Flyers were a mess in loss to Oilers as playoff hopes fade

Flyers were a mess in loss to Oilers as playoff hopes fade

EDMONTON, Alberta — Take away all the hype surrounding the Brandon Manning-Connor McDavid saga, what are the Flyers left with on Friday?

Well, it’s not good.

Lost in translation from Thursday’s 6-3 Oilers spill is the numbing reality that for the first time in eight games, Dave Hakstol’s team was a mess.

Defensively, the Flyers were scrambling in their own end, two steps behind the play. Their forwards were lost somewhere on the Macleod Trail leaving Calgary, trying to backcheck and goalie Michal Neuvirth looked subpar from the get-go.

That’s a recipe for disaster and a blowout loss, which is what happened eight games ago in Carolina when the Flyers were crushed, 5-1.

“That second period there, we fell asleep. Well, not asleep, but they got some chances and they capitalized on them,” Brayden Schenn said. “In the third, we made a push, but weren’t able to come back.”

And the cherry on top? The Flyers have now lost five of their last six games and have finally been eclipsed by a team behind them.

“We needed a much better job from our team, that’s for sure,” Radko Gudas said.

Hakstol went with seven defensemen in the Oilers’ loss to get Michael Del Zotto back in the lineup but it backfired when Jordan Weal went down with an upper-body injury. Weal said he was “OK” after the game.

That left 10 forwards to play the remainder of the game against one of the fastest clubs in the league. Truth is, the Flyers couldn’t match the Oilers' speed. Players were forced to double shift which is why Schenn, for instance, had a season-high 22:35 in ice time.

“The guys did a good job, we battled hard and, obviously, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We kept going and pushing. We didn’t give up."

For months now, the Flyers have looked over their shoulders at a struggling Islanders club, which appeared as a vague shape in their rearview mirror.

Well, the Isles' win over the Rangers on the same night the Flyers lost, moved them ahead of the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division to fifth place, dropping the Flyers (61 points) to sixth in the division and 10th overall in the East.

Hakstol’s club remains two points behind Toronto in the second wild-card spot, but the Islanders, Florida and even Buffalo are right with them. 

The Isles have 62 points with two games in hand. The Panthers have 60 points with three games in hand. Buffalo has 60 points, but has played the same number of games (58) as the Flyers.

It would be an understatement to say the playoffs are quickly fading from the Flyers' list of possibilities.

One of the inherent advantages of playing teams in the West is you can collect points with a win without having to worry about a head-to-head loss because there’s no direct impact within your division.

There is, however, the indirect effect of a loss to the Western club when your division foes are all winning games, and that’s what has happened on this trip.

“It’s not much consolation because we didn’t get the two points,” Simmonds said. “We’ve got to start over and figure things again for Vancouver.”

Given how things have gone lately, there’s little to grasp in the Flyers' overall play that would suggest they’ll somehow salvage two points on Sunday night in Vancouver against the Canucks.

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike some other NHL teams coming off their bye week, there wasn't a spot of rust on the sleek Columbus Blue Jackets.

In their first game following a five-day break, the high-energy Blue Jackets blew out the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday as backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo earned his first career shutout.

Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, and David Savard had a goal and three assists. Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored to help the Blue Jackets end New York's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Zibanejad scores in OT to help Rangers beat Devils again
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Rangers are finding ways to win, and the New Jersey Devils just aren't.

Moments after goaltender Antti Raanta stopped Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway, Mika Zibanejad scored 1:16 into overtime and the Rangers rallied to beat the Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

"I had to redeem myself after that letdown on the breakaway the other way," said Zibanejad, whose mistake gave Palmieri a chance to complete a hat trick. "Rants came up big and it's nice to see that puck cross the goal line once again and win the game."

The goal was Zibanejad's first in 16 games and it gave the Rangers their ninth win in 11 games (9-1-1). Struggling New Jersey got its fourth loss in five games (1-3-1) (see full recap).

Shaw's OT goal gives Canadiens 14th straight win over the Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday night for their 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.

Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto (see full recap).

