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: Maple Leafs topple Blue Jackets to boost playoff hopes

Best of NHL: Maple Leafs topple Blue Jackets to boost playoff hopes

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- William Nylander and Leo Komarov each had a goal and an assist and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri also scored, and Frederik Andersen had 32 saves as Toronto stayed in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division. Nikita Zaitsev scored an empty-net goal after the Blue Jackets pulled their goalie for a sixth skater near the end.

David Savard and Brandon Saad scored for Columbus, which lost for the first time in the last five games. Backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo stopped 26 shots. The Blue Jackets stayed in third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind leader Washington and one behind Pittsburgh. They play the Capitals in Washington on Thursday night (see full recap).

Ladd rallies Islanders past rival Rangers
NEW YORK -- Andrew Ladd scored the tiebreaking goal with about 7 1/2 minutes remaining in the third period and the New York Islanders rallied for 3-2 victory over the crosstown-rival Rangers on Wednesday night.

Anders Lee had a goal and an assist, and Nikolay Kulemin also scored for the Islanders, who pulled two points behind Boston for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. Anthony Beauvillier had two assists and Thomas Greiss stopped 34 shots.

Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash scored, and Antti Raanta finished with 25 saves for the Rangers, who remained six points behind Columbus for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Islanders, who beat the Rangers for the third time in four games this season and seven of eight over the last two, won for just the second time in six games (1-3-1). The Islanders also improved to 17-9-4 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano (see full recap).

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As far as he can remember, in his six years with the Flyers, Matt Read hasn't played on a line with both Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Read has spent time with each of the Flyers' top two scorers at various times but never together. The Flyers hope the cohesiveness comes together quickly after making changes to three of the lines on Wednesday in an attempt keep their sagging playoff hopes.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Read said. "We've still got to play better defensively, but you know it's kind of do-or-die right now. So hopefully chemistry clicks right away and things can start going off the bat."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol had hinted at adjusting the lines recently but stuck with the current structure in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss at Winnipeg (see game story). With the ability to practice Wednesday in Minnesota before Thursday's game against the Wild, Hakstol followed through with the adjustment.

Hakstol met with the four centers before practice and then had Giroux with Voracek and Read. Valtteri Filppula centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde.

Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Dale Weise stayed together.

"That line, it's been a good line for us," Hakstol said of Schenn, Couturier and Weise. "Off their game a little bit yesterday, but they've been a good line and I'm confident they'll come back and do a good job tomorrow. The other changes are just looking at different things coming off a road performance yesterday… just looking at a way to inject a little bit more into our lineup for a real tough road game here tomorrow night."

The Flyers didn't lose any ground with Tuesday's loss with Boston, Tampa Bay and Carolina also losing. But the Flyers now have just 10 games remaining as they trail Toronto by seven points for the final wild-card spot.

"We didn't take advantage of the opportunity we had for two points," Hakstol said. "At the end of the day, you can't sit back and watch what's happening elsewhere. You've got to take care of your own backyard, and that's what our focus is. We didn't get it done yesterday. Point blank, we didn't get it done. So, we've got an opportunity tomorrow night for two points and that's what our job is."

Reuniting Giroux and Voracek, along with Read, is one way he hopes to solve the issue. Voracek said he knows the onus is on his line to lead the way.

"We know what to expect from each other," Voracek said. "When we move our feet, we are dangerous. So that's what we've got to do. We've got to have fun. We've got to find a way to score the goals and help the team to win the games, because we're going to play a lot of minutes."

Another possible change for Hakstol could come along the defense. Brandon Manning practiced on Wednesday and Hakstol said it's possible he could rejoin the lineup against the Wild.

Manning hasn't played since March 11 because of a right shoulder injury. Hakstol said he's confident Manning is ready and a decision will be made Thursday morning on which of the seven defensemen will play in the game.

"He's practiced well," Hakstol said. "He got extra work in yesterday. He practiced well today. We'll have a decision to make tomorrow."