Instant Replay: Avalanche 2, Flyers 1

ap-jamie-mcginn-avalanche-flyers.jpg

Instant Replay: Avalanche 2, Flyers 1

BOX SCORE

DENVER -- The perfect record on this five-game western road trip is no longer perfect.

The Colorado Avalanche outplayed the Flyers offensively Thursday night at Pepsi Center and came away with a 2-1 victory.

The loss was the Flyers' first in four games on this road trip, as they officially hit the midway point (41 games) of the season.

Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov simply stoned the Flyers -- no pun intended -- at every angle at the net.

He didn’t outplay Flyers goalie Steve Mason, but he was good. Mason was under siege in the third period and gave the Flyers every chance to get a victory.

Just when things were going so well for the Flyers' first line ... a major injury.

Michael Raffl suffered a concussion in the opening period. He had replaced Scott Hartnell on the top line nine games ago.

Raffl’s absence forced coach Craig Berube to rotate Steve Downie, Brayden Schenn and others to the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Matt Read was already sidelined with an upper body injury, so the Flyers were pretty much down two forwards most of this game.

Ryan O’Reilly’s shot near the midpoint of the second period hit Mason’s right pad and bounced up and over his shoulder, giving Colorado a 2-0 lead which seemed like 4-0 given the saves Varlamov was making. It didn't hit Mason's shoulder, although it appeared that way. 

Wayne Simmonds halved the deficit four minutes later by redirecting Andrej Meszaros’ wrister from the left circle, setting up a tense final period in which the Flyers made a late push but could not tie the game and simply didn’t put enough shots on net in the last period.

Injuries
Raffl left the game with a concussion in the final three minutes of the first period after taking a hit from Gabriel Landeskog.

Hot
Simmonds has seven goals over the past six games.

Post shots
Paul Stastny ripped one off the left post in the final second of the second period with the Avs leading, 2-1.

Telling stat
The Avs came into the game 7-0-2 against the Flyers in their previous nine meetings. Since the Avs moved from McNichols Arena to Pepsi Center in 1999, they were 4-2-3 against the Flyers in this building. 

Turnovers
One by Sean Couturier resulted in Jamie McGinn’s first-period goal and a 1-0 lead at 11:14. Mason made the initial save on Matt Duchene, but the rebound went directly to McGinn in the slot for an easy goal. Not much of a backcheck there from Couturier, who turned it over in the neutral zone.

Quality saves
Mason had two during the Avs’ first-period power play with a glove save on Ryan O’Reilly and a stop on Landeskog. When the power play ended, he denied Duchene during a turnover in the slot. Varlamov had a quality pad stop on Scott Hartnell early in the second period off an odd-man rush, as well.

Flyer chances
Downie had one on Varlamov’s doorstep during the opening shift of the game that was covered up. Downie’s better chance was during a breakaway pass from Mark Streit on the Flyers' late first-period power play. Varlamov made a pad stop on his backhand, much like the pad stop he made on Simmonds in the paint earlier that power play. Varlamov robbed Downie during a second-period power play, as well, inside the paint again.

Couturier had a chance with 3:24 left in the game but Varlamov covered up on a bouncing puck.

He also had a glove stop on Simmonds very late.

Special teams
The Flyers were 0 for 3 on the power play, while the Avs were 0 for 2.

Berube said at the morning skate that his players had to move on the power play up top and shoot, otherwise their shots will be blocked. Near the midpoint of the third period, Vinny Lecavalier stood at the point and tried to shoot one through the Avs on a key Flyers power play. It was blocked out of the zone. 

Scratches
Forward Matt Read missed the game with an upper body injury; defenseman Erik Gustafsson missed the game with a sprained left knee; defenseman Hal Gill and forward Chris VanderVelde were healthy scratches.

Loose pucks
Incredibly, there were rather loud “Let’s Go Flyers” chants. Looking around, there was a very noticeable number of Flyer orange jerseys in the stands, too. ... Avs coach Patrick Roy said he would alternate Paul Stastny and Duchene against Giroux’s line. ... Jamie McGinn is Tye’s older brother.

Flyers-Islanders 5 things: Wild-card race about to get busy

Flyers-Islanders 5 things: Wild-card race about to get busy

Flyers (36-32-8) vs. Islanders (35-28-12)
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers welcome the New York Islanders to the Wells Fargo Center Thursday on a busy night in the wild card.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Let's get wild
Ready for some movement in the Eastern Conference playoff race?

The four teams ahead of the Flyers for the second wild card are all in action Thursday.

The Bruins (vs. Stars) still lead the pack at 86 points, followed by the Lightning (vs. Red Wings) with 83. The Islanders come to Philadelphia with 82 points, while the Hurricanes (vs. Blue Jackets) also have 82.

And one more team to follow: the Maple Leafs (at Predators), who lead the Bruins by only one point for third place in Atlantic Division.

