Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Blue Jackets 4

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Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Blue Jackets 4

BOX SCORE

For the first time this season, the Flyers had the opportunity to grab hold of a playoff spot all their own without being tied with anyone, no strings attached.

Win the game and they were third in the Metropolitan Division.

Win the game and they were over .500 for the first time this season.

It was also the first time goalie Steve Mason has faced his former club -- Columbus -- since being traded here last April.

All of that was of incentive for Craig Berube’s Flyers Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center against the Blue Jackets during a stunning 5-4 victory thanks to a blind, backhanded, rebound goal from Claude Giroux with 1:27 left in regulation.

The Flyers trailed 3-0 going into the last period.

Giroux’s second marker was his 100th career goal, too.

After being terribly outplayed in the second period and falling behind three to zip, the Flyers came out buzzing in the third period scoring twice -- Jakub Voracek and Braydon Coburn -- in 5:22 to make a game of it.

They were alive!

And then … Scott Hartnell, who had a poor game, lost a puck battle behind the net and Mason gave up a soft goal to Blake Comeau and it was 4-2.

Over, right? Nope. First, Erik Gustafsson and then Giroux scored to tie it on rebounds.

Early on
Columbus was badly outplayed and outshot (14-4) in the opening period, but led 1-0 off a shorthanded goal as the Flyers’ power play was nothing short of ghastly that stanza.

Maybe that stung the Flyers because they flat out rolled over in the second period and allowed the Blue Jackets to take it to them, even giving up a goal in the final 10 seconds of the period, making it 3-0 amid a torrent of boos.

Comeback
The Flyers were 1-11-0 when trailing after two periods.

Injuries
Sean Couturier seemed to have a foot or leg injury after getting hit with a puck around the 12:15 mark of the first period. He missed a few shifts being tended to at the bench and briefly appeared on a power play but eventually resumed his regular shift.

He’s hot
Voracek scored his fourth goal in three games.

He’s struggling
Mason has given up four goals in four of his last six starts.

Long time
Gustafsson had not scored since Oct. 12 at Detroit.

Shorthanded
As irony would have it, former Blue Jacket Voracek coughed up a puck on a Flyers power play and Columbus went three-fourths of the ice with a two-on-one. Cam Atkinson was looking pass the entire way and then wristed a shot past Mason for the only goal that first period.

Shoot, score
Columbus scored first on just its third shot of the game.

Bad change
For perhaps the fourth or fifth time this season, a bad line change or defensive change saw a goal come against the Flyers. Columbus made it 2-0 barely five minutes into the second period off a bad defensive change that saw a two-on-one with Coburn the lone defender. Jack Skille buried a shot from the right dot.

Special teams
The Flyers were brutal on their third power play, twice allowing the Jackets to have an attacker going down the ice chasing a puck unmanned. The Flyers had already been beaten for one shorthanded goal and it could have easily beem two that period. That said, their first power play was excellent with several scoring chances denied by goalie Curtis McElhinney.

Tic-tac-toe
Passing from Michael Raffl to Giroux to Voracek early on for a scoring chance but no goal.

Scratches
Center Vinny Lecavalier (injured back); Defensemen Hal Gill and Andrej Meszaros were healthy.

Loose pucks
Coming into the game, the Flyers were 4-0-1 lifetime against the Blue Jackets on home ice. … The Flyers travel to Columbus on Saturday. This will be the first time both Voracek and Mason go back home wearing different uniforms.

Claude Giroux's struggles mirroring Flyers' offensive issues

Claude Giroux's struggles mirroring Flyers' offensive issues

PITTSBURGH -- He was plus-1 with an assist.
 
No shots on goal and obviously, no goals.
 
Another day's useless energy spent by Flyers captain Claude Giroux, skating around the rink looking for the net and finding nothing but darkness.
 
He hasn't scored a goal in nine games, which is a major reason why the Flyers are 2-6-1 over that same span of time, including Saturday night's 4-2 loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field in the Stadium Series (see game recap).
 
Indoors, outdoors it makes no difference right now for Dave Hakstol's band of minstrels. As goes the captain, so go the Flyers, and it's rough sledding these days with the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference fast disappearing.
 
"Yeah, it’s frustrating," Giroux said this weekend. "You try to do the best you can do to help the team. Right now it’s not going in. I really believe we’re playing some good hockey, playing the right way and we’re going to get rewarded soon."
 
Asked whether he believed his own production is a mirrored reflection of the team he plays for, Giroux hedged.
 
