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.

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.