The Philadelphia Flyers enter Tuesday’s contest on a high against their rival Pittsburgh Penguins. Fortunately, the Flyers salvaged a win in the sunshine against the Tampa Bay Lightning before the new year hit. Fresh off the ball dropping in Times Square to ring in the new year. Now is the time for the orange and black to put their foot to the gas pedal.
These two teams enter Tuesday’s contest with just one point separating them. Of course, both teams find themselves on the wrong side of the wild card standings. However, the Flyers might be catching the free falling Penguins at the right time. They are just 3-7 in their past ten games, and are coming off back to back losses to the Detroit Red Wings and Carolina Hurricanes.
One major key to the game for the Flyers is a fast start at home, “You want to have great starts at home. We have had some. It’s not always going to be there. The legs are not always going to be there especially when you are in such a busy stretch. You have to find ways to, when things aren’t going right, you have to find ways to live for the next play and keep yourself in the hockey game. Give yourself an opportunity to build and push for a win. That is especially important here at home and we have been able to do that here over the last couple of weeks,” Head Coach Dave Hakstol says.
Whatever the rhyme or reason was, the Flyers were smashed by the Penguins 5-1. Brian Elliott making his 14th consecutive start between the pipes was less than good on this night. He posted 14 saves before being pulled to start the third period in favor of Michal Neuvirth. The orange and black couldn’t take advantage of the opening game on this four game homestand, with this horrific loss to their interstate rivals. Instead it leaves them searching for answers.
The Flyers came out of the gate hungry and determined to knock off their rivals. They registered five shots on net through the first ten minutes of play to the Penguins two. But, Tristan Jarry and Elliott had the answers keeping the game scoreless.
With the hate both of these teams have for each other. The first period lacked the punch from what fans have been accustomed to in prior years. Kris Letang took the only penalty of the period, as he was guilty of hi-sticking Andrew Macdonald with seven seconds remaining. The Flyers failed to muster much in a short span, but are fortunate to carry over 1:53 of power play time to the second period.
The first period came to a close with the Flyers and Penguins pretty much even in terms of play. Of course, both teams failed to put the biscuit in the basket, but the Flyers did wind up out-shooting the Penguins 10-6. The orange and black also won the faceoff margin 53%-47%.
The Flyers entered the second period determined to take command of the game. They had nice puck movement on the carry over 1:53 of power play time from the first period. Unfortunately, the orange and black only mustered one shot on net, to which Jarry made the easy save keeping the game scoreless.
This young Flyers team tried to continue their dominance late in the second period. However, Travis Konecny was called for tripping with 10:51 remaining in the period. Unfortunately, just 26 seconds into the Penguins power play. Phil Kessel potted a goal off a give and go from Sidney Crosby. Kessel wristed a shot past Elliott for a 1-0 Penguins lead.
Towards the middle of the period, the Flyers were clicking on all cylinders. Radko Gudas blasted the puck from the top of the point. Jordan Weal redirected the puck past Jarry tying the game at 1.
With the Flyers on a high, and the building rocking from the fans after the Weal goal. Ryan Reaves battled in front of the Flyers net. Reaves was able to retrieve a loose puck in front of Elliott, and placed the biscuit past Elliott for a 2-1 Penguins lead. Reaves stated after the game it’s nice to have chemistry, “Yeah, every time I play with him, he seems like he knowswhere I’m going to be and where he’s going to be. It’s two guys that are easy to play with.”
Just 40 seconds later, Connor Sheary found himself on a breakaway after the Flyers had a breakdown in coverage. Sheary wristed a shot to the left of Elliott for a 3-1 Penguins lead. “The push back to tie the game up gets you to about the halfway point in the hockey game. I don’t think there’s a whole lot we would change in the first 30 minutes. It’s the next 2-2.5 minutes that cost us the game,” Hakstol said following the game.
The Penguins continued their great play in the second period, when Tom Kuhnhackl found a loose puck in front of Elliott. He slapped the puck five hole on Elliott for a Penguins 4-1 lead. This was the second goal of the night by the Penguins fourth line.
Finally, the Flyers caught a break with 5:08 remaining in the period. Jake Guentzel was called for a delay of game penalty. The Flyers power play was rock solid as they registered four shots on net. Unfortunately, Matt Murray who came in relief of an injured Jarry, made all four saves keeping the score 4-1 Penguins.
These young legs in the Flyers couldn’t keep up with the Penguins it appeared in the second period. The shots remained even for the period 8-8, but the Flyers won the faceoff margin 54%-46%.
Note: Michal Neuvirth starts the third period between the pipes in favor of Elliott.
Early in the period Brandon Manning showed a lot of heart by fighting a much bigger foe Jamie Oleksiak. Oleksiak pummeled Manning, but Manning pumped up his teammates.
Shortly after the bout between Manning and Oleksiak. Jake Guentzel was called for tripping just 5:57 into the period. However, the Flyers only mustered one shot on net, to which Murray made the easy save keeping the score 4-1.
With the Flyers searching for answers in the third period. Michael Raffl was called for a tripping penalty with 7:43 remaining in the period. A big bodied Oleksiak found the puck to the left side of the crease with 25 seconds left on the power play, and placed the puck past a sprawling Neuvirth for a 5-1 Penguins lead.
The Flyers were given another gift as Ian Cole was called for a tripping penalty with 5:35 to play in the period. The Flyers only mustered two shots on net, and Murray made both saves keeping the score 5-1 Penguins. That’s how the period would end. The Flyers wound up outshooting the Penguins 28-24 for the game, and won the face off margin 54%-46%. Losing this game hurts as Couturier explains, “Well obviously tonight we lost a game. A big game for us. I thought we had a good start. Then they get a few chances. They capitalize on them and next thing you know your chasing the game and forcing things. You just have to be better overall.”
If there’s one thing the Flyers can do right. It’s to quickly move on from this loss, and think ahead to Thursday’s contest of their divisional foe in the New York Islanders at 7 pm.
Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum