Instant Replay: Penguins 4, Flyers 1


Instant Replay: Penguins 4, Flyers 1


If you thought it couldn’t get worse for the Flyers, it did on Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center.

They lost in regulation to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-1, and are now 1-7. That is officially their worst start in club history.

Pittsburgh simply buried the Flyers in their own end during the middle period. The Penguins could easily have been ahead 4-0 or worse were it not for goalie Steve Mason.

At one point, the shots were 21-8 in Pittsburgh’s favor. Yet, somehow the Flyers managed to get a power-play goal during one of their rare chances in the Pens’ end and go into the third period behind, 2-1.

Six times this season now the Flyers have gone into the third period behind by a goal and very much within striking distance. And they failed to get even a point out of it this time.

Jussi Jokinen’s goal at 9:43 of the second period was the result of three attempted Flyer clear passes going nowhere, Brayden Schenn falling down, then Kimmo Timonen being swarmed by three players and hooked from behind by Chuck Kobasew without a penalty.

That no-call saw Evgeni Malkin steal the puck and feed Jokinen for a goal.

A few minutes later, it was 2-0 on Chris Kunitz’s rebound off a point shot.

The remainder of the period was all Pittsburgh, as Mason stood on his head facing 17 shots.

The Flyers got a power play with a minute left in the period, and as the fan boos got louder, Claude Giroux looked up at the clock, floated a shot from the left circle and Wayne Simmonds tipped it past Marc-Andre Fleury.

On their next power play, Brayden Schenn had the puck in the paint, swung and might have actually struck Fleury’s stick as the puck went wide of the net.

Sidney Crosby’s point streak continued at eight games with a goal in the final minutes.

Bottom line? The Flyers were outplayed 35 of the first 40 minutes when the damage occurred.

Brutal turnover
Braydon Coburn, who has been terrible lately, tried a pass into the slot and was stripped of the puck. It went to Pascal Dupuis, who fed Crosby for the third goal.

Skid ends
Simmonds’ goal in the second period ended an 0-for-18 skid on the power play.

For all the talk about disciplined play, the Flyers had two penalties in the first six minutes of the game and three in the period. Truth is, the officials were calling the game overly tight to the point in which borderline calls became outright penalties.

Before the Flyers could even get the puck into the zone for a sustained period of time, the Pens had a 5-0 shot lead. Four of those shots were on their first power play. Needless to say, Mason was sharp once again with 12 saves.

Through two periods, the Flyers had five penalties.

Pittsburgh won 10 of 18 faceoffs in the first period. Crosby won 6 of 10 draws (60 percent) and was 3 of 6 head-to-head against Sean Couturier, whose line matched up.

Malkin only took a single faceoff in the period, while Brandon Sutter won 4 of 5 (80 percent) against four different Flyers.

Overall, the Penguins won 60 percent of their draws. However, the Flyers recovered for 58 percent of the draws overall.

Flyers coach Craig Berube used Couturier’s line mostly against Crosby with Nick Grossmann and Coburn. Giroux went up against Malkin with defensive support from Mark Streit and Erik Gustafsson.

Well, Jakub Voracek again had no shots in the first period and tried a backhander on Fleury instead of a power forehand shot up high with open space.

Simmonds flubbed an open net from the left slot and banged his stick on the ice in frustration after.

In the third period, Simmonds again had Fleury at his mercy on the power play and the latter made an incredible glove save that had Simmonds looking to the rafters in disbelief.

Kris Newbury took on Pens defenseman Robert Bortuzzo in the second period standing up for teammate Zac Rinaldo -- of all people -- on a hit. Bortuzzo got the decision.

Injury report
Timonen left the game with about 14 minutes left in the second period and did not return with a lower-body injury. He will be re-evaluated on Friday, general manager Paul Holmgren said.

Holmgren also said that Scott Hartnell (upper-body injury) and Vinny Lecavalier (lower-body injury) will skate on Sunday.

The scratches
Healthy scratches were defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill, plus winger Jay Rosehill. Berube dressed Newbury to give him more faceoff options and Pittsburgh is not carrying a heavyweight enforcer right now.

