Instant Replay: Penguins 4, Flyers 1

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Instant Replay: Penguins 4, Flyers 1

BOX SCORE

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.

Penalties
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.

Faceoffs
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.

Matchups
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.

Chances
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.

Fights
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.

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.