Mistake-filled loss to TB costs Flyers home ice

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Mistake-filled loss to TB costs Flyers home ice

BOX SCORE

TAMPA -- Two mistakes. They resulted in two goals. Both with Steve Downie involved.

That was pretty much the difference in the Flyers' 4-2 loss on Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum to the Lightning.

This was huge, too.

Coupled with the Rangers' 2-1 win over Buffalo, New York clinched second place in the Metro Division and home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

The best the Flyers can do is third place, but unless they turn it around, they could easily slip to the wild card and face ... Boston? It’s a possibility.

“There were two mistakes and they went into the net,” said Flyers coach Craig Berube. “There was one on the [Eric] Brewer goal ... Downie lost his 'D' coming in.”

Downie left Brewer all alone for an open shot that made it 3-1 and more or less iced the game.

“We go play Pittsburgh and try to win the game,” Berube said. “You can’t catch the Rangers, so we can’t catch them.”

In the first period, Downie tried a risky play in neutral ice, turned the puck over and the Bolts had a 1-0 lead they held till late in the second period when Wayne Simmonds tied it with his 15th power play goal and 27th overall (see Instant Replay).

“The first five minutes, we turned the puck over a couple times and they ended up getting a goal,” Berube said. “Other than that, I liked the way we played tonight. We didn’t finish good enough.”

The Lighting scored three goals in the final period.

Tampa Bay received some surreal goaltending from Anders Lindback, who earned just his seventh win -- three against the Flyers this season. Lindback had 34 saves -- 26 through two periods.

“It makes a big difference if we score earlier,” Berube said.

Lindback outplayed Ray Emery, but Emery didn’t lose this game on his own merit.

“I got to makes saves in the third,” Emery said, shouldering blame that was not his. “We wanted it and wanted home ice, and it’s a disappointing third period.”

Tampa, much like the Rangers, owns the Flyers on their home ice. The Flyers are now 1-6-1 here since 2010-11.

“We had tons of chances, that part of our game was there,” Simmonds said. “We got our chances. Seemed like he was pulling saves out of his butt there. A lot it didn’t look like he was really in position and their defenders were making saves off their shin pads and stuff like that.”

And now home ice is gone.

“That doesn’t help,” Simmonds said. “We played well for 40 [minutes] again and we were hit or miss in the third. We had some really good shifts and some bonehead plays that cost us the game. We got to keep building the next two games.

“We’re not playing the way we were in the middle of the year. Obviously, that has to change. Third periods are going to be huge come playoff time. It starts next game. I don’t think you can flip a switch.

“We got to try and turn this around the next two games in the third periods. I think we’ve been playing great for 40 minutes the last few game,s but for some reason we don’t play a complete 20. We’ll play 15, 10 or 17.”

Columbus remains tied with the Flyers in points with 91, but is still fourth because the Flyers have won one more game in regulation/overtime (38 vs. 37).

Simmonds insisted consistency has to improve before the playoffs start next week.

“It’s a mindset,” he said. “You can’t practice playing consistently for 60 minutes. You just got to have it in your mind. You got to have a short memory. Sometimes we make mistakes and kind of dwell on them. That can’t happen. You got to have a short memory in this game.”

It’s going to take a hell of a mindset for the Flyers to forget that they blew home ice. And perhaps more.

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).

End to End: What adjustment would you make on Flyers' defense?

End to End: What adjustment would you make on Flyers' defense?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

With the Flyers on their bye week, let’s discuss a few topics.

Going End to End this week are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

Today’s question: What adjustment would you make on the Flyers' defense?

Dougherty
There is not much in Dave Hakstol’s arsenal to significantly improve the team defense with a lineup change. Sure, scratching Andrew MacDonald could be a positive step, but that does not solve the problem here. We can point fingers at the defensive group because the Flyers have allowed the league’s second-most goals at 144. They’re part of the problem.

What is plaguing the Flyers is not just the play of their six defensemen on any given night; it’s their overall team defense. Some forwards are quitting on the backcheck, and not providing enough support in their own zone, missing their own assignments.

The Flyers, I believe, are struggling with the lack of practice time. And while it is true that every team is dealing with the same compact schedule as the Flyers, Hakstol has to maximize the little practice time he gets going forward and preach team defense. Gaps have been a major issue with the current group of blueliners, and that is an area assistant coach Gord Murphy has to fix. Hakstol has singled out the team’s rush defense as an issue, and that’s another area the team has to work on, too.

A lot of the same issues that were appearing in the beginning of the season when the Flyers were struggling are reappearing in their game now. They were able to make adjustments earlier in the season to hone their game defensively. More film study and more coaching are just a couple of the adjustments I’d make with the current options.

Hall
Sometimes it takes a fresh face, some new blood to spark change.

If anything, it sends a bit of a message.

The Flyers have options at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and general manager Ron Hextall didn’t rule anything out last Sunday.

But, of course, given the Flyers’ salary cap conundrum, it’s not as simple as just calling up a player.

So, the easiest thing that can be done is change within the current personnel. That means scratching MacDonald from time to time, just how Hakstol has done so with Shayne Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning, Michael Del Zotto, Radko Gudas and many Flyers forwards.

MacDonald hasn’t been as bad as some may think. Oftentimes, his mistakes are magnified more than others. But too frequently do we see him out of position or misreading a play on a goal against. And that’s been true for all Flyers defensemen, yet MacDonald seems to be one of the only spared of the consequences.

Benching MacDonald isn’t a drastic fix and it may not do much at all, but it’s something we haven’t seen since Nov. 19.

Paone
This a really tough question because, to be quite frank, there is no easy solution here to fixing a Flyers defense that has been mired in a state of miserable play and has played a large part in the team's allowing 3.50 goals per game in the 14 contests since the 10-game win streak ended in mid-December. 

It's not like Hakstol or Hextall can push some magic button here and have things fixed in a matter of moments. The Flyers have salary cap and roster issues, so it's going to be tough to bring in a player via trade to help fix things on the back end. Same goes for bringing up a prospect because space on the roster would have to be made first.

This situation leaves the Flyers to fix the problem from within with the defensemen they currently have at the NHL level. They're going to have to play their way out of this. And that's why I'm interested in focusing on the younger defensemen like Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov right now. We know what the veteran defensemen on this team are and they've been through this sort of thing before. This will not be the last team-wide rut the younger defensemen will play through in their careers. It will happen again. They're going to have to learn how to play through this and not let it affect their individual play. That's why I didn't agree with Ghost's benching in Boston last weekend.  Sure, he has not played well this season and the warts to his game have been evident. And there are times when sitting back, taking a breather and watching can be beneficial. But I'm a believer that a young player has to play through his growing pains and grow from them.

This isn't going to be an answer most of you will like to hear, but with the way the Flyers' hands are tied, they're just going to have to play their way out of these defensive struggles with what they have.