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Avoiding another bad 1st period

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Avoiding another bad 1st period

Flyers vs. Hurricanes
7 p.m. on CSN, Pregame Live at 6:30

Another season, another slow start for the Flyers.

After dropping their home opener Thursday, the Flyers (1-2-1) welcome the Hurricanes (1-1-2) to the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night looking to snap a three-game losing skid.

Here are five things to know for Game 5 of 82.

1. Slow starts
Through four games, there are a few areas behind the Flyers' lousy start.

The defense continuing to abandon the goaltending and the lackluster power play are near the top of the list, but look no further than the first period of games.

The Flyers have been outscored, 6-1, in first periods through four games. Only Tampa Bay and Vancouver have scored fewer first-period markers with zero. The six first-period goals allowed are tied for the second most in the NHL. Only Calgary has more with seven.

It was an issue last season as well. In 2015-16, the Flyers were outscored, 62-50, in first periods, and the 50 goals ranked in the bottom five of the league. We've talked about slow starts in terms of wins-losses, but this issue extends to first periods too.

While the Flyers have exerted far greater efforts in second periods — leading the league with eight second-period tallies — getting behind so early results in playing from behind, and while resiliency is a trait of winning teams, it's ultimately cost them thus far.

On Saturday night, it doesn't get any easier for the Flyers, either. Carolina is an improved club from last season, which it, too, struggled scoring in opening periods.

That hasn't been the case this season. The 'Canes have outscored opponents, 5-2, in first periods, so it'll be important for the Flyers to come out of the gate with more authority.

2. Read-emption Song
One of the highlights of the early season for the Flyers has been the play of Matt Read.

Read scored his team-leading fourth goal of the season during the Flyers' 3-2 loss to the Ducks on Thursday, dusting off a play that brought back memories of years past.

The 30-year-old got behind the Anaheim defense on the backhand, drove to the net and deposited the puck into the net past John Gibson for a go-ahead score. It was very much a play we saw Read make a few years ago, but has been missing the last two seasons. Read came into training camp early this season hungrier than the previous two seasons, and on Wednesday, general manager Ron Hextall said Read knew he had to get back to the brand of hockey he was playing in 2013-14.

After the game Thursday, Read said his self-evaluation this offseason resulted in him realizing he has to get into the greasy areas to score and avoid playing the outside.

"I think that's something the last two years, I kind of faded away from, I was a perimeter player," Read said Thursday. "It's easy to be a perimeter player if you're going to be making plays and stuff like that. But if you want to score goals, you've got to get into those tough areas, be nasty around the net and battle for loose pucks."

3. Not so special
Special teams so often decide hockey games and it should factor into Saturday's game, too. Carolina comes into the game with a power play and penalty kill both in the top five.

The Hurricanes' man advantage has found twine five times in 16 chances, and their penalty kill has killed off 15 of 16 power plays against. On the other hand, the Flyers have had their struggles on special teams in the early going.

On Thursday night, the Flyers’ PP played a huge role in their loss. They finished 1 for 7 on the man advantage against Anaheim but were 1 for 5 in the second period alone. With Anaheim asking to be beaten, the Flyers couldn’t make the Ducks pay. 

“I thought we had pretty good power plays, our first power play,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought we had a good power play during the second, scored a good goal. Had opportunities to stretch to 3-1. It’s disappointing we couldn’t.

“We had one poor power play at the end of the first, where we weren’t able to get set up at all. Our power play was OK. The bigger thing for me is the goal we gave up a few seconds after the last power play in the second period. Those are the type of goals that as a team we can’t give up.”

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: It hasn't been the smoothest transition to the NHL for Ivan Provorov, one of two 19-year-olds on the roster. Provorov has shown glimpses, but there have been hiccups, as expected. He had a nightmare of a game in Chicago on Tuesday, and followed it up with a not-so-great effort against Anaheim. But we have to remember he's a teenage rookie. Patience is important. Still, the spotlight should remain on him Saturday. How does he respond after a pair of games in which he's made visible mistakes?

Hurricanes: Carolina has a few young players that are a joy to watch, but let’s highlight defenseman Justin Faulk, who quarterbacks the power play. The 24-year-old has a goal and three assists in four games, with two of the helpers coming on the man advantage. An extremely gifted blueliner, Faulk has scored 15 and 16 goals, respectively, the last two seasons, but that wasn’t enough to get him on Team USA for the World Cup of Hockey. We all know how that panned out.

