Late penalties cost Flyers in Game 1 loss at MSG

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Late penalties cost Flyers in Game 1 loss at MSG

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- It was both unnerving and shocking.

For more than two-thirds of the game, the Flyers had precious few shots, no forecheck, no puck possession and were being badly outskated by the Rangers.

Yet they were dead even on the scoreboard at 1-1.

Then it all blew apart with an accidental high-stick from rookie Jason Akeson and subsequent four-minute power play that saw the Rangers bury the Flyers with two goals en route to an embarrassing 4-1 loss at Madison Square Garden in Game 1 of the playoffs (see Instant Replay). The series continues Sunday at noon.

The Flyers had just 15 shots -- only one in the third period. No shots for Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Kimmo Timonen, Vinny Lecavalier …

Fifteen shots is the fewest in a playoff game since they had 14 against Montreal in a 3-2 win in Game 3 of the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist all but had the night off.

“Puck possession and shots -- we let them block too many shots in the first period, didn’t get enough through to the net and then I didn’t think we forechecked good enough after that,” coach Craig Berube said.

The Flyers were consistently beaten to the puck and lost whatever battles there were on walls, while the speedier, quicker Rangers had numbers on them all over the ice.

“Not getting the puck in, turning it over, we didn’t have our legs,” Berube said. “I don’t think we skated enough during any of the periods.”

Forechecking is something the Flyers pride themselves as doing very well. How could it have been so awful?

“I don’t think we had good enough support,” Wayne Simmonds suggested. “Our plan was to chip pucks in and as soon as we got pucks in, it seemed like they had three guys to our two. So we got to figure that out.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating. You’re not going to beat Lundqvist with 15 shots, that’s for sure. We got to do a better job next game. That’s why it’s a series. It’s not one game.”

Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald said of the lack of forecheck, “We have to get back quicker on pucks, make better plays in the neutral zone and keep our gaps better. Obviously, things are very correctable.”

Incredibly, the Flyers were in the game for so long because of Ray Emery, who faced a barrage of shots (36). The third-period collapse was simply because of two Rangers power-play goals during Akeson’s four-minute high-stick that cut Carl Hagelin (see story).

“Ray played unbelievable,” Simmonds said. “He make the saves when he needed to. He made big saves. They had a four-minute power play there where they kind of stretched us out.

“They got two goals. I don’t think he really had a chance on those. They were crossing passes. He played awesome for us. He played unreal.”

The significant difference between Emery and starter Steve Mason, who is injured, is Emery can’t go post-to-post as quick and that’s what the Rangers did twice that final period when they scored four unanswered goals, including the second power-play goal from Derek Stepan that iced it at 3-1.

“New York is a good team at home and we’re aware of that,” said Giroux, as the Flyers have now lost nine straight here since 2011. “We have to do what we used to do and we’ll be fine. It’s not time to hit the panic button. Only one game.

“We didn’t support each other as well as we wanted to. It’s the first game. We will build on it. We did a lot of good things and a lot of wrong things, too. We’ll be ready for Game 2.”

This was probably a game the Flyers could have stolen, especially after jumping out 1-0 on a goal from MacDonald at 7:28 of the first period off their first shot. MacDonald’s point hit Marty St. Louis’ stick.

Emery had a great second period to keep it 1-1.

“We liked being tied going into third,” Emery said. “We wanted to have a better period.”

Instead, the Flyers accumulated 10 minutes in penalties.

A lot has to change to prevent this group from going back to Philly down 0-2 in the series and not lose a 10th straight game at MSG.

“You’ve got to play better than that, that’s for sure,” Simmonds said. “I think when we try to play simple.

“We got to get numbers. They did a good job tonight in outnumbering us. Ultimately, getting good breakaways. They fly on the rush there. It’s one game.”

Flyers-Canucks 5 things: Claude Giroux’s regression a cause for concern?

Flyers-Canucks 5 things: Claude Giroux’s regression a cause for concern?

Flyers (27-24-7) at Canucks (26-27-6)
10 p.m. on CSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 9:30

The Flyers’ three-game trip through Western Canada ends tonight in Vancouver against the Canucks, as the orange and black will look to salvage one win on this disastrous road trip.

Vancouver enters the game on the backend of a back-to-back. The Canucks beat Calgary, 2-1, in overtime Saturday at Rogers Arena. The Flyers beat Vancouver, 5-4, in a shootout on Jan. 12.

Let’s take a closer look at game No. 59 for the orange and black.

1. Captain concern
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Since their 10-game winning streak, from Nov. 27 to Dec. 14, the Flyers’ season outlook has undergone a drastic shift toward a higher draft pick.

The Flyers are 8-14-4 in 26 games since the winning streak, and 2-5-1 in their last eight games. They’re 2-10-2 in their last 14 road games, and have lost their last eight games in Western Canada. They remain just two points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, but earning a playoff appearance appears to be just a wishful thought.

Not much is going well right now for the Flyers. Neither Michal Neuvirth or Steve Mason has taken grasp of the No. 1 job. Neuvirth has started six of the Flyers’ last seven games and seven of their last nine, but Mason is expected to get the starting nod tonight.

They can’t score. They’re averaging 1.46 goals in their last 13 games, scoring 19 goals over that span and they’ve been shut out three times. Claude Giroux’s regression continues, as he has just two goals in his past 23 games. Giroux is on pace for 59 points, which would be the fewest he’s had in an 82-game season since 2009-10. (He finished the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season with 48 points in 48 games.)

“For whatever the reason, in the last month, he’s just gone in the wrong direction,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Giroux on Saturday. “That’s not just [the] individual. That’s a team item, and we’ve gotta push that in the right direction.”