2. Time to streak?
With all the inconsistency, the Flyers are looking to win three games in a row for the first time since Jan. 22-25.

The final six contests for the Flyers are no cakewalks because every single one is against the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers are 9-13-2 in divisional play and have a record of 6-9-1 against the remaining clubs on the schedule.

They still have to play the Blue Jackets and Rangers, two top-five NHL teams.

And they also get the Devils twice more, a team that has won the first three meetings between the two by a combined score of 14-3.

We'll see if the Flyers can flip the script and make things interesting.

"We're not going to quit until the end of the season," Travis Konecny said Tuesday. "That's the way we are. It's the character of our team. It's the things we've shown all year.
 
"Our games may not show it at times, our scores, but I think each and every night we always compete, we always battle. I think things are starting to happen for us."

3. Weal's turning
Jordan Weal has provided a legitimate jolt to the Flyers, who desperately needed offense.

He'll see more and more ice time if he continues to perform the way he has in the past two games, putting up two goals and an assist.

Dave Hakstol has liked the early chemistry on the new second line of Weal, Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

"I think right now, Wayne Simmonds is playing some of his best hockey of the year in terms of a power forward game," Hakstol said Tuesday. "He is just a straight forward, power forward right now. He is very tough to handle down low and I think that is adding an element for Fil and Weal there."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere has looked like his old self offensively the past two games in which he has one goal and two assists. He's been active with nine shots, while his point blast looks sharp. The Flyers will need more of that the rest of the way.

Islanders: It has to be John Tavares, who does so much for the Islanders. The captain has 28 goals and 37 assists this season. Twelve of his 65 points have come in the previous 12 games. He also has put up 15 goals and 14 assists in 37 career games against the Flyers.

5. This and that
* Steve Mason will make his 14th start in the last 16 games. Over his past 13 outings, Mason is 8-4-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.

* Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss has been tough on the Flyers in two starts this season, going 1-0-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .951 save percentage.

* New York has lost two straight games and six of its last nine.

* Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk is likely to return from a foot injury that has sidelined him since March 5.

Flyers taking 'never die' approach to final playoff push

Flyers taking 'never die' approach to final playoff push

Nothing has changed for the Flyers as they enter Thursday night's game against the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
They remain six points behind Boston for the wild card. They still have four teams to leapfrog over to claim the second wild card spot.
 
Their Tragic Number remains 6 points -- points the Bruins need to eliminate them or points the Flyers need to lose to eliminate themselves.
 
The only difference tonight is the Flyers are playing head-to-head against a team in front of them in the chase.
 
The Islanders absolutely feel they're in this thing even after losing to the Bruins this week. So if they think like that, why not the Flyers?
 
"Obviously a team that is in the race with us," said Flyers captain Claude Giroux. "But, in general, we know we pretty much have to win every game. Our focus is on the Islanders. The big picture is not a picture we like to see.
 
"But at the end of the day, we have to worry about the New York Islanders. It's the only thing we can control now. We can't control future games or other teams."
 
There was genuine euphoria after the Flyers' comeback, 3-2 shootout win over Ottawa on Tuesday. Some of that excitement was immediately tempered when the players realized Boston had won as well.
 
Yet there is a noticeable difference in the Flyers dressing room right now. Guys are looser and more relaxed after three wins in their last four games.
 
"We keep doing what we keep doing," coach Dave Hakstol said. "Guys keep showing up. We're playing hard for each other and taking care of business. We've been real focused on doing that, day after day and night after night."
 
Several players said this week that the games right now are "fun" to play, despite the obvious pressure to gain a playoff spot that is virtually impossible to attain at this point because the numbers overwhelmingly favor clubs ahead of the Flyers.
 
Have games become "fun" because the players are resigned that it's out of their hands and they are now content to allow the chips to fall where they may be?
 
"No, I'll be honest, I think we are seeing some results," Hakstol said. "When you play hard and don't get results it's not fun. But we've continued to play hard and are getting some of the results right now.
 
"We all know the reality of our situation and don't have to revisit it day-in, day-out. We know that for us the most important thing is take care of our own business. That's the single-minded focus of our group right now.
 
"Come to the rink, playing hard together and winning becomes fun. We got to just turn the page, come out and play hard again."
 
Among those Flyers who believe the impossible is doable is defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.
 
"Our motto is ‘Never die,'" Gostisbehere said. "We know what's against us here. We're just taking it game by game and we're just trying to win every game.
 
"I think you can tell it's a little looser in this locker room, but we’re still going out there putting our best foot forward and trying to win games."
 
The Flyers are 2-1 against the Isles this season.
 
Lineup:
 
F: Read-Giroux-Voracek
Weal-Filppula-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Schenn
Vandevelde-Bellemare-Konecny
 
D: Provorov-MacDonald
Del Zotto-Gostisbehere
Manning-Gudas
 
G: Mason; Neuvirth