Holmgren hopes Flyers hit rock bottom in rout

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Holmgren hopes Flyers hit rock bottom in rout

BOX SCORE

It got so bad, general manager Paul Holmgren left his suite high atop the Wells Fargo Center after the second period to address the Flyers himself.

At that point, they were trailing 6-0 to the Alexander Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals, on their way to an eventual 7-0 thrashing (see Instant Replay).

Friday night was the worst the Flyers have looked in a season defined so far by its ugly hockey -- and the GM’s attempt to wake up his team after 40 minutes wasn’t able to accomplish a thing. 

Is this rock bottom?

“I hope so,” Holmgren said.

To add injury to insult, the Flyers lost two key players to fights Friday night. Vinny Lecavalier has a facial injury and will miss at least Saturday’s game. Steve Downie was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after the game. He will be out indefinitely with a concussion, resulting from a second-period fight with Caps winger Aaron Volpatti.

“It’s embarrassing to play in front of our fans and lose 7-0 like that,” Claude Giroux said. “It’s unacceptable. We need to figure it out.”

The thing is, the Flyers actually started the game with some jump. They had early pressure on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, and held the Caps without a shot for the first 15 minutes.

But once they allowed center Nicklas Backstrom to score -- on just the team’s second shot of the night -- everything crumbled. The Flyers stopped skating. They committed turnover after turnover. They could barely carry the puck past the red line. 

“The second period was pretty rough,” Holmgren said. “I thought we played pretty good for 15 minutes, and once they scored the first goal, we kind of just stopped playing. I think we just seem like we’re afraid to play the game right now, and we’re afraid to make plays, afraid to battle for pucks, afraid to skate after pucks.

“It’s tough to watch. I’m sure the players are very embarrassed like we all are. We’ve got to do better than that.”

The Flyers, obviously, are frustrated. The coaches are frustrated. The general manager himself is, too.

But no one has taken the Flyers’ rough start harder than the fans. To that end, before the second period had even come to a conclusion, “Fire Holmgren” chants rang out loud enough for the GM to hear. When the horn sounded to kick off the second intermission, loud boos filled the Wells Fargo Center.

Holmgren understands where it’s coming from.

“I can’t blame the fans,” he said. “We’re as frustrated as they are. If I was sitting in the stands, I’m not sure I’d be chanting, but I might be thinking the same thing. It’s part of the business.”

After Joel Ward had registered a hat trick, after Backstrom’s two goals and the tallies from Troy Brouwer and Jason Chimera, things truly deteriorated.

It started with a fight between Wayne Simmonds and Tom Wilson. Suddenly, Ray Emery was skating across the ice to take out his frustrations on Holtby, who wanted nothing to do with the fight. A complete line brawl ensued, resulting in 114 penalty minutes.

The time during the fights was the only time Friday the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center rose to its feet and cheered.

“Frustration shows sometimes that way,” Emery said. “We all grew up playing hockey, and sometimes that happens -- you don’t want anyone to get hurt, but we don’t take losses like that.”

Emery was kicked out of the game after his fight, and very well might receive a suspension for his actions. Steve Mason, who had been pulled after allowing the game’s third goal, went back in. He actually played well ‘til the final horn, too.

Where do they go from here? Where can they go from here?

“We go play a game tomorrow,” head coach Craig Berube said, referencing Saturday’s game in Newark against the Devils.

“Pick yourself up and go play. That’s it. Everybody’s been involved in these games before, they’re not fun obviously, but we can’t sit there and dwell on it, you’ve got to go play a game tomorrow. We’ll go compete tomorrow, work hard. That’s what you do.”

Flyers-Oilers 10 observations: Two big rallies and the win streak pushes forward

Flyers-Oilers 10 observations: Two big rallies and the win streak pushes forward

Ten observations from the Flyers' 6-5 win over the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night, their seventh straight win and longest win streak since Dec. 2-15, 2011 (see Instant Replay).

1. And the Flyers (somehow) did it. They won their seventh straight game on a night Steve Mason wasn't his best — five goals allowed for the third time this season — and the team defense was largely atrocious. Michael Raffl scored a beautiful goal for the game-winner at 18:31 of the third period and the Flyers held on. This game had a 1980s feel to it. Lots of scoring. Highly entertaining. And the Flyers found a way to win it. This team is on a roll.

2. From the Flyers' perspective, the most entertaining moment of the opening 20 minutes came with 5:31 left in the first period, when Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning and Oilers center Connor McDavid exchanged words post-whistle in the Philadelphia zone.

Manning broke McDavid's collarbone last season, which forced McDavid to miss a chunk of his rookie season. Nothing more than a little pushing and shoving with some trash talk.

Still, the sequence brought the most excitement in the first period. Speaking of which …

3. For a team that entered on a six-game winning streak, the Flyers' first-period effort was disheartening. They needed more than nine minutes to get their first shot on goal, and had more shots in the final two minutes — five — than they did the first 18 minutes.

No real scoring chances, either, out of the nine first-period shots. Raffl had a nice chance, but Oilers goalie Jonas Gustavsson was able to make the stop.

That's two straight games the Flyers have had poor first periods. Tuesday, they were tied, 1-1, with the Panthers, but faced a 1-0 deficit Thursday. Better first periods are needed.

4. Boy, the Flyers woke up quick after the 10-minute mark of the second period.

Down 2-0, the Flyers scored three goals in one minute and 12 seconds in the second period — 12:31, 13:24 and 13:43 — to get the Wells Fargo Center jumping.

