Instant Replay: Blackhawks 7, Flyers 2

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Instant Replay: Blackhawks 7, Flyers 2

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- Ray Emery’s homecoming at United Center was more a disaster than a coming out party.

He gave up four goals on the first 10 shots and, well, that pretty much set the tone Wednesday night during a 7-2 humiliating Flyers’ loss to the Blackhawks.

Instead of making up some ground on Metropolitan Division foes, the Flyers return home having lost ground in the standings, earning just five of a possible 12 points during their six-game road trip which ended 2-3-1.

Not good enough.

The Flyers wanted to know how they measure up to the league’s best team and defending Stanley Cup champions.

What they found out is they don’t come close to stacking up to the Blackhawks.

The Flyers held a 1-0 lead going into the second period, when the Hawks scored twice in the opening 1:22 to grab the game by the throat.

They had 1:34 remaining on a carryover power play and made use of it with Duncan Keith’s blast from the left point to tie the game at 43 seconds.

On the ensuing shift, Andrew Shaw embarrassed Andrej Meszaros, going behind the Flyers' net to play with the puck, moving left to right, swinging around and ripping a wraparound shot inside the far post for a 2-1 lead.

Flyers coach Craig Berube called timeout because those two goals awakened the sleeping 'Hawks and their raucous crowd.

Before the period was over, however, ex-Flyer Kris Versteeg scored shorthanded, while the Hawks collected five goals in the stanza for a rout.

Mileage
The Flyers changed time zones five times during this 12-day, six-game trip. They flew 5,629 miles but if a fan drove to the games, he or she would have covered 6,801 miles.

Trending
This one isn’t good. Flyers goalies have given up at least four goals in regulation now for three straight games.

Welcome back
During a first-period timeout, the Blackhawks had a salute to Ray Emery, who was a vital part of their Stanley Cup-winning team last season. Fans gave him a standing ovation.

Big meltdown
Chicago scored five times on just 11 shots in the second period. Pretty good shooting percentage, eh?

Patrick Kane
The NHL’s second-leading scorer coming in (40 points) had some quality chances. Emery stopped him point-blank early in the game off a nice setup from Versteeg.

Patrick Sharp
The ex-Flyer, who never should have been traded (Matt Ellison), lost a goal to Jonathan Toews but scored in the final period.

The goalies
Emery yielded six goals on 18 shots before being relieved by Steve Mason 1:05 into the third period with the score 6-2. Four of the goals on Emery came on plays inside the Flyers’ zone. Only one came off the rush.

Special teams
Chicago came in with the 28th-worst penalty kill in the NHL. That’s something the Flyers needed to exploit on the power play. Well, Jakub Voracek did in the first period with a shot in the slot off Keith for a 1-0 lead. Sean Couturier had a steal on the Flyers' second power play that set up a Steve Downie breakaway, but goalie Antti Raanta made a pad stop. Brayden Schenn scored a power-play goal out of a scrum in the second period. Versteeg had a shortie for Chicago.

Big saves
Raanta had two shorthanded saves in the third period. One on Schenn and the other on Michael Raffl. Both on the same Chicago power play.

Power plays
Chicago was 2 for 7. The Flyers were 2 for 5.

Scoring
The Blackhawks have scored at least six goals in three straight games.

Stupid penalties
Luke Schenn’s elbow and Jay Rosehill’s roughing in the third gave Chicago a five-on-three power play that the 'Hawks converted on.

Look closer
Hard to believe, Harry, that the No. 1 team in the Western Conference has such a poor penalty kill. Which goes to show that the 'Hawks are simply outscoring everyone else. And they are. They had 122 goals coming into the game -- far outdistancing their nearest rival, Anaheim (106). Also, the Blackhawks' power-play units were fourth in the NHL with 25 power-play goals.

Five or more
This was the 14th game the 'Hawks scored at least five goals.

Fights
Draw between Wayne Simmonds and Sheldon Brookbank in the first period.

Scratches
Forward Tye McGinn (ill) along with defensemen Hal Gill and Erik Gustafsson, both of whom were healthy.

Loose pucks
The Flyers will return home after the game to host Danny Briere and the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. This is Briere’s first game back in South Philly since being bought out last summer. ... The Flyers are now 2-3-1 against the Central Division and a very poor 3-6-1 against the Western Conference.

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

DETROIT -- Nikita Kucherov scored 3:28 into overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night.

Situated on the edge of the crease, Kucherov redirected a hard pass from Brayden Point into the net.

The Lightning are one point behind the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point (see full recap).

Islanders notch shootout win over Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- John Tavares and Anthony Beauvillier scored in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.

