Turnovers, lethargic play at fault in Flyers' loss

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Turnovers, lethargic play at fault in Flyers' loss

BOXSCORE

They had three turnovers that led to three Anaheim goals.

They stopped skating, stood around and watched, instead of react.

They allowed the Ducks to make a strong push on them without so much a smidgen of a push back.

That’s what the Flyers did Tuesday in a 3-2 loss (see Instant Replay), as all positive vibes of the two straight wins evaporated rather quickly for coach Craig Berube.

“It started in the second [period],” he said. “We got real sloppy in our play and were turning the puck over too much. It’s tough when you lose the puck and turn it over too much.

“You’re not skating too much and you’re in your end too much. We didn’t do a very good job with the puck. Half in the second or in the third period at all, that caused all the problems.”

They had a 2-0 lead and lost it, and then lost the game.

“We go into the third period up one goal and I think we didn’t have the effort we needed to close out the game,” said goalie Steve Mason, who had 34 saves but was under siege with 16 shots in the final period.

“Anaheim was in our zone for a majority of the period and we just had trouble getting out and we were running around a little bit, and when that happens, you’re not going to win hockey games.”

Most troubling again is the fact the Flyers cannot score in the third period. They have now been outscored 14-5 that period.

“We obviously didn’t answer,” Wayne Simmonds said. “It’s really disappointing. We had the game. We were up 2-0 and we just stopped playing.

“We stood around and we were watching. That’s all I can really say. We stood and around and started watching them instead of playing ourselves.”

The turnovers consisted of an errant breakout pass from Nicklas Grossmann, a giveaway by Vinny Lecavalier, then another Lecavalier turnover for the game-winner

Kyle Palmieri’s steal off of Lecavalier for the first goal of the final period stole the game's momentum for Anaheim -- for good.

“He’s such a skilled player and such a dynamic player that just trying to take away his time and space up there,” Palmieri said stripping Lecavalier.

“Obviously, it was kind of a weird play with their defenseman going down, but I was able just to try to get in front of it and keep him in front of me and the puck took a nice bounce for me and I was able to get down to the races.”

Berube put it squarely on the line, too.

“They also had good pressure on us. We just were soft at times, no support and a combination of things,” he said. “But we’ve been pretty good the last two, three games about not turning over the puck. Tonight was the opposite.”

Though he scored a power-play goal, the turnovers left Lecavalier a minus-2 for the game.

Instead of moving up in a Metropolitan Division that isn’t as strong as everyone thought it would, it’s another opportunity lost for the Flyers.

“We have to move up,” Lecavalier said. “Every game is important right now, especially with the start we got at the beginning of the year.

“We started the way we wanted to [in this game]. We got the lead we wanted. And I don’t know what happened in that second half. We were a little flat.”

They were a lot flat.

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in a 6-5 Edmonton loss. McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent after the game, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season; McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

"I guess we can put the whole 'if he did it' thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that," said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers' loss.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player," Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. "I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that."

Gretzky didn't mind seeing that fire in McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. And he said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

"And Connor, he's going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him," Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. "He's been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he's always responded and done his part."

Michael Raffl's power moves impressing Flyers, adding another element to top line

Michael Raffl's power moves impressing Flyers, adding another element to top line

He did it last Sunday in Nashville.

And he did it again Thursday night against Edmonton.

Michael Raffl displayed power and speed to send the Flyers to their seventh straight victory and longest winning streak since 2011 Thursday with a 6-5 win over the Oilers.

"Raf has this stutter step that's undercover speedy," goalie Steve Mason said. "He used it in Nashville to get a big goal and then here tonight.

"It looks like he's going to stop fully up, but he finds another gear and he really adds another element to that line that brings physical play.

"He has that sneaky talent, too, that can make you pay."

Raffl received a bank pass off the wall from Jakub Voracek, stutter stepped and then blew by Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom, protecting the puck along the way before flipping it over goalie Jonas Gustavsson for the game-winning marker with 1:29 left in the game.

It was his sixth goal of the season and his second game-winner in three games.

"Jakey has been hard on me for three years now," Raffl said, referring to Voracek's pass, "and it's actually the first time it worked out.

"He wants me to make that play all the time. He's been hard on me. I threw a little fake in there, got around their D-man and chipped it up high."

Voracek, who tied a career high with four points (one goal, three assists) said after the game his pass was not as perfect as it appeared on tape, as it didn't hit Raffl in stride.

"I think we should use it a little bit more to be honest," Voracek said, "because if their D wants to have a gap on that, you know you put it off the boards, it's tough to handle for the defenseman. [Raffl] had to slow down a little bit, so next time I've got to put it better."

Juggling his lines in an attempt to find chemistry, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol moved Raffl up from the third line to the top line with Voracek and captain Claude Giroux on Nov. 27. Coincidentally, that was the start of this seven-game winning streak.

On Thursday night, Raffl showcased the reasoning behind the move to the top line, a spot he's familiar with, having played with Giroux and Voracek in seasons' past.

"He's good from coming off either way as he enters the zone," Hakstol said. "He's got the ability to take it to the net. 

"Obviously at a critical time of the hockey game. But, that's Raffl when he's at his best. He's a power forward that can do those type of things offensively."

In his fourth season with the Flyers, the 28-year-old doesn't possess jaw-dropping skill. He's better suited for a third-line role, but drives play at 5-on-5 and is strong on the puck to move up into the top six. His style complements Giroux and Voracek's game well.

"[Raffl] complains a lot on the bench," Giroux quipped. "Nah, he was fired up there in the third. He is so strong on the puck. That's a big goal for us. He's been playing some great hockey right now for us. I think me and Jake are lucky to play with him right now."

"He does every little thing right," Voracek said. "He wins the battles. He wins so many puck battles in the corners and on the boards and gives me and G a lot of space to work with. He knows what to do to have success with us and he's been doing that."

Against the Oilers, Raffl was one of two European free agents the Flyers found to contribute to their win, with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare slowing down Connor McDavid.

It's been an avenue the Flyers have found some success in recent years. Raffl was a Paul Holmgren signing, while general manager Ron Hextall plucked Bellemare from the SHL.

"Since we signed him, I think he surprised everyone," Voracek said of Raffl. "He's got a lot of talent. He's a strong guy on the puck. He's skating well. He's got a great shot.

"I think he's one of the good players."

The Flyers described Raffl as a sneaky talent, someone who may not demand the respect from defensemen but has the ability to surprise and make them pay for playing lax against him.

But it's really simpler than that, according to Raffl.

"Just puck possession," he said. "Just focus on being the first on forecheck, digging out pucks. It's not a fun job to do, but somebody has to do it.

"They're two great players with the puck, I try to dig it out and get it to them and get in an open area and they'll find me eventually."

And they found him Thursday night when it mattered most.