Philadelphia Flyers

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.”

NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

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NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have signed center Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The extension runs through the 2024-25 season, similar to the eight-year, $100-million extension superstar captain Connor McDavid signed with the team in July.

With the signings, the Oilers are banking on McDavid and Draisaitl providing a potent one-two punch for the team as it looks to build on last season's return to the playoffs after a decade of futility.

Draisaitl, a 21-year-old German, had 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) last season, his third in the NHL.

He finished eighth among NHL scorers, and second on the Oilers behind McDavid.

He led the Oilers in scoring during the 2017 playoffs, posting 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 games.

Draisaitl was selected third overall by the Oilers at the 2015 draft (see full story).

Avalanche: Hobey Baker winner Butcher now free agent
College hockey's top player is an NHL free agent after former University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher allowed a deadline to pass without signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche selected Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and had until Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner who led Denver to a national championship in April.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Butcher already has had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and NHL-expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The person said Butcher has not yet narrowed his list, and is also talking with other teams.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

The Denver Post first reported the three specific teams expressing interest in Butcher (see full story).

Wild: Cullen comes home for 21st NHL season
The Minnesota Wild and center Matt Cullen have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, bringing him back to his home state for a 21st season in the NHL.

The Wild announced the deal, which includes $700,000 in potential performance bonuses, on Wednesday.

Cullen played the last two years with Pittsburgh, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins. He played three seasons for the Wild from 2010-13, his first return to Minnesota since launching his career at Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State.

Cullen, who will turn 41 on Nov. 2, had 13 goals and 18 assists in 72 games in 2016-17 for the Penguins, plus two goals and seven assists in 25 playoff games. He has played in 1,366 career regular season games, the sixth-most among active players (see full story).

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

Ron Hextall never told fans to "trust the process," but apparently any faith in the Flyers' GM has been vindicated.

At least that's the case if you believe ESPN NHL writer Corey Pronman's latest farm system rankings (it's an Insider story, so apologies in advance). Pronman has the Flyers' farm ranked as No. 1 in the NHL. 

"The Flyers don't have as much game-breaking talent as our No. 2 team (Coyotes) does at the top of their system," Pronman writes, "but 2017 No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick is right up there; after Patrick, the Flyers have the cupboards lined with talent at every position."

Pronman credits the Flyers with nailing his first-round picks (Patrick, Ivan Provorov), grabbing middle-round prospects that have blossomed (Shayne Gostisbehere, Oskar Lindblom) and specifically mentions Phil Myers, an undrafted defenseman that has become "one of the very best defense prospects in hockey."

For so long, the Flyers' organization was perpetually in "win-now mode," but the late Ed Snider hired Hextall away from the Kings and eventually made him GM, knowing that Hexy was taking a broader view of the organization. Instead of trading away young talent and draft picks for aging veterans, Hextall restocked a dreadful farm system to get the team where it is today.

"Not too long ago, the Flyers' farm system was a laughingstock, with C-grade college free agents making it into their top five," Pronman said. "Today, they are in the best position of any NHL team in terms of adding young premium players to their roster."