Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Canucks 3 (SO)

uspresswire-steve-mason-flyers-123113-2.jpg

Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Canucks 3 (SO)

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Early in the season, Steve Mason was the sole reason the Flyers weren’t losing games by four or five goals a night.

That was largely the case again Monday against the Canucks, as Mason kept the Flyers in a game they ought to have lost badly. Mason finished with 41 saves, added three more in the shootout, while Vinny Lecavalier scored the game-winner on the Flyers' first shootout attempt and the Flyers won, 4-3.

It’s only the second time the Flyers have won back-to-back shootouts in team history. The only other time was in March 2006 against Montreal and Carolina.

At the end of the first period, the Flyers trailed in shots, 13-7, despite leading 1-0. After two, they had been outshot 28-16, though they were tied 2-2. They finished the night with 27 shots compared to the Canucks’ 44.

It was the most shots they’ve given up in regulation all season, but Mason kept them in it the entire night.

The Flyers weren’t playing as poorly as they had been in October or early November, but the Canucks simply outplayed them. The Canucks put together strong chances. They exposed the Flyers’ sometimes-unreliable defense, and they shut down the Flyers’ red-hot power play.

But Mason, who’s had an up-and-down past few weeks, looked a lot like the goaltender he was to start the season. He stopped multiple Canucks scoring chances that likely would have beat most any other goaltender.

And thanks to him, they escaped Vancouver with two points they didn’t exactly deserve.

Lucky start
It’s not that the Flyers had a bad first period, but they were fortunate to be up 1-0 on Mark Streit’s goal after 20 minutes. They were outshot in the opening stanza and the Canucks had a few good chances on Mason, who, by the way, looked a lot sharper right at the start of this one than he did a couple days ago in Edmonton.

Which is it?
Just under three minutes into the opening period, Canucks winger Daniel Sedin was called for hooking Streit … but Streit was called too, for an unsportsmanlike penalty -- apparently, he dove on the play. An official shouldn’t be able to call a penalty on a player and accuse the player who was the target of the infraction for exaggerating. Either Sedin hooked Streit or he didn’t. Which was it?

The trouble with Coby
Braydon Coburn’s turnover early in the Flyers’ last game in Edmonton resulted in the goal that put the Oilers up 1-0. Monday night in Vancouver, he was guilty of a couple similar mistakes -- one of which would have been a goal, had Mason not laid out to make a staggering save on Chris Higgins.

Giroux’s new record
After his assist on Streit’s first-period goal, Claude Giroux extended his point streak to nine games -- just like eight and seven were, it’s a new career record for the Flyers’ captain. His second-period goal was pure Giroux -- he sure looks like a player who deserves to play in the Olympics.

Sestito? Really?
Tom Sestito – yes, that Tom Sestito -- scored the Canucks’ second-period goal that tied the game 1-1. The Canucks picked up Sestito, the former Flyers tough guy, after the Flyers waived him last year. He scored just two goals in parts of two seasons with the Flyers (and had just five, total, in his career heading into this year), but already has three this season alone in Vancouver playing on the team’s fourth line. 

Raffl’s success
Michael Raffl, who made public Monday that he had made the Austrian Olympic team (see story), had another strong night. Raffl had his third multi-point night in his last 10 games in Vancouver, and continued to solidify.

Tense third
The Canucks thought they'd locked it up in regulation when Sedin beat Mason on a rather soft goal. But Brayden Schenn secured the Flyers at least one point in the final minute of the game, beating Canucks goalie Eddie Lack to tie the game at 3. 

Shootout winner
Lecavalier, who didn’t score on his shootout attempt Saturday, scored the lone shootout goal tonight, beating Lack with a dazzling move.

The end
Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek both saw their point streaks end Monday night. Voracek's ended at nine games, while Simmonds' ended at five.

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

PITTSBURGH -- There's a bit of tragic irony to how the Flyers' season will end over the next two-plus weeks.
 
They have seven games left on the schedule. Six of them are teams residing in the Metro Division. Tuesday's opponent, Ottawa, is the lone exception.
 
There are so many reasons why the Flyers are scrambling now, clinging to the desperate belief they can still make the playoffs -- mathematically, they're alive -- against all rational thought.
 
They're six points behind Boston for the second wild-card spot, but they still have to hurdle Carolina, Tampa Bay and the Islanders just to get to Boston.
 
Yet one major reason for the Flyers' dilemma seems pretty obvious: They've been simply awful in head-to-head play against their own division.
 
The Flyers have a winning record against both divisions in the Western Conference.
 
That's not the case, however, in the East where the Metro Division is the only division with three teams over 100 points and where the Flyers have failed miserably to challenge from within.
 
Sunday's 6-2 rout of the Penguins in Pittsburgh left the Flyers with a poor 9-13-2 record against the Metro. It's the only division they have a losing record against.
 
Last season, Dave Hakstol's group finished 14-10-6 against their own division. That was a critical factor in enabling the Flyers to make the playoffs.
 
"We know where we are in the standings and it's not going to be easy to make the playoffs," Jakub Voracek said. "We all know that. We have to work off results of the other teams and try to play relaxed and loose."
 
Against the Eastern Conference overall, the Flyers are close to .500 (21-22-4) yet realize they should be better.
 
These two records represent a very large reason why the Flyers are sitting on the outside looking in as the playoffs near.
 
Right now, at least four clubs from the Metro -- half the division -- will make the playoffs. That says a lot about why games within your section are so pivotal at season's end.
 
"The numbers don't lie," Hakstol admitted on Sunday. "It's a tough road every single night. You've got to do a good job within your division, within your conference.
 
"We've played a lot of tight, hard games. The reality is, we're a number of points out of the playoffs and those points within your division are very valuable."
 
It's something the Flyers have to greatly improve upon next season if they want to be sitting in a playoff spot a month before the season ends instead of playing catch-up when the odds are hopelessly against them.
 
Pens killers
Every team in the NHL has a couple players who have fairly impressive career numbers against other teams.
 
Voracek averages better than a point against the Penguins. His goal Sunday gave him 17 goals and 34 points in 32 career games against Pittsburgh.
 
Voracek admitted after the game he's not sure why.
 
Claude Giroux also has excellent numbers against the Pens -- his two assists in the win left the Flyers' captain with 41 points (14 goals) in 40 career games vs. Pittsburgh.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere has been around a fraction as long as either Giroux or Voracek -- eight career games vs. the Pens -- yet has two goals and nine points in those games.
 
Brayden Schenn doesn't average a point a game against the Pens, but he's close. His assist on Sunday left the winger/center with 20 points (8 goals) in 26 games.
 
The only Flyer who has solid numbers against Pittsburgh and didn't make Sunday's score sheet was Wayne Simmonds. He has 23 points in 28 games. 

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. ... Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. ... Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. ... Weise has three goals in his last seven games. ... Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.