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.”

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

DETROIT -- Nikita Kucherov scored 3:28 into overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night.

Situated on the edge of the crease, Kucherov redirected a hard pass from Brayden Point into the net.

The Lightning are one point behind the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point (see full recap).

Islanders notch shootout win over Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- John Tavares and Anthony Beauvillier scored in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.

Beauvillier opened the shootout with a goal, and Tavares snapped a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the next round. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh, but Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since Dec. 29, stopped Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.

Anders Lee scored his 28th goal of the season, while Brock Nelson got his 17th and Casey Cizikas his eighth for the Islanders, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is tied with Boston at 82 points, but the Islanders have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have 18 wins in 31 games since Doug Weight was named interim coach on Jan. 17, replacing Jack Capuano.

Halak, a former All-Star, made 37 saves (see full recap).

Cracknell nets first hat trick in Stars' win
DALLAS -- Adam Cracknell got his first hat trick in seven NHL seasons and the Dallas Stars handed the San Jose Sharks their fifth straight loss, 6-1 on Friday night.

Cracknell opened the scoring in the first period, capped a three-goal flurry in the second and beat goalie Aaron Dell on a short-handed breakaway in the third for his career-high 10th goal of the season.

The Sharks entered two points ahead of Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division despite their longest losing streak of the season. San Jose has been outscored 16-5 during the stretch.

Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars.

Joe Thornton scored for San Jose on the power play in the second period. Dell had 23 saves.

Dallas' Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves four nights after shutting out San Jose (see full recap).

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

You know Dave Hakstol has reached crisis measures when he takes a skill player in Travis Konecny and throws him onto the fourth line while promoting Matt Read to the top line.

This was risk-taking at its craziest to generate some enthusiasm and life into a Flyers squad that didn't show much of a pulse a few nights earlier in Winnipeg.

Guess what?

It worked during a 3-1 victory on Thursday, the Flyers' fifth straight win over the Wild going back a few years (see Instant Replay).

Their playoff hopes still flicker.

As much as the fan base hated the lineup moves, consider this: general manager Ron Hextall was very explicit this week in saying that the roster Hakstol has right now is what it is. Hextall is not going to promote any young Phantoms into a bad situation when they are headed for what could be a decent playoff run in the AHL.

Therefore, as my former colleague Bill Lyon would say, here are 10 things I think, I think …

1. The Flyers began the game as they have so often this season with yet another turnover and scoring chance against them. Rinse and repeat. The Flyers had three turnovers in less than five minutes to start the game.

2. Minutes later, Steve Mason coughed up a bad rebound off his stick and Zach Parise burned him with a gimme goal for a 1-0 lead. Mason had issues in this one with rebounds that were looking like grenades, but he settled down with a strong final two periods with 24 saves. This was Mason's 100th win as a Flyer (see game story).

3. You had to see it to believe it. Sean Couturier with a nice backhand shot through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to make it a 1-1 game near the end of the opening period (see feature highlight). I haven't seen that kind of offensive move from Couturier in quite some time. Question is, why can't he do that nightly instead of semiannually? That's the offensive spark you know Couturier is capable of providing.

4. The Wild were very aggressive in this one as they were trying to clinch a playoff spot, so the Flyers had to match that intensity. The Flyers more than matched it. This was far, far better than what Hakstol's team brought to the ice in Winnipeg. Not even close, as the Flyers dominated.

5. Matt Read had a quick stick -- no other way to explain it -- on his goal in the second period off a series of Wild turnovers that came about because of a play set up by Jakub Voracek. That goal seemingly stunned Dubnyk. It was Read's second goal in the last two games. He was all over the ice in this one. Many nights this season, Read was invisible. Not this game.

6. The Flyers had some genuine scoring chances in this game. You had to wonder where this desire to skate, create and score was all through the month of February and into March. The Flyers had strong forecheck pressure and a rebound-attack mentality the entire second period. If that had happened with regularity down the stretch, this team would be sitting in the wild card right now.

7. While the shake-up of the lines obviously benefited Read, it did little for Konecny and actually set him back. He was invisible. No shots. No hits. Invisible with little ice time. Really can't figure this move out but obviously, Hakstol is upset with him for some reason.

8. Minnesota went all in at the NHL trade deadline to get Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, forking over four draft picks, including a first-rounder. The Wild were leading the Central Division before losing six straight (and eight of nine) that allowed Chicago to regain the top spot in the division. The Wild don't look like the same confident, surging team it was a month ago in the Western Conference.

9. Minnesota had a strong push in the final five minutes and the Flyers had some initial difficulty answering that until the final minute when Wayne Simmonds picked up his 300th point as a Flyer on Voracek's empty-net goal to seal the deal. A nice way to finish off a complete effort by everyone involved.

10. The Flyers picked up two points on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and are six behind the Bruins in the wild card. They still remain a l-o-n-g shot to make the playoffs, given the sheer number of teams ahead of them that they need to climb over.