Mark Streit started it off with a power-play goal, followed by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and then Claude Giroux. Bellamare beat Gustavsson with a well-placed wrist shot, which may have been the fourth-liner's best shot of his NHL career, for his first of the year.

Giroux's diving slapper gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead 19 seconds later. The loudest the building may have been this season. It had a playoff atmosphere after Giroux's goal.

5. Let's talk about McDavid. We hear about how fast he is, how skilled he is, how special he is, and he is every bit as advertised. You see it more when you see him in person.

McDavid scored his first power-play goal of the season at 4:35 of the second period, his 12th goal of the campaign. He rocketed home a one-timer from Leon Draisaitl off a rebound.

The 19-year-old kid leads the NHL in scoring and just scored his first PPG. The kid is special. Very special. Side note, McDavid chirped Manning after his PPG.

6. And, of course, McDavid was a factor in another Oilers goal. After the Flyers took momentum with their three goals in just over a minute, McDavid took it right back.

While the Oilers were shorthanded, McDavid was double-teamed in the corner left of Mason by Andrew MacDonald and Bellamare, but he was able to shovel the puck to Mark Letestu, who then found Andrej Sekera for a blast by Mason to make it 3-3 at 16:15 of the second period.

The credit for that goal goes all to McDavid. Tremendous strength by a 19-year-old who was being pinned against the boards by a 30-year-old and 31-year-old, respectively.

Sekera's goal was the seventh shorthanded goal allowed by the Flyers — most in the NHL.

7. I was skeptical of using the Bellemare line against McDavid, but at 5-on-5, Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde and Roman Lyubimov did a decent job against McDavid. Still, the Oilers' captain finished with a goal and assist. The Flyers held McDavid without a breakaway.

The Bellemare line did a tremendous job at 5-on-5.

8. The fans grew restless with the referees in the third period. First, Brayden Schenn put a loose puck into the net, but Gustavsson had covered it and the whistle had blown quickly. And then, McDavid tackled Ivan Provorov on a break. Should have been a penalty.

9. We hear about McDavid all the time, but Edmonton has another young star in Draisaitl, who found himself off the McDavid line against the Flyers.

No problem for the 2014 No. 3 overall pick. Draisaitl had a goal and two assists and displayed an uncanny ability to find open players and get them the puck.

In a game featuring McDavid, it was Draisaitl who stole the show. Wow.

10. It was Goaltender Heritage Night at the Wells Fargo Center, but there were no special ceremonies. The honorees, voted by the fans, were Bernie Parent, Ron Hextall, Pelle Lindberg, Pete Peeters and Brian Boucher. Outside of some interviews during stoppages and a cool, little presentation during introductions, there was nothing to write home about. There was an uptick in goalie jerseys in the crowd.

Personal favorite? A Brian Boucher No. 1 Philadelphia Phantoms sweater.

Instant Replay: Flyers 6, Oilers 5

Instant Replay: Flyers 6, Oilers 5

BOX SCORE

It wasn’t so much about Connor McDavid on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center as it was that the last goal wins.

And it wasn't McDavid who scored last, either. 

The Flyers extended their winning streak to seven games with a 6-5 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. 

Michael Raffl's brilliant move off the boards broke a 5-5 tie with 1:29 left in regulation. The Flyers scored three times in the both the second and third periods.
 
Trailing 2-0 in the second period, the Flyers ripped off three goals in 1:12 to take a shocking 3-2 lead on the Oilers.
 
They then got a power play, but McDavid negated it with a brilliant play to set up the tying goal going into the third period.
 
The Flyers trailed by two early in that stanza, but tied it 5-5 on goals from Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux. 

Road kill
Edmonton came into the game with the best road record in the NHL: 8-4-3. These guys aren’t road kill for the home team by any stretch. In case you’re wondering, the Islanders have the worst road record: 2-6-1.
 
Notable goals
How about McDavid kicking the puck to teammate Mark Letestu after being tied up on the boards by Andrew MacDonald and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare for a goal that tied the game a 3-3 minutes after Flyers scored their three?
 
Goalie report
Leon Draisaitl’s goal in the opening five minutes was Mr. Softie material on Steve Mason. Not much he could do on some others in this one. The same could be said for the Oilers’ Jonas Gustavsson.
 
Power play
Voracek had the lone goal on the PP in the third period. Mark Streit’s goal that ignited three straight in the second period came after a power play had ended. However, the Flyers also gave up another shorthanded goal.
 
Shorthanded goal
Andrej Sekera’s shortie late in the second period made it 3-3. The Flyers have given up a league-high seven shorthanded goals.
 
Penalty kill
McDavid scored his first power-play goal of the season in the second period to make it a 2-0 game on a one-timer from the circle. Hard to believe, Harry, that the league’s stop scorer didn’t have a power-play goal until now. Oscar Klefbom had a PPG in the third period that gave the Oilers a 5-3 lead.
 
No goal
The Flyers thought they scored with 11:54 left in third. They were trailing, 5-4, but the whistle and play had been blown dead several seconds prior.
 
Fights
McDavid and Brandon Manning mixed it up a bit in the first period but no fight.
 
Scratches
Defensemen Nick Schultz (healthy) and Michael Del Zotto (illness), forwards Boyd Gordon (healthy), Sean Couturier (left knee) and Matt Read (oblique pull), goalie Michal Neuvirth (left knee). 
 
Up next
The Flyers practice at Skate Zone on Friday at 11 a.m. They host the Dallas Stars at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday at 1 p.m.