Instant Replay: Predators 4, Flyers 3 (SO)

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Instant Replay: Predators 4, Flyers 3 (SO)

BOX SCORE

If it were any other competitor who had registered a goal and two assists against the Flyers, it likely wouldn’t have hurt as much.

But in Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators, it was Shea Weber. Yes, that Shea Weber, who made the Flyers pay.

On display at the Wells Fargo Center for the first time since the Flyers attempted to acquire him, Weber demonstrated exactly why the Predators kept him dressed in yellow and blue.

And Thursday marked the first time the Flyers fell to the Predators at the Wells Fargo Center since 2006.

Of course, it wasn’t just Weber who dictated the game’s outcome. Despite a rather energetic start, the Flyers started to lose their grasp on the game as the first period wore on, and never seemed to regain control -- even after tying it up in the closing seconds of the second period.

The Flyers did their best to fight back, but unlike in recent weeks, simply weren't able to claw their way to two points.

The strong start
As Matt Read said at Wednesday’s practice, the Flyers want to have the lead in games at least some of the time -- they can’t always be the Comeback Kids. Well, they started off strong against the Predators. Taking advantage of the time he was given, Andrej Meszaros took a shot that was batted home by Brayden Schenn just 1:26 after the first puck dropped to give the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. Ten minutes in, they led in shots, 8-4.

Giving too much
Giveaways were a problem, especially early. A Michael Raffl turnover led to the play that resulted in the Predators' first goal (an Eric Nystrom redirect that Steve Mason couldn’t do anything about). Another turnover led to the Flyers’ first penalty of the night, committed by Claude Giroux. That penalty became a five-on-three for the Preds when Kimmo Timonen joined Giroux in the box. (And the Flyers gave up another goal on that one, too). In the first period alone. The Flyers were credited with seven giveaways.

The turning point
As they know they need to, the Flyers hit the ice with energy Thursday night. They scored first and put plenty of early pressure on Predators goalie Carter Hutton. But things changed as the opening stanza went on. That aforementioned five-on-three, which resulted in the Predators’ go-ahead goal, hit the Flyers like a punch to the gut. They backed off and allowed the Predators to catch -- and then surpass -- them in shots.

The save of the year?
The Predators’ net was empty, as Hutton had mismanaged a wrap-around behind it. And Raffl was charging in on the net with the puck in his possession. But somehow … it didn’t go in. Hutton launched himself in front of the net and caught Raffl’s shot just in time.

And the Meszaros factor
Meszaros actually didn’t have a particularly strong night defensively. But he was creating pressure. He scored the goal that tied the game at 2 at the very end of the second period, and put in the bulk of the work that went into Schenn’s first period goal.

Downie’s return
Steve Downie returned to the Flyers’ lineup after spending the past two games as a healthy scratch. He played on the fourth line with Chris VandeVelde and Adam Hall, and finished the game with 10:38 of ice time.

Nashville finally does it
Nashville's win was its first shootout win of the season. The Predators were 0-5 and had scored just once in shootouts this season.

That’s it?
Thursday’s game was just the 17th time -- total -- the Flyers and Predators have met. Coincidentally, 17 is also the number of trades that have occurred between the two teams since the Predators entered the NHL in 1998.

Flyers-Oilers 5 things: Winning streak meets Connor McDavid

Flyers-Oilers 5 things: Winning streak meets Connor McDavid

Flyers (15-10-3) vs. Oilers (14-10-4)
7 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com, Pregame Live at 6:30

The hottest team in the NHL will meet the hottest young star on Thursday night when the Flyers host the Edmonton Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. McDavid and Co.
The Flyers are going for their seventh consecutive victory, which would tie their longest winning streak since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when they also won seven in a row.

In order to do so, they’ll have to slow down transcendent talent Connor McDavid and the prolific but streaky Oilers.

McDavid, a generational player, has thus far lived up to all the hype surrounding him as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. In just his second NHL season — and first with a healthy start after an injured-shortened rookie year (45 games) — the 19-year-old leads all of hockey in points with 36, while no other player has yet to eclipse 30.

His 25 assists also rank atop the NHL, while his 11 goals are among the top 22 and his plus-8 rating is tied for ninth best between all centers.

“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said Wednesday. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice.”

And he has help.

Linemates Leon Draisaitl (11 goals, 11 assists) and Milan Lucic (eight goals, 12 assists) can do damage, as can Jordan Eberle (eight goals, 13 assists).

2. Defense wins games
The Flyers are playing better and cleaner in front of their goaltender — who has been great (see below) — and the results are showing.