"You try to play the right way, do what’s asked of you," he replied. "I've had a lot of chances, but at the end of the day, it has to go in. We’re done with excuses."
 
Thing is, Giroux really hasn’t had that many chances. Just 13 shots during this nine-game stretch. In four of those games, he had no shots at all.
 
Teammate Jakub Voracek says it’s going to come for Giroux. But when? Time is running out on the Flyers.
 
"He's always been a streaky player," Voracek said. "And not streaky that he's going to go on a tear for 10 games and then disappear for 10. He was streaky for 18 and then struggled for two, then he had another 20 games.
 
"It's only a matter of time. I think the last two games he played really well. For the guys who don't watch the hockey game, they look at the stat sheet and say, 'Oh, he didn't have any points.' But that's the way it is."
 
The Flyers used the word "desperation" before and after their outdoor loss to the Penguins. They played another pretty good overall game, but one thing stood out: they didn't make it difficult enough for Pens goalie Matt Murray in terms of traffic.
 
Pittsburgh's fourth goal was an example of what the Flyers couldn't do – screen out the goalie.
 
"I thought in the first couple periods we – not a whole lot, but I thought there were a few opportunities where we didn't make it difficult enough for [Murray] to find the puck," Hakstol said.
 
"But we had enough quality, no question. We did have good quality. Is it enough? Obviously tonight it wasn't. We didn't win the hockey game."
 
There were spurts where the Flyers carried the play, showed momentum, and then it died. When Shayne Gostisbehere made it a 3-2 affair early in the third, the Flyers needed to seize the moment. They didn't get the equalizer.
 
Eight minutes later, the Penguins scored from the point off a lost faceoff draw between Evgeni Malkin and Sean Couturier. Michal Neuvirth didn't see the puck soon enough. On Matt Cullen's wraparound goal that made it 3-1, Neuvirth was unaware.
 
Neuvirth wasn't very good in this game.
 
"There's no question they had two or three spurts where they carried some momentum for short periods of time, but I thought overall through the 60 minutes, our group did a good job and played the type of game that we wanted to play," Hakstol said.
 
Giroux was asked this weekend how much pressure he is putting on himself right now to salvage the Flyers' fading playoff hopes.
 
"It’s tough not to put a lot of pressure on yourself when it’s not going the right way," Giroux said. "At the end of the day, you have to take a step back and know what you’re playing for.
 
"I’ve been playing since I was three years old and I love the game so much, just try to go out and enjoy the game even if it’s not going your way. You have to find a way to love the game and play with passion."
 
You've seen the Flyers do that throughout all this losing – 3-7-1 in their last 11 – but passion doesn't always result in goals. Voracek had a goal in this game. His second in three games.
 
The Flyers need a bunch of guys to get going simultaneously like last season when they made their playoff charge. Over the last 16 games (6-9-1), the Flyers have scored just 25 goals. That's a bad trend that needs to be reversed immediately.
 
"Obviously, we haven't been able to score a whole lot," Hakstol said. "There's been a lot made of that. And you know what, fairly so. I think that's fair.
 
"Yet tonight, I look at the opportunities at this time of year, the type of opportunities and the number of opportunities that we generated were pretty reasonable.
 
"We've got to stick with it. We've gone through a tough stretch here, and through that stretch we've played for the vast majority, we've played some pretty good hockey.  ... We've got to make sure that we completely stay together as we have, and we've got to keep pushing the envelope."
 
Hakstol was pleading his case.
 
Whether he wins it, is another story.

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

As if Saturday night's deflating loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field wasn't enough, the Flyers could be coming out of the defeat minus a defenseman in the lineup.

Brandon Manning will have a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Monday morning for his hit on Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel during the second period of the Stadium Series game.

That means a suspension is looming.

Just over three minutes into the second stanza on Saturday, Guentzel tried to corral a bouncing puck as he exited the Penguins' zone. He did not see Manning, who flattened him with a huge hit.

While the hit did seem a bit late in real speed to the naked eye, no interference penalty was called and play continued. Manning did look to leave his feet to the deliver the hit and make contact with Guentzel's head, though, so both could work against him during the hearing.

Video of the hit in question can be seen above.

Guentzel was not injured on the play, stayed in the game and finished the evening with two assists.

Manning has a clean history as he has never been suspended in the NHL.

If Manning does get suspended by the league, Michael Del Zotto is likely to draw back into the Flyers' lineup Tuesday against visiting Colorado.

Del Zotto, who is a prime candidate to be moved before Wednesday's trade deadline, has sat out the past three games as a healthy scratch.