5. This and that
• Read has 14 points in 20 career games against the Hurricanes.

• Dale Weise was suspended three games for an illegal check to the head of Anaheim defenseman Korbinian Holzer. Roman Lyubimov will replace Weise in the lineup.

• Carolina has killed off its last 11 penalties and has scored at least one power-play goal in three of its four games and two power-play goals in two of its four games.

Matt Read showing Flyers he's done his homework

Matt Read showing Flyers he's done his homework

To Matt Read’s credit, his hockey education never stopped.

Through a second straight subpar season with a murky summer ahead, Read realized he had to change, even on the cusp of his 30th birthday.

It was in late April when the much-maligned winger met with head coach Dave Hakstol and turned in his homework, almost like a student-teacher conference to address troubled grades.

Read vowed he had learned.

Now, nearly six months later, he’s off to the best start of his six-year career.

“He has always been a hard-working guy,” Hakstol said Thursday. “He is a guy that is doing things with a lot of confidence. For me, it started with Reader back in late August. He was in here working early, getting ready, getting prepared and he has carried that through everything he has done so far this year.”

What he has done is rip off a team-high four goals in four games, attacking the net at will and with an undeniable bravado. Really, it’s a Matt Read we haven’t seen before. On Thursday night in the Flyers’ 3-2 home-opening loss, he took a bouncing puck at the blue line, careened toward the net on a sharp, decisive angle and buried his fourth goal with skilled stick work.

“For myself, I’m just trying to play with speed and get to the net,” he said. “I had all the speed and kind of beat the goalie to the back post.”

Last season, the bottom-six forward needed 26 games to score four goals. The year prior, it took 54 games.

So Read studied. What exactly did he grasp?

“Even my linemates, we talk about that if we’re in the offensive zone, we’ve got to get somebody in the blue paint there,” Read said Thursday. “I don’t know the stat, but I think it’s near 90 percent of all goals are within 10 feet of the net. So if you want to score goals, you’ve got to get in that area.”

This offseason, Read looked in the mirror and, with some self-evaluation, knew what had to be done.

“I think that’s something the last two years, I kind of faded away from, I was a perimeter player,” he said. “It’s easy to be a perimeter player if you’re going to be making plays and stuff like that. But if you want to score goals, you’ve got to get into those tough areas, be nasty around the net and battle for loose pucks.”

A new outlook has brought renewed confidence. It’s fair to question whether over the last two seasons if Read ever makes the play he made Thursday. He also knows it’s early and more can be accomplished.

“I feel good out there right now,” Read said. “Hopefully I continue to have good health, keep working out and being strong on my feet. A lot of it has to do with confidence. If you’re shy or not having the confidence, you probably won’t go to that far post.

“I know for myself in the last two years, I know I’ve got to be better. Even going into last year, I knew I had to be better and I did as much I could in the offseason to have a good season and I guess it didn’t go my way, or over the course of the season, it took its toll.”

Read amassed 11 goals and 15 assists in 79 games. The 26 points were a personal low for a full season. Those figures didn’t sit well with Read and general manager Ron Hextall noticed.

“You know what, Reader came in early before camp, he's absolutely worked his tail off,” Hextall said Wednesday. “He understood that he hadn't been as good a player as he should have been last year. He understood it, he took it upon himself, put in a great summer, came in early, got himself in great shape, and he's a hungry hockey player right now and he's been back to where he was.”

When signed by the Flyers in 2011 out of Bemidji State University, it was uncertain where Read projected. Over the past two seasons, he’s fallen to a fourth-line role and was even healthy-scratched last season. More buzz surrounding his status within the organization heated up entering training camp as the Flyers made additions and Travis Konecny blossomed.

Thus far, however, Read has won himself a promotion to the third line because of his early success. He played only 16 power-play seconds Thursday, but if goals keep coming and the Flyers produce more 1-for-7 results on the man advantage, maybe Hakstol increases the 30-year-old’s minutes there, as well.

“When Matt Read is playing like he can play,” Hextall said, “he's a helluva player.”

Not a bad student, too.