Flyers suffer deflating outdoor loss to Penguins, fall in playoff picture

Flyers suffer deflating outdoor loss to Penguins, fall in playoff picture

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH – They won the battle inside the faceoff circle. Outshot their opponent badly. Blocked more shots, too.

And the Flyers still lost. Sound familiar?

Saturday's 4-2 defeat (see Instant Replay) to the Penguins at Heinz Field in the Stadium Series outdoor game likely confirms for general manager Ron Hextall it’s time to be a seller at the trade deadline with a playoff berth seemingly out of sight.

"We gotta score goals. We got good opportunities, but it’s getting old," Jakub Voracek lamented. "If we don’t find a way to win a game, nobody cares."

Not enough scoring from their pop-gun offense, which now has just 25 goals over their last 16 games. Which is a major reason why they've lost seven of their last nine.

"It's that cliché, gripping your stick and I don’t like to use that," Voracek said. "The bottom line, if we want to make the playoffs we got to score the goals. We're not scoring."

It was 36 degrees at puck drop and there were swirling wind gusts. Players said the first period was tough, but they adjusted as the game went on.

"It feels good. It feels awesome," Wayne Simmonds said. "It's the way ice hockey should be played."

That good feeling didn't translate to offense Saturday. They played well enough to win but ...

"We got to get going here," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We're [five] points back and that's the biggest thing and it's in all of our heads now. It's getting down to not a lot of games left and we've got to get two points."

Goalie Michal Neuvirth did not have a strong game facing 29 shots.

"We walk away with the wrong result," coach Dave Hakstol said. "We have a day in-between to turn the page and get back at it."

Things began Pittsburgh's way with Sidney Crosby scoring at 11:18, sneaking to the low right slot near the goal line to take a perfect pass from Jake Guentzel and one-time into the far side on Neuvirth for his 34th goal.

Brayden Schenn, centering a new line with Nick Cousins and Jakub Voracek, had a solid scoring chance in the final minute of the period, but Pens goalie Matt Murray turned his shot aside. Murray also had two good saves on Sean Couturier earlier from in tight.

Nick Bonino, one of the heroes from the Stanley Cup Final last season, made it 2-0 at 6:44 of the second period on the power play. He scored almost from the same spot where Crosby scored.

Minutes earlier, Guenztel took a questionable hit to the head area from Brandon Manning which the Penguins felt was illegal (see video). Pittsburgh came back with Chris Kunitz rocking Ivan Provorov two shifts later.

Manning’s hit energized the Flyers, who owned the second period.

Hours before the game, Voracek said what most people were already thinking.

"I would expect this to be the biggest game of the year," he said. "You look at the standings. We can’t afford to lose."

Voracek wasn't kidding when he said the Flyers needed to do something here. He went behind the net 4-on-4 with Justin Schultz and came around the front with the puck to muscle it past Murray at 11:14, cutting the Flyers deficit in half.

Voracek's goal, his second in three games, gave the Flyers even more of a lift and they made a strong push to tie the game before the period ended.

"We spent a lot of time in their zone and we were very strong on the forecheck," Voracek said. "We had comebacks early in the season … but two penalties in the end, it's tough … How do you rebound? You have no choice. We're not out. We have to start winning."

The Flyers killed off a carryover penalty to start the third but immediately after, the Pens got a strong forecheck with Eric Fehr behind the net, getting the puck over to 40-year-old Matt Cullen, who snuck up on Neuvirth and stunned him with a wraparound.

That was a terribly costly goal and made it 3-1, but Gostisbehere got it right back minutes later with his first goal in 34 games off a point shot during the power play.

It was as close as the Flyers got. Pittsburgh scored off a faceoff to make it 4-2 in the final six minutes. Sean Couturier lost a draw to Evgeni Malkin and the Pens scored off a point drive Neuvirth couldn't find.

"That was deflating," Gostisbehere said. "We can be sad for ourselves all we want … bad bounces or we can say, 'well, it's lucky.' But you know, it keeps happening for a reason."