As the captain has gone, the Flyers have, too.

2. Weal bad luck
Just as when it appears Jordan Weal had finally turned a corner in the NHL — albeit it in a very small sample size — an injury strikes. Weal will miss tonight’s game with an upper-body injury. The Flyers said Saturday the forward will be reevaluated Monday.

Dale Weise draws back into the lineup against Vancouver, and will take Weal’s place on the Flyers’ second line alongside center Sean Couturier and right winger Jake Voracek. Weise checks back in after sitting the last two games and seven of the last 12 as a healthy scratch.

Weal impressed in two games and a period before suffering his injury Thursday in Edmonton. He’s averaged 11:50 of ice time, playing a career-high 15:31 Wednesday in Calgary, a game he had six shots on goal. Through three games, Weal has an 83.0 corsi for percentage, which is remarkably high but an extremely small sample. He was more confident along the boards and with the puck, hungrier than at any point last season with the Flyers.

It was only a matter of time before the 24-year-old was going to pick up his first career NHL point. Now, he’s sidelined at least one game. If it’s not a long-term injury, Weal’s play in the two-plus games should be enough to warrant inserting him back in when he’s healthy.

“He added something every game,” Hakstol said of Weal on Saturday. “Obviously, it was two games and a period, but he’s dynamic. He hadn’t been here [this season], but he had the puck quite a bit. He looked like a player that was confidently on the top of his game, and I didn’t think any of that was lost in the transition from Lehigh to our team.”

3. Mediocre matchup
The Canucks are not exactly a team oozing with confidence, either. With Saturday's OT win over the Flames, the Canucks are now 4-8-0 in their last 12 games. They are four points behind Calgary now for the West's second wild-card spot, and gave up a valuable point to the Flames on Saturday by blowing a 1-0 lead with six seconds left in regulation.

Vancouver sits in the bottom 10 in goals for (2.3, 28th), goals against (2.8, 20th), power play (14.9, 27th) and penalty kill (79.1, 24th). It's a team that doesn't score a ton of goals, but also doesn't give up many, either. It's the epitome of a below-average team from a talent perspective — sound familiar? — that can grind its way to competitiveness.

With how the Flyers have been playing over their last two months and how this current Canucks team competes, it's safe to say tonight's game will be one filled with little scoring, a much different tune than the first matchup.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: There is not a single Flyer worth watching right now. I suggest making one of those origami fortune teller games with a list of Flyers, play it and whoever you get, watch him.

Canucks: Vancouver’s leading scorer is no longer one of the Sedin twins. Instead, it’s 21-year-old Bo Horvat, who has 18 goals and 39 points in 58 games. Horvat, the ninth overall pick in 2013, made his first NHL All-Star Game this season. In the previous meeting with the Flyers, he picked up an assist.

5. This and that
• Mason started the Flyers’ last game against the Canucks on Jan. 12, but was pulled after allowing four goals on 24 shots through two periods. Mason is expected to start tonight.

• With Ryan Miller starting in Saturday, Jacob Markstrom (10-11-3, 2.63, .910) could start tonight for Vancouver. If he does start, he would be the sixth backup goalie the Flyers have faced in their last 14 games — remember, the Flyers have 19 goals in their last 13 games.

• The Flyers’ power play is five for its last 45 dating back 13 games.

• Friendly reminder: Shayne Gostisbehere’s goal drought is now at 31 games.

Best of NHL: Sabres snap Blues' 6-game winning streak

Best of NHL: Sabres snap Blues' 6-game winning streak

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Robin Lehner stopped 16 shots in the third period and 37 overall, and the Buffalo Sabres snapped the St. Louis Blues' six-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory on Saturday.

Evander Kane and minor-league callup Nicholas Baptiste each had a goal and an assist in Buffalo's third straight win, matching a season best accomplished three times. Ryan O'Reilly also scored for the Sabres (26-23-10), who have three more wins than losses for the first time since closing the 2011-12 season 39-32-11.

Vladimir Tarasenko also scored for St. Louis, which lost for the first time since a 4-1 defeat to Pittsburgh on Feb. 4 (see full recap).

Jets spoil Julien's return to Montreal
MONTREAL -- Patrik Laine and Mathieu Perreault each had a goal and an assist, and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled Claude Julien's return to Montreal with a 3-1 victory over the Canadiens on Saturday.

Joel Armia also scored for Winnipeg (27-29-5), and Connor Hellebuyck stopped 19 shots. The Jets had dropped five of six.

The Canadiens fired coach Michel Therrien on Tuesday and hired Julien in hopes of getting their season back on track. Julien also coached Montreal from 2003-2006.

But Julien's first game back was more of the same for the first-place Canadiens (31-20-8), who have lost three in a row and seven of eight (see full recap).

Senators top Leafs to gain on Canadiens
TORONTO -- Mark Stone had a goal and four assists, Derick Brassard scored twice in the third period and the Ottawa Senators recovered after blowing a two-goal lead to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Saturday night.

The Senators pulled within two points of Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa led 2-0 after one period but trailed 3-2 in the third before getting a tying goal from Mike Hoffman and a power-play goal from Brassard. Stone and Brassard added empty-netters, and Chris Wideman and Ryan Dzingel also scored for the Senators.

Ottawa has won four of five overall and three of four against the Leafs this season. Craig Anderson stopped 34 shots.

Morgan Rielly, Nazem Kadri and William Nylander scored and Auston Matthews had two assists for the Maple Leafs. Frederik Andersen allowed four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).