Hartnell, Lecavalier suffer injuries in Flyers' loss

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Hartnell, Lecavalier suffer injuries in Flyers' loss

BOX SCORE

Updated: 11:45 p.m.

As if things could not possibly get any worse for the Flyers -- who are struggling for goals, wins and consistency throughout a game -- they lost two key forwards on Friday night.

Scott Hartnell, who might have been the best conditioned forward on the team, and Vinny Lecavalier, who was among the very few players with some points, both were injured during a 2-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes at the Wells Fargo Center.

Hartnell (upper body) and Lecavalier (lower body) will each miss at least a week and undergo MRIs on Saturday, general manager Paul Holmgren said. At least one player will be recalled from the Phantoms.

“They’re huge for our team,” Flyer captain Claude Giroux said.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have just six goals through five games.

“We’re not desperate enough around the net for me,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “We don’t have enough traffic at the net to get second and third opportunities. We need to get some greasy goals.”

Giroux, who remains without a point this season, needed time to compose himself before meeting the media late.

“It’s time for guys to step up, myself also,” he said. “I know we have our chances, but at the end of the day, we’ve just got to put the puck in the net. It doesn’t have to be pretty.

“It’s definitely frustrating -- the chances are there. We're going to the net, we're creating our own chances and when things like that happen, you gain confidence and build from there.”

The absences of Hartnell and Lecavalier didn’t help matters, but you can pin the loss entirely -- yet again -- on the Flyers killing themselves with penalties. We’ll get to that shortly.

Hartnell was injured with 6:55 left in the first period and did not return. He skated to the bench hunched over in pain. Lecavalier went down in the second period.

“We don’t know their status right now, but it’s obviously two great offensive guys, two big parts of our team, so it’s tough to try to do a comeback without these two guys,” Max Talbot said.

Berube talked about better discipline from his players. He might want to start with Zac Rinaldo.

Rinaldo’s setup of the lone goal was completely negated by four penalties, including a needless crosscheck to the back of Paul Bissonnette in the third period that saw the Coyotes' winger flatten goalie Steve Mason in the net.

Mason, who has been the club’s best goalie so far, had to be attended to by trainer Jim McCrossin, yet remained in the game.

“It happened a couple times in Carolina, as well," Mason said of the penalties. "Our guys are battling, but we can’t be taking penalties like that.”

It’s happened three times in the regular season.

Rinaldo had a daily double in this one with bad penalties. After the Flyers had tied the game late in the second period, 1-1, he took a needless high-sticking call and Phoenix burned the Flyers with a power-play goal to take the lead.

“It’s a dumb penalty,” Berube said. “It's a fine line with [Rinaldo]. You can't cross it, and he did.”

The Coyotes defeated Detroit on Thursday night in Motown, so the Flyers caught them in the second half of a back-to-back situation.

Despite a strong opening period in which the Flyers had the better scoring chances on goalie Thomas Greiss, outplayed and outshot Phoenix, they still trailed 1-0 when it was over.

And it was a fortunate goal, too, by the Coyotes as Derek Morris' shot from the right point got lost in a scrum at the net long enough for Rob Klinkhammer to slip it under Mason at 2:41.

“It hit Luke [Schenn] in front there and I’m not sure if it dropped down between my legs or something like that, but I didn’t see it,” Mason said.

At that point, the Flyers already had a couple of scoring chances from Lecavalier’s line. They would also get a penalty shot opportunity from Adam Hall after he was hauled down shorthanded by defenseman Michael Stone.

Alas, Hall, who is anything but Giroux with the puck, tried to get too fancy on his penalty shot attempt and flubbed the puck under Greiss, though it nearly trickled into the net.

Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn created another chance off the rush, but Greiss was again up to the task later in the period. Through two periods, they had four shots combined.

The most important aspect was two terrific penalty kills involving Giroux. When a player is struggling to score, sometimes his defense inspires him to raise his offensive game, and the Flyers certainly hope that is the case with Giroux.

The Flyers continued to be stymied by Greiss in the second period and went 0 for 4 in the game on the power(less) play.

What hurts here is the chances were there, like an easy rebound for Wayne Simmonds in the crease that he should have buried but fired it wide.

“I thought we had enough opportunities to score,” Holmgren said. “We’re just fighting it right now. We are obviously having a difficult time and you know we had some good opportunities as Wayne Simmonds had that open net on the power play -- I think it was a power play. Good enough opportunities to win the game.”

Nonetheless, the Flyers tied it with their third ugly goal in two games. This time, Rinaldo, who had a fight in the first period, got a puck in the high slot and simply wheeled around and fired.

Rinaldo’s scud missile was nowhere near the net, but it was on target to hit Talbot’s skate and redirect laterally across the crease on Greiss, tying the game at 1-1.

Of course, Rinaldo ruined things immediately with his high-sticking penalty in the final 26 seconds of the period.

On Phoenix’s ensuing power play, Oliver Ekman-Larsson made a spectacular move right around Talbot atop the right circle, then ripped a shot off the top of Mason’s right glove hand into the net.

Instead of being tied going into the third, the Coyotes led 2-1. Given the Flyers' scoring woes, it was enough.

“It’s a tight game,” Talbot said. “Phoenix plays really tight hockey and they came in and played well. They played solid defensively, and we worked hard, we did some good things, but it’s a process and we have to keep building.”

With increased workload, Steve Mason settling in as unquestioned No. 1 goalie

With increased workload, Steve Mason settling in as unquestioned No. 1 goalie

As Steve Mason has gone recently, the Flyers have gone right with him.

