Instant Replay: Blues 1, Flyers 0 (SO)

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Instant Replay: Blues 1, Flyers 0 (SO)

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS – The Flyers and the St. Louis Blues locked horns in a scoreless battle Thursday at Scottrade Center.

Up and down the ice they went, as Flyers understudy Ray Emery went skate-to-glove with Blues leading man Ryan Miller in the save department. Miller made 31 saves in regulation; Emery 28. It was 0-0 at the end of regulation and after the five-minute overtime.

But the Blues finally earned a 1-0 victory in the postgame-skills showdown known as a shootout.

In the SO, T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk lit the red lamp for the Blues, with Oshie dipsy-doodling all over the place before beating Emery and Shattenkirk scoring on a wrister to clinch it. (Alexander Steen didn’t get off a shot, losing control of the puck.) At the other end, Miller stopped Vincent Lecavalier with his right pad and gloved a salvo from Claude Giroux.

The Blues are 9-3 in SOs this season; the Flyers 3-7.

It was a quite different game than the teams’ meeting March 22 at Wells Fargo Center. In that one, the Flyers decisively beat the Blues 4-1 to extend their winning streak to five games; they’ve gone 1-2-1 since then. The Blues won three in a row after the loss in Philly before losing to Dallas on Saturday.

So, the Blues had revenge on their minds, and the Flyers wanted to show the victory on the 22nd wasn’t a fluke in any way.

The Flyers started strongly Thursday, controlling the play early on and making Miller earn his keep. Once the Blues got their sea legs, they tested Emery at the other end as Steve Mason got a much-needed day off to rest up for the Flyers’ game Thursday vs. Columbus.

Michael Raffl had the Flyers best’ scoring chances through two, but Miller stopped him twice. Emery also stood tall and benefited from the Blues’ hitting a couple of posts in the second period.

Penalty killing was solid with the Blues killing two and the Flyers one, including Giroux’s high-stick of Oshie in a center-ice collision with 1:24 to play.

The start
The Flyers came out like gangbusters with odd-man rushes/situations in what seemed like every time down the ice and/or in the Blues’ zone. One time, Blues defensemen Alex Pietrangelo fell down and took out partner Jay Bouwmeester on the Blues’ side of center ice, giving the Flyers a two-on-none rush -- a two-on-none! Ryan Miller stopped the shot by Raffl on a pass from Giroux, a nightmare of a break for a goalie to see coming at him if there ever was one.

Another time, the Blues’ Patrik Berglund made like Jaromir Jagr and stickhandled around several Flyers in the Philly zone, then hit Brayden Shenn on the shin and the puck bounced out of the zone for another Flyers’ rush. The shots were 5-0 in favor of the Flyers before Jaden Schwartz got the first shot for the Blues 4:21 in.

Miller kept the Flyers off the board and helped the home team survive the visitors’ onslaught and take the crowd out of it just like home teams do all the time. Yep.

After one
The Blues ended up outshooting the Flyers 11-10 in the first period, 11-5 after the Flyers’ strong start, and Emery stood tall. He made strong stops on Schwartz, Ryan Reaves and Maxim Lapierre among others. Both goalies were the stars of the first period, through two periods really with the Blues holding a 19-18 edge in shots.

Ping
The goalie’s best friend -- the post -- helped out Emery twice in the second period. Schwartz hit the pipe on a slapper from the slot less than 10 seconds into the second period. The end of the period provided the perfect bookend, as the Blues’ Pietrangelo also did the ping routine behind Emery in the final 15 seconds.

Mutual foul
Referees Tim Peel and Don VanMassenhoven pretty much let the lads play without interfering with them. Only one foul was called in the first period -- the Blues’ Barret Jackman for delaying the game by clearing the puck out of play -- and the tone was set early in the second period when Andrew MacDonald and Alexander Steen went off for coincidental penalties for roughhousing in front of Emery at 1:28.

There would be no monkey business on this night. (The crowd later gave VanMassenhoven a cheer -- yes, they cheered the ref -- when the PA man announced that he was reffing his second-to-last game before retiring after 23 years.)

Great chances
Raffl had a glorious scoring chance in both the first period and in the second. Miller stopped him on the two-on-none with Giroux in the first period, and Miller slid to his left to rob Raffl with his left pad on a pointblank salvo early in the second period.

He had yet another chance in the third, but Miller stoned him on a semi-break-in. Miller also stopped Jakub Voracek on a wrap-around in overtime.

He’s baaaack
D-man Erik Gustafsson returned to the Flyers’ lineup after being lost in the vortex known as March -- 14 games as a healthy scratch; he hadn’t played in an actual game since Feb 27, when he was minus-2 in a 7-3 loss vs. visiting San Jose. He replaced injured defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who stayed home in Philadelphia for the quickie in-and-out trip after taking a slapshot on the chops Sunday vs. Boston. Gustafsson started the game on a pairing with Luke Schenn.

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As far as he can remember, in his six years with the Flyers, Matt Read hasn't played on a line with both Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Read has spent time with each of the Flyers' top-two scorers at various times but never together. The Flyers hope the cohesiveness comes together quickly after making changes to three of the lines on Wednesday in an attempt keep their sagging playoff hopes.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Read said. "We've still got to play better defensively, but you know it's kind of do-or-die right now. So hopefully chemistry clicks right away and things can start going off the bat."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol had hinted at adjusting the lines recently but stuck with the current structure in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss at Winnipeg (see game story). With the ability to practice Wednesday in Minnesota before Thursday's game against the Wild, Hakstol followed through with the adjustment.

Hakstol met with the four centers before practice and then had Giroux with Voracek and Read. Valtteri Filppula centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde.

Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Dale Weise stayed together.

