota had a strong push in the final five minutes and the Flyers had some initial difficulty answering that until the final minute when Wayne Simmonds picked up his 300th point as a Flyer on Voracek's empty-net goal to seal the deal. A nice way to finish off a complete effort by everyone involved.

10. The Flyers picked up two points on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and are six behind the Bruins in the wild card. They still remain a l-o-n-g shot to make the playoffs, given the sheer number of teams ahead of them that they need to climb over.