That theme held true in Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Florida Panthers, as the Flyers extended their winning streak to six games on the back of a 42-save performance from Mason.

For Mason, it was not only his fifth consecutive win, which equals a career high, but also the fifth straight game that he’s surrendered no more than two goals.

"Biggest thing is the saves we got, no doubt about that,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought Mase, it was one of those nights where he was our best player."

"He's been amazing,” Jakub Voracek said. “He's had a lot of streaks like this through his career. Last five, six games, he's been outstanding. Last year he pushed us to the playoffs, he was outstanding. When he got traded here, he was outstanding. It's good to see him play like that."

"Mase was the difference tonight,” Wayne Simmonds said.

On a night where the Flyers’ overall play could be best described as sloppy, Mason was sharp from the opening puck drop.

Despite facing of barrage of shots early, Mason was locked in, stopping 14 of the whopping 15 shots he faced in the first period. The only blemish on his opening period record was a goal from the slot area off the stick of Aleksander Barkov, who beat Mason to his short side on a perfect cross-ice feed from Mark Pysyk.

After the Flyers rebounded with a cleaner second period to take a 2-1 lead, Mason was forced to stand on his head for the final 20 minutes of regulation. The Panthers dominated puck possession yet again in the third, outshooting the Flyers, 17-4, and tying the game at two with just under five minutes remaining.  

"It was a game where you had to come up with big saves,” Mason said. “We spent a lot of time in our own end. It was good to come up with two points, but I think we all understand we have to be better."

While Jussi Jokinen, who was unaccounted for on a Florida rush, tallied the equalizer late in the third period, the Flyers were lucky that wasn’t the go-ahead goal thanks to a highlight-reel save by Mason earlier in the period.

An Aaron Ekblad shot from the point hit a screened Mason in the shoulder and bounced right onto the stick of Jokinen, who went around Mason and shot the puck on an open net.

But Mason made a last-ditch effort and dove at the puck, just getting his glove on it to protect the Flyers’ lead and cap off a spectacular save

"The original shot came through cross body and hit me in the shoulder so I didn't pick that up initially through the screens,” Mason said “Went down to my right there and just made a desperation attempt to get anything on it and fortunately I was able to get the glove on it.

“They had their chances. We were able to come through when we had to. Simmer comes up with some key goals again. At the end of the day we have to be better. The first period we weren't good enough, the second was a little bit better, but then again in the third we have to be better overall."

Mason began the season as a part of a goalie tandem with Michal Neuvirth. Neither goalie got off to a hot enough start to put a claim on the position, but Mason was trusted into the No. 1 role after Nuevirth went down with a lower-body injury against the Wild on Nov. 12.

Through his first 10 games prior to Nuevirth’s injury, Mason was stopping just .874 percent of the shots fired his way, while allowing an average three goals per outing.

Since then, Mason’s made 11 of a possible 12 starts and his increase in workload has coincided with his turnaround, boasting a .929 save percentage since becoming the consistent starter. During his current five-game winning streak, the 28-year-old carries a .947 save percentage and a 1.80 goals against average. 

And Mason getting hot at the same time he’s back as the Flyers’ unquestioned starting goaltender isn’t any coincidence either.

"You do read things at a higher level and that's something that you always work for,” Mason said of the increased workload. “To be reading plays and kind of reading things before they happen. It all goes back to practicing and working hard. You work hard sometimes you get rewarded for it.
 
 “I've said it numerous times, I want to be playing lots of hockey. 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 Hak calls my name be ready."

Best of NHL: Last-place Islanders take down rival Rangers

Best of NHL: Last-place Islanders take down rival Rangers

NEW YORK -- Andrew Ladd scored in the second period and Jaroslav Halak stopped 36 shots to lead the New York Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the crosstown-rival Rangers on Tuesday night.

John Tavares, Jason Chimera and Scott Mayfield also scored at the Barclays Center to help the last-place Islanders improve to 4-0-1 in their last five games.

Jimmy Vesey and Marc Staal scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 28 saves. The Rangers have alternated wins and losses in regulation in their last eight games.

Halak beat Lundqvist for the ninth time in their last 10 matchups. Halak had won eight straight -- including the last five after joining the Islanders before the 2014-15 season -- before Lundqvist ended the streak in the Rangers' 5-3 win in the season opener Oct. 13 at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist is now 1-6-1 in his last eight against the Islanders (see full recap).

Schwartz lifts Blues over Canadiens in OT
ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz got his second goal of the game in overtime, leading the St. Louis Blues to a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.

Paul Stastny also scored for St. Louis, which has won four of five. The Blues rallied from a 2-0 deficit and have a point in their last 13 home games.

Tomas Plekanec and Paul Byron scored for Montreal, which completed a five-game trip 2-3.

Goalie Jake Allen made 28 saves to improve to 13-3-3.

Schwartz lifted a backhander past goalie Al Montoya with 1:22 left in overtime.

Stastny and Schwartz scored in a 2:51 span in the third period to tie it at 2 (see full recap).

Blackhawks blank Coyotes to snap modest skid
CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa had two goals, Scott Darling made 22 saves and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-0 on Tuesday night to snap a two-game slide.

Artem Anisimov and Dennis Rasmussen also scored to help Chicago maintain a three-point lead over St. Louis in the Central Division.

Darling made a handful of tough stops but wasn't heavily tested in his first shutout this season and third of his career. He started his third straight game in place of No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford, who had an appendectomy in Philadelphia on Saturday.

The 37-year-old Hossa scored his team-leading 13th and 14th goals in his 27th game -- surpassing his total of 13 last season in 64 contests (see full recap).