The Flyers, coming into last nights game versus the Lightning, have been one of the biggest surprises in the second half of the season, had won three straight, and had built an impressive record of 12-1-1 over their last 14 games. The Lightning on the other hand, came into last nights game with an overall record of 45-11-4 (Best in the NHL) and had won six straight. If there’s one team no one wants to play right now, it’s the red hot Bolts. Sadly, the Flyers had no choice. Despite being without their leading goal scorer in Brayden Point and defenseman Vicotor Hedman, the Lightning put up a five spot and earned their seventh straight win, improving their record to 46-11-4 (96 points). With last nights loss, the Flyers remain six points back of a playoff spot. Here are my 3 Observations from the Flyers 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
1. A Lightning Fast Start:
It sure didn’t take the Lightning long to get out to a comfortable lead in the 1st. As a matter of fact, they scored three goals on their first nine shots in a span of 10 minutes and 23 seconds.
On what seemed to be a harmless dump and chase play in the beginning of the game resulted in a goal not even three minutes after. Ondrej Palat made a great play in the corner by corralling the puck before Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald got a chance to. Palat then made a nice pass to Steven Stamkos who quickly fired a shot towards Carter hart. Luckily for Hart, Wayne Simmonds was able to get in the way of the shot and steer it towards the corner. Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was then able to gather the puck and fire a quick shot towards the net. Unfortunately for the Flyers, what probably would have been a routine save for Hart resulted in a goal due to the puck redirecting off Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.
That was just the beginning of the onslaught. Not even three minutes later the Lightning struck again to go up 2-0. Adam Erne was able to get the puck over to Anthony Cirelli just inside the blue line who fired a shot that looked to have either hit a Flyer or just skip in awkwardly. The original shot by Cirelli hit the post but Lightning Center Alex Killorn was there to put the rebound past Hart.
About a little over five minutes later, the Lightning made it 3-0 when J.T Miller was able to wrist a shot past Hart on a 2 on 1. Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov did his best to wind the puck behind the net down the other end of the ice but was unsuccessful resulting in the 2 on 1 that the Lightning took advantage of.
When you fall behind 3-0 early to a team like the Lightning, rarely are good things going to happen. This was the downfall for the Flyers in this one.
2. Couturier Continues to Produce
Does a game go by where Sean Couturier doesn’t crack the score sheet?Coming into last nights game versus the Lightning, Couturier had racked up 13 points (5 goals, 8 assists) in eight games played in the month of February. He added to that total last night when he recorded an assist on each of the Flyers goals, both of them being the primary assist.
Early on in the 3rd Period, with the Flyers down 3-0, Couturier found himself on the receiving end of a nice pass from Michael Raffl off the rush. Couturier then made a beautiful pass to Flyers LW Oksar Lindblom in front of the net for a redirect goal to cut the lead to 3-1. Give credit to Lindblom there too for getting to the front of the net.
A little over nine minutes later, Couturier helped set up Travis Konecny with a little help from Lightning goalie Louis Domingue when Couturiers pass went off his pad and right to Konecny who potted his 18th goal of the season.
“Well he’s a 200 foot player. He’s valuable because of the fact he can produce and mostly at the same time play against the other teams top lines and be effective”, said Flyers Head Coach, Scott Gordon, when referring to Couturier.
If the Flyers want to have any chance of squeezing into the playoffs, Sean Couturier will have to continue to play the way he is as of late. He’s a big reason why the Flyers second line has had so much success recently.
3. Too Much Time on the PK:
Any chance of the Flyers making a comeback in the 3rd was severely damaged due to the lack of discipline by the Orange and Black. They ended up taking a total of five penalties in the 3rd which meant that for the most part, the Flyers were down a man.
Wayne Simmonds took three of the five penalties, including being assessed of a game misconduct with less than a minute to play. Just a little over two minutes into the 3rd, both Wayne Simmonds and Lightning center Tyler Johnson were assessed minor penalties resulting in 4 on 4 hockey. Simmonds was whistled for roughing while Johnson got called for interference. Neither team took advantage of the open ice. Not even two minutes after exiting the box, Simmonds was sent off to the sin bin for hooking which resulted in a Tampa Bay Power play. The Lightning capitalized with one second remaining on the Simmonds minor when Yanni Gourde snuck a bad angle shot past Brian Elliott.
With a little less than five minutes remaining in regulation, Flyers center Phil Varone tripped up Lightning goalie Louis Domingue. Not even a minute later, Radko Gudas was called for high sticking resulting in a 5 on 3 for the Lightning. By the time the Flyers killed both penalties off, they had little time to make a comeback.
Overall, the Flyers did not play a smart 3rd period to say the least. The Tampa Bay Power play goal pretty much wrapped things up. Discipline is big when down late in the game.
The Flyers are back in action Thursday night as they head to Montