Instant Replay: Hurricanes 2, Flyers 1 (OT)

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Instant Replay: Hurricanes 2, Flyers 1 (OT)

BOX SCORE

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Carolina, New Jersey and Edmonton.

Three struggling hockey teams. Not that the Flyers aren’t, either.

If ever there was a week for Craig Berube’s team to claw higher into the Metropolitan Division standings, this is it. There’s six points up for grabs that could go to the Flyers ... with a little scoring luck.

“You definitely have a chance to gain ground,” Berube said before the Flyers' game on Monday night. “You don’t look at it as [Carolina] struggling. This team is gonna play hard. They’re ready to play. They lost five in a row. They’re desperate. You got to make sure you got your game going for 60 minutes.”

Well, two of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL couldn’t score on each other Tuesday night at PNC Arena, although Carolina by far had the better scoring chances.

In the end, the Hurricanes won 2-1 in overtime on a late comeback and a breakaway goal from Manny Malhotra.

Were it not for Flyers goalie Steve Mason, the Hurricanes would have had four to five goals, easy. He continues to give the Flyers a chance to get two points every game.

Mason was temporarily rewarded with Scott Hartnell’s power-play goal at 16:02 of the third period. It was Hartnell’s first point of the season, too, on a tip in front of the net. However, the 1-0 lead didn’t last long.

Nathan Gerbe drew a double minor with a skirmish in front of the Flyers' net involving Mark Streit to set up that power play.

That was quickly erased when Jordan Staal snuck in behind Claude Giroux to tie it up in the final minute of regulation.

Review
Hartnell’s goal went to review for a high-stick but his stick was not above the crossbar.

Shorthanded chance
The Flyers blew a good one in the first period off a brutal Carolina turnover in front of goalie Justin Peters. Two things happened. First, Matt Read couldn’t handle the puck. When he got control of it and dished to Sean Couturier in the right slot, the Flyers’ centerman shot it off the post.

One-timer
Peters made a great glove save on Kimmo Timonen’s one-timer in the slot late in the opening period.

Crazy finish
The second period's final minutes saw Mason absolutely stone Gerbe with a glove-hand save on a power play that quickly turned into a two-man Carolina advantage that carried over 33 seconds into the third period. The Flyers survived it thanks to Mason.

No call
Zac Rinaldo was very upset after taking a shot to the chin from Staal late in the second period that dropped him to the ice without drawing a penalty.

No scoring
Going into the third period, the Flyers had scored just one goal in their previous 203 minutes, 26 seconds. It ended at 219:28 with Hartnell’s goal. Mason had an outstanding shoulder save on Alexander Semin six minutes into the third period. Semin had some good scoring chances in the game.

Giveaways
The Flyers had zero Saturday night in New Jersey. They had five after one period in Carolina.

Scratches
Defensemen Luke Schenn and Erik Gustafsson; forward Jay Rosehill.

Haunting
The last time the Flyers played the Hurricanes on the road was Oct. 6. The Flyers lost, 2-1. Coach Peter Laviolette was fired the next morning.

Running interference
That’s what referee Steve Kosari did in the first period during a Flyers' power play. He accidentally got in Jakub Voracek’s way and it created a two-on-one, shorthanded rush with Gerbe and Staal. Incredibly, Mason got his blocker on Staal’s shot on what should have been an easy goal.

Loose pucks
Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish were both scouting the game. The Flyers meet Edmonton this weekend in Philly. However, Lowe was also scouting for Team Canada (Sochi Olympics) and eager to see Eric Staal and Giroux going head-to-head for his report back to head coach Mike Babcock and main assistant Ken Hitchcock. … The latest Bovada odds from Las Vegas show the Flyers have fallen from 22/1 to win the Stanley Cup to 66/1. ... PNC Arena was half-empty for the game.

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.