"That line, it's been a good line for us," Hakstol said of Schenn, Couturier and Weise. "Off their game a little bit yesterday, but they've been a good line and I'm confident they'll come back and do a good job tomorrow. The other changes are just looking at different things coming off a road performance yesterday… just looking at a way to inject a little bit more into our lineup for a real tough road game here tomorrow night."

The Flyers didn't lose any ground with Tuesday's loss with Boston, Tampa Bay and Carolina also losing. But the Flyers now have just 10 games remaining as they trail Toronto by seven points for the final wild-card spot.

"We didn't take advantage of the opportunity we had for two points," Hakstol said. "At the end of the day, you can't sit back and watch what's happening elsewhere. You've got to take care of your own backyard, and that's what our focus is. We didn't get it done yesterday. Point blank, we didn't get it done. So, we've got an opportunity tomorrow night for two points and that's what our job is."

Reuniting Giroux and Voracek, along with Read, is one way he hopes to solve the issue. Voracek said he knows the onus is on his line to lead the way.

"We know what to expect from each other," Voracek said. "When we move our feet, we are dangerous. So that's what we've got to do. We've got to have fun. We've got to find a way to score the goals and help the team to win the games, because we're going to play a lot of minutes."

Another possible change for Hakstol could come along the defense. Brandon Manning practiced on Wednesday and Hakstol said it's possible he could rejoin the lineup against the Wild.

Manning hasn't played since March 11 because of a right shoulder injury. Hakstol said he's confident Manning is ready and a decision will be made Thursday morning on which of the seven defensemen will play in the game.

"He's practiced well," Hakstol said. "He got extra work in yesterday. He practiced well today. We'll have a decision to make tomorrow."

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Our recap of Tuesday's underwhelming performance by the Flyers in Winnipeg.

Their Tragic Number is now 13, meaning the number of points either lost by the Flyers or accrued by the second wild card -- Toronto -- that totals 13 will eliminate the Flyers from the playoffs.

Sean Couturier said it best prior to the road trip: Unless the Flyers won in Winnipeg, then anything positive they achieved in coming from behind to beat Carolina was wasted.

And it was.  

If you watched the telecast with John Boruk, Alfonso Morganti and myself, you already know how I feel about the loss.

But for those of you who are gluttons for further punishment, here's 10 Things I think, I think, as Bill Lyon used to say:

1. A couple players gave everything they had to make a difference in this game. Radko Gudas had eight of the Flyers' 17 hits. Michael Del Zotto had five strong shots from the point, two of which were almost goals. Shayne Gostisbehere had four shots, two of which almost gave them a goal.

2. The Jets had five injured defensemen out of their lineup, which meant the Flyers' forwards should have been attacking them at the net. Again, the only offense generated for 50 minutes was from the point and not down low, where the Jets were vulnerable.

3. Valterri Filppula matched up against Patrick Laine and held him -- with help from Steve Mason -- to no points, a task in itself. Laine generated five shots and two prime scoring chances that Mason took care of.

4. Jets rookie defenseman Julian Melchiori had played just eight NHL games and had a total of four shots. He had three in the first period alone Tuesday and tied Laine with a team-high five for the game. He was more determined to make something happen than most of the Flyers. That should embarrass coach Dave Hakstol, who insisted the Flyers come out strong. They didn't.

5. Winnipeg moved up and down the ice well in transition. They came into the zone with speed and spread their attack out. Blake Wheeler's goal that made it 2-1 in the third period was the result of the Jets' precise puck movement from Mathieu Perreault to Mark Scheifele to Wheeler that demonstrated nothing moves faster on the ice than the speed of the puck. Wheeler got the puck with a wide-open look inside the right circle. The Flyers didn't have a single play during the game that mimicked that rush.

6. Although the Flyers' penalty kill units gave up a 10th goal in their last 24 chances, they shut down the Jets' the final four power plays of the game, including the four-minute double-minor to Ivan Provorov in the second period. The PK got no help from the power play (0 for 3).

7. Mason had four saves during the Jets' four-minute power play, which should have given the Flyers some momentum for the remainder of the second period and into the third. He also had a terrific stick save on Laine in the slot after the PP that left the rookie so angry he was jamming his stick violently into the ground on the Jets' bench.

8. Following up on that, why were the Flyers hesitant in the third period, tied 1-1, while the Jets peppered Mason at the outset? Where's that sense of desperation Hakstol's team should have shown? This is precisely what happened in Boston a few weeks ago. Game tied going into the third and instead of playing for two points they absolutely had to have, the Flyers were playing to get the game into overtime and earn at least one. That strategy failed spectacularly in Boston when the Bruins won the game in the final 5.6 seconds of regulation and failed again Tuesday.

9. Hakstol talked about effort and determination, yet the numbers say otherwise. With 13:34 left in regulation, the Flyers had just two shots in the period. Two! In the final seven minutes of the game, their sense of urgency finally kicked in when they kept the puck in Winnipeg's zone to the end and even scored shorthanded. That again raises this question: Where was that urgency at the period's start when it was 1-1 and not 3-1?

10. Finally, the Flyers had three power plays in this defeat. During their second power play, trailing 2-1, Winnipeg's lowly PK unit generated two shorthanded chances and cleared the zone four times. On the Flyers' final power play -- they trailed 3-1 at that point -- Hakstol pulled Mason to create a 6-on-4. The Flyers generated several scoring chances. They have scored three times this season under that scenario. Young goalie Michael Hutchinson, who had a 4.06 goals against average head-to-head against the Flyers, had a couple of terrific saves, including one on Wayne Simmonds in the slot. Where was that pressure on Hutchinson earlier in the period? Or earlier in the game?