PP, controversial call doom Flyers in loss to NJ

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PP, controversial call doom Flyers in loss to NJ

BOX SCORE

There was a ton of anger in the Flyers' dressing room following Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils (see Instant Replay).

The Flyers had a right to be angry over yet another goal disallowed, one that would have sent the game into overtime.

Referee Tom Kowal ruled that Scott Hartnell had made contact with goalie Marty Brodeur before the puck crossed the line.

It didn’t matter that defenseman Anton Volchenkov had made contact with Hartnell, knocking him into Brodeur.

Toronto called Philadelphia to ask for an explanation. Usually, it’s the other way around.

League officials there were told by Kowal the goal was denied on the ice for contact with the goalie. When a goalie is “pushed into the net,” to quote Rule 78.5 (ix), the goal is not subject to the league overturning or even reviewing. Toronto made the correct call based on the information given.

Here’s the thing. As much as the Flyers were wronged, the game should not have come down to a replay or a call on the ice as being the ultimate difference between a win or a loss, especially during a stretch run to the playoffs.

Not when the Flyers had not one but six -- count ‘em, six -- chances on the power play and did almost nothing offensively on four of them.

That’s why the Flyers lost -- not because Hartnell’s goal was denied.

“Our power play should have been difference,” said Hartnell, who played his 500th game in orange and black. “The biggest difference was Brodeur. We had several chances.

“Kimmo [Timonen] had probably a dozen chances from the top. There were rebounds there and we couldn’t seem to get one. Their penalty kill did a great job.”

And his non-goal?

Volchenkov hit Hartnell from the side and the Flyers winger ended up hip-checking Brodeur as the puck went into the net. It was the Russian defenseman’s fault but …

“He said I might have made contact, but the defender was right on me,” Hartnell said. “He made contact with Brodeur first. If you see the puck, well behind the goal line. That wasn’t the issue. Frustrating. It’s a quick sport. But I don’t think it was the right call.

“If they call it no goal with contact, they can’t overrule that in Toronto. Even last night we had [a goal] taken back … definitely wasn’t our best game, but it would have been nice to get a point though.”

And they would have like their power play to be even halfway decent.

Four of their six chances saw poor setup, poor containment, a lack of shooting lanes, etc. The Devils’ second-ranked penalty kill was outstanding with sticks in the lane, blocked shots and just one clear after another after another.

The non-goal should not have been the difference on a team as talented as the Flyers. That’s how it has to be viewed.

Six power plays?

“That probably should have been the difference,” coach Craig Berube said. “I thought the first period and third period the power play looked good. Shot the puck, had some good looks. Second period, not so good. Six power plays? You got to make it happen.”

Berube said Toronto didn’t know the exact reasoning behind the disallowed goal other than “contact” and once that word enters the picture, it becomes a moot point. It can’t be overturned.

“It’s a 50/50 play,” Berube said of Hartnell driving the net and Volchenkov defending him.

There was contact from the defender.

“Well he probably was,” Berube replied. “A 50/50 play that could have gone either way.”

Jakub Voracek wasn't as diplomatic. He said the call was "f------ incredible" (see story).

There were a number of calls in this game that could have gone either way against either team. The officiating between Kowal and Mark Lemelin left much to be desired.

New Jersey won the game because one player made the offensive difference and one made the defensive difference. Brodeur provided the defensive edge and the ageless Jaromir Jagr was the offensive edge.

The Devils’ leading scorer (57 points) assisted on New Jersey’s first goal early in the game and then found a teeny-weeny hole inside the right post at 7:42 on the third period for the game-winner.

It was vintage Jagr because only that kind of player can find a hole that goalie Steve Mason was sure he had covered up. That is why Jagr has 702 career goals. Players like him always find the open spot in the net.

“Just a little jam play and he was able to sneak it through,” Mason said. “He just found a little hole and chipped it and it snuck through there.

“He’s a big body, strong when he has the puck on his stick and he was able to protect it. He’s a natural goal scorer, but at the end of the day you got to make the save.”

Brodeur summed things up nicely.

“It was typical Devils-Flyers game,” he said. “Enjoyable game. Always nicer when you finish on top, but it was a fun game to play.”

The loss dropped the Flyers to fourth in the Metro and eighth in the Eastern Conference. If the playoffs began today, the Flyers would meet Pittsburgh.

Call-ups
Rosters expand after the deadline and the Flyers called up another goalie in Yann Danis along with forward Chris VandeVelde, who ended up playing anyway, because Zac Rinaldo was announced out late in the day with an upper-body injury.

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.

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Vanek, Nielsen lead Wings over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski push Sharks past Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers edge Panthers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).