Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Senators 0

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Instant Replay: Flyers 5, Senators 0

BOX SCORE

Updated: 11:06 p.m.

OTTAWA -- They talked about building on their victory over Edmonton last weekend and doing some damage on this three-game road trip to get back into the playoff picture.

Well, the Flyers could not have asked for a better start with a 5-0 rout over the Senators on Tuesday night at Canadian Tire Centre.

It was goalie Steve Mason’s first career shutout as a Flyer. He had 24 saves.

It was also the first time this season the Flyers had consecutive games in which they scored three or more goals.

The game featured two wraparound goals by the Flyers on Sens goalie Craig Anderson. Better yet, the Flyers sustained pressure on the Senators. Even when they weren’t getting shots on net, they controlled the puck and thus, controlled the game.

Which is what coach Craig Berube has been preaching.

It was a milestone game for Claude Giroux and a breakthrough game for Scott Hartnell.

Giroux’s second-period assist on Jakub Voracek’s goal represented the captain's 300th NHL point in 350 games played.

Hartnell’s marker on that very same goal ended his assist drought at 38 games, stretching back to last season.

Giroux’s line was dominant and hard on the puck with nine shots through two periods.

On Wednesday, the Flyers will try for a season-first: A three-game win streak.

Injuries
Nick Grossmann left the game late in the third period with an apparent injury and never returned. After the game, Berube said Grossmann was "fine."

Top guns
Berube elected to match top line for top line, pitting Giroux head-up on South Jersey’s Bobby Ryan, who came into the game with nine goals and 19 points, tied for 12th-best in the NHL in scoring.

Waved off
Ottawa had a goal waved off late in the game because Chris Neil’s stick was above the crossbar.

No shots, then score 
After starting the game outshooting the Senators, 6-2, the Flyers then went 10 minutes without a shot. Guess what? They scored on their seventh shot to end the drought with 3:36 left in the period. Steve Downie shot one over the net and it bounced behind as Matt Read caught it dead still, then quickly faked to beat Anderson on a wraparound for a 1-0 lead. Anderson actually thought the puck was going to carom into the boards and it didn’t. The Flyers had the puck for most of the period but didn’t get shots on goal.

Stoned
Voracek had a perfect breakaway in the first period, tried to go backhand five-hole on Anderson and was stoned. Wayne Simmonds tried the same right after and shot right into Anderson’s pads. Voracek got it back with a wraparound goal just 28 ticks into the second period, then scored a power-play goal later in the period.

Turnover goal
Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot tried a cross-ice pass that was picked off by Vinny Lecavalier early in the third period. Lecavalier turned and fired between the circles for his seventh goal that gave the Flyers a 4-0 pad.

Again
As the buzzer went off in the second period, Anderson got the paddle of his stick on Giroux’s shot at the left post to prevent a goal that would have counted given time on the clock.

He’s back
Downie returned from a four-game absence because of a concussion. He was on Sean Couturier’s line with Read.

Back-to-back
The Flyers are in Pittsburgh on Wednesday to take on the Penguins in the second half of this current back-to-back. They will have a complete day off on Thursday when they travel to Winnipeg in the morning. They meet the Jets on Friday night.

Special teams
Voracek’s second goal in the middle period was the Flyers' first power-play goal in three games. The Flyers scored two power-play goals in the same game for the first time this season.

Scratches
Defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill.

Loose pucks
Michael Raffl missed the game with the flu. Although he made the trip, he did not skate in the morning. ... Last time the Flyers were here -- last April -- this building was called Scotiabank Place. Now it’s Canadian Tire Centre. ... The Flyers' first two goals saw their entire lines earn a point.

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).

End to End: What adjustment would you make on Flyers' defense?

End to End: What adjustment would you make on Flyers' defense?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

With the Flyers on their bye week, let’s discuss a few topics.

Going End to End this week are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

Today’s question: What adjustment would you make on the Flyers' defense?

Dougherty
There is not much in Dave Hakstol’s arsenal to significantly improve the team defense with a lineup change. Sure, scratching Andrew MacDonald could be a positive step, but that does not solve the problem here. We can point fingers at the defensive group because the Flyers have allowed the league’s second-most goals at 144. They’re part of the problem.

What is plaguing the Flyers is not just the play of their six defensemen on any given night; it’s their overall team defense. Some forwards are quitting on the backcheck, and not providing enough support in their own zone, missing their own assignments.

The Flyers, I believe, are struggling with the lack of practice time. And while it is true that every team is dealing with the same compact schedule as the Flyers, Hakstol has to maximize the little practice time he gets going forward and preach team defense. Gaps have been a major issue with the current group of blueliners, and that is an area assistant coach Gord Murphy has to fix. Hakstol has singled out the team’s rush defense as an issue, and that’s another area the team has to work on, too.

A lot of the same issues that were appearing in the beginning of the season when the Flyers were struggling are reappearing in their game now. They were able to make adjustments earlier in the season to hone their game defensively. More film study and more coaching are just a couple of the adjustments I’d make with the current options.

Hall
Sometimes it takes a fresh face, some new blood to spark change.

If anything, it sends a bit of a message.

The Flyers have options at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and general manager Ron Hextall didn’t rule anything out last Sunday.

But, of course, given the Flyers’ salary cap conundrum, it’s not as simple as just calling up a player.

So, the easiest thing that can be done is change within the current personnel. That means scratching MacDonald from time to time, just how Hakstol has done so with Shayne Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning, Michael Del Zotto, Radko Gudas and many Flyers forwards.

MacDonald hasn’t been as bad as some may think. Oftentimes, his mistakes are magnified more than others. But too frequently do we see him out of position or misreading a play on a goal against. And that’s been true for all Flyers defensemen, yet MacDonald seems to be one of the only spared of the consequences.

Benching MacDonald isn’t a drastic fix and it may not do much at all, but it’s something we haven’t seen since Nov. 19.

Paone
This a really tough question because, to be quite frank, there is no easy solution here to fixing a Flyers defense that has been mired in a state of miserable play and has played a large part in the team's allowing 3.50 goals per game in the 14 contests since the 10-game win streak ended in mid-December. 

It's not like Hakstol or Hextall can push some magic button here and have things fixed in a matter of moments. The Flyers have salary cap and roster issues, so it's going to be tough to bring in a player via trade to help fix things on the back end. Same goes for bringing up a prospect because space on the roster would have to be made first.

This situation leaves the Flyers to fix the problem from within with the defensemen they currently have at the NHL level. They're going to have to play their way out of this. And that's why I'm interested in focusing on the younger defensemen like Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov right now. We know what the veteran defensemen on this team are and they've been through this sort of thing before. This will not be the last team-wide rut the younger defensemen will play through in their careers. It will happen again. They're going to have to learn how to play through this and not let it affect their individual play. That's why I didn't agree with Ghost's benching in Boston last weekend.  Sure, he has not played well this season and the warts to his game have been evident. And there are times when sitting back, taking a breather and watching can be beneficial. But I'm a believer that a young player has to play through his growing pains and grow from them.

This isn't going to be an answer most of you will like to hear, but with the way the Flyers' hands are tied, they're just going to have to play their way out of these defensive struggles with what they have.