Beauvillier opened the shootout with a goal, and Tavares snapped a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the next round. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh, but Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since Dec. 29, stopped Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.

Anders Lee scored his 28th goal of the season, while Brock Nelson got his 17th and Casey Cizikas his eighth for the Islanders, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is tied with Boston at 82 points, but the Islanders have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have 18 wins in 31 games since Doug Weight was named interim coach on Jan. 17, replacing Jack Capuano.

Halak, a former All-Star, made 37 saves (see full recap).

Cracknell nets first hat trick in Stars' win
DALLAS -- Adam Cracknell got his first hat trick in seven NHL seasons and the Dallas Stars handed the San Jose Sharks their fifth straight loss, 6-1 on Friday night.

Cracknell opened the scoring in the first period, capped a three-goal flurry in the second and beat goalie Aaron Dell on a short-handed breakaway in the third for his career-high 10th goal of the season.

The Sharks entered two points ahead of Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division despite their longest losing streak of the season. San Jose has been outscored 16-5 during the stretch.

Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars.

Joe Thornton scored for San Jose on the power play in the second period. Dell had 23 saves.

Dallas' Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves four nights after shutting out San Jose (see full recap).

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

You know Dave Hakstol has reached crisis measures when he takes a skill player in Travis Konecny and throws him onto the fourth line while promoting Matt Read to the top line.

This was risk-taking at its craziest to generate some enthusiasm and life into a Flyers squad that didn't show much of a pulse a few nights earlier in Winnipeg.

Guess what?

It worked during a 3-1 victory on Thursday, the Flyers' fifth straight win over the Wild going back a few years (see Instant Replay).

Their playoff hopes still flicker.

As much as the fan base hated the lineup moves, consider this: general manager Ron Hextall was very explicit this week in saying that the roster Hakstol has right now is what it is. Hextall is not going to promote any young Phantoms into a bad situation when they are headed for what could be a decent playoff run in the AHL.

Therefore, as my former colleague Bill Lyon would say, here are 10 things I think, I think …

1. The Flyers began the game as they have so often this season with yet another turnover and scoring chance against them. Rinse and repeat. The Flyers had three turnovers in less than five minutes to start the game.

2. Minutes later, Steve Mason coughed up a bad rebound off his stick and Zach Parise burned him with a gimme goal for a 1-0 lead. Mason had issues in this one with rebounds that were looking like grenades, but he settled down with a strong final two periods with 24 saves. This was Mason's 100th win as a Flyer (see game story).

3. You had to see it to believe it. Sean Couturier with a nice backhand shot through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to make it a 1-1 game near the end of the opening period (see feature highlight). I haven't seen that kind of offensive move from Couturier in quite some time. Question is, why can't he do that nightly instead of semiannually? That's the offensive spark you know Couturier is capable of providing.

4. The Wild were very aggressive in this one as they were trying to clinch a playoff spot, so the Flyers had to match that intensity. The Flyers more than matched it. This was far, far better than what Hakstol's team brought to the ice in Winnipeg. Not even close, as the Flyers dominated.

5. Matt Read had a quick stick -- no other way to explain it -- on his goal in the second period off a series of Wild turnovers that came about because of a play set up by Jakub Voracek. That goal seemingly stunned Dubnyk. It was Read's second goal in the last two games. He was all over the ice in this one. Many nights this season, Read was invisible. Not this game.

6. The Flyers had some genuine scoring chances in this game. You had to wonder where this desire to skate, create and score was all through the month of February and into March. The Flyers had strong forecheck pressure and a rebound-attack mentality the entire second period. If that had happened with regularity down the stretch, this team would be sitting in the wild card right now.

7. While the shake-up of the lines obviously benefited Read, it did little for Konecny and actually set him back. He was invisible. No shots. No hits. Invisible with little ice time. Really can't figure this move out but obviously, Hakstol is upset with him for some reason.

8. Minnesota went all in at the NHL trade deadline to get Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, forking over four draft picks, including a first-rounder. The Wild were leading the Central Division before losing six straight (and eight of nine) that allowed Chicago to regain the top spot in the division. The Wild don't look like the same confident, surging team it was a month ago in the Western Conference.

9. Minnesota had a strong push in the final five minutes and the Flyers had some initial difficulty answering that until the final minute when Wayne Simmonds picked up his 300th point as a Flyer on Voracek's empty-net goal to seal the deal. A nice way to finish off a complete effort by everyone involved.

10. The Flyers picked up two points on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and are six behind the Bruins in the wild card. They still remain a l-o-n-g shot to make the playoffs, given the sheer number of teams ahead of them that they need to climb over.