The orange and black have gone five straight games of allowing two or fewer goals.

Why were they so up and down before this run? Well, they had surrendered two or fewer goals in just five of their previous 23 games.

“That’s unbelievable for us,” Wayne Simmonds said after Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Panthers. “At the beginning of the year, to say we’d have five straight without giving up more than two would be a stretch.
 
“We’ve locked it down defensively and Mase has played unbelievable. We’ve been pretty good as five-man units.”

3. Mase the man
A confident Steve Mason is a dangerous Steve Mason.

Right now, Mason has the net and is gaining steam by the game.

Over his past five outings, the 28-year-old is 5-0-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

Just as impressive, since Nov. 12, Mason is 8-3-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

“I've said it numerous times, I want to be playing lots of hockey,” Mason said Tuesday. “This is a position that I'm used to being in and where I'm most comfortable. So just have to keep continuing to put my work in and whenever [head coach Dave Hakstol] calls my name, be ready."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: You always have to watch Simmonds, but especially now with the winger coming off back-to-back two-goal games. Simmonds leads the NHL with eight power-play goals and is second in man-advantage points (13) to only teammate Claude Giroux (14).

Oilers: With all the attention zeroed in on McDavid, we’ll go with the 21-year-old Draisaitl, who has seven goals in his last nine games and 14 points in his past 12. The No. 3 overall pick in 2014 is an intelligent playmaker capable of hurting you.

5. This and that
• Mason is 8-4-0 with just a 3.49 goals-against average and .872 save percentage in 13 career games against Edmonton.

• Oilers goalie Jonas Gustavsson will make his fourth start of the season. He’s 1-1-1 on the year with 84 saves on 91 shots faced, but is 0-4-1 lifetime against the Flyers with a 3.57 goals-against average and .865 save percentage.

• The Flyers are fourth in the NHL in goals per game (3.11), while Edmonton is seventh (2.93).

• The Oilers have lost 10 of their last 15 games (5-7-3).

Flyers skate update: Wayne Simmonds, power play key to beating Oilers

Flyers skate update: Wayne Simmonds, power play key to beating Oilers

Todd McLellan saw a lot of Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov as a junior player in the Western Hockey League whenever the Brandon Wheat Kings would turn up in Edmonton.

“I watched him play in junior and had a chance to see that Brandon team play in Edmonton twice last year,” said the Edmonton Oilers coach.

“Obviously, a smooth, confident [player] with great vision. He has patience with the puck. Those are his offensive assets. 

“But he also positions himself well, defensively. He accepts that responsibility. For a young d-man, he is ahead of a lot of others because he can play on both sides of the puck.”

Provorov rattled Jaromir Jagr Tuesday when Florida was here (see story). Tonight he gets his first NHL taste of Connor McDavid.

McLellan said the Oilers' biggest challenge against the Flyers will be stopping the NHL’s second-ranked power play. Edmonton has the 11th best penalty kill.

His concern is Wayne Simmonds (8 power play goals) and Claude Giroux (14 power play points). 

“That power play is deadly and it really hasn’t changed — it’s just clicking,” McLellan said. “It has a couple trigger points. Obviously, Simmonds has the most goals in the league  and Giroux has the most points. But there’s other pieces to that power play, which are exceptional. 

“Our penalty kill has been taking it on the chin and I had to ask our guys today, 'Is it the penalty kill or the penalties?' In my opinion, it’s as much the penalties as the penalty kill. We have to stay out of the box.  

“This is a confident Flyers team. They feel very good in the offensive zone and make things happen. Their goaltender [Steve Mason] has been making saves for them that keeps them confident going the other way. It’s a team on the rise.”

The Streak
The Flyers are looking to make it seven straight wins tonight against the Oilers. The last time they won seven in arrow was Dec. 2-15 in 2011. They did not have a morning skate.

On Mason
Tuesday’s win against Florida was Steve Mason’s 88th as a Flyer, moving him past Pelle Lindbergh into sixth in franchise history. Mason needs six wins to move into third place in franchise history. 

Debut
Defenseman Dillon Simpson will make his Oilers debut tonight in Philadelphia. He is the son of former Oiler Craig Simpson. 

The oddity? Last year, Keegan Lowe made his Oilers' debut here in Philadelphia. He is the son of Kevin Lowe, longtime coach and front office executive for the Oilers. 

Colors
The Oilers wear three colors during their morning skate. Their defensemen dress in orange; their third and fourth lines dress in white and their top six skaters dress in blue. Now that’s an NHL hierarchy.