Missed chances plague Flyers in loss to Penguins

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Missed chances plague Flyers in loss to Penguins

BOX SCORE

It was easily the worst 20 minutes of hockey the Flyers have played all season and yet they still had reason to believe after two periods against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
That’s because goalie Steve Mason had already made 15 saves in the second period and instead of trailing 5-0, the Flyers were behind only 2-1.
 
“We talked the truth -- our second period was unacceptable,” Max Talbot said. “Chief [Craig Berube] told us exactly the truth. That Mason was standing on his head. We would not have been in that game. That was the spark for us.”
 
Despite a strong, more desperate third period in which the score remained the same until the final 2:32, the Flyers still lost 4-1 at Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay), dropping them to 1-7. Per Elias Sports Bureau, they became the first team since the 1964 Bruins to go eight games into a season without scoring at least three goals in a game.
 
For 35 of 40 minutes, the Flyers were being outplayed, outhustled, out-everythinged by Pittsburgh.
 
“We weren’t doing anything,” Wayne Simmonds said. “It was like we were looking for the amazing play and not getting pucks on net. We had that late goal and felt we had momentum.”
 
Never happened.
 
You can’t win if you can’t score and you can’t score if you can’t shoot, and through two periods all the Flyers had were 13 shots.
 
Simmonds had numerous chances. Brayden Schenn had a gift opportunity in the third on Marc-Andre Fleury, who matched Mason’s effort in goal.
 
“Obviously, I would like to have had that one back with an open net that could have changed the hockey game,” Schenn said.
 
“It was pretty much as bad a second period as you can possibly have. We had it, we got out-muscled, out-battled, outworked.
 
“The second period, obviously, wasn’t a good one for us, and good hockey teams like that will stick it to you and they did.”

Even Mason was unimpressed.

“We were not happy with our first two periods of play,” Mason said. “My opinion, and I think everyone else’s opinion, is terrible hockey. You are not going to win hockey games like that.
 
“I thought the guys came out with a lot more emotion in the third period and that’s the way we need to play. If we can start playing like that, then we will start being more successful than we are.”
 
Whereas the puck was in the Flyers' end much of the opening two periods, it was in the Pens' end in the final period. Still, the Flyers could not change their fate.
 
Yet, what was unnerving here is that the Flyers were so bloody flat against them early and couldn’t muster the energy needed to compete for an entire game against their most-hated Metropolitan Division rival.
 
“It’s surprising but very disappointing,” coach Craig Berube said. “Very surprising.”
 
And the Flyers shut down the Penguins' power play, too. That alone should have given them reason to believe they could win.
 
“When we wanted to play, we were right with them,” Berube said. “We had some good opportunities to score goals. We scored a power-play goal, which was huge at the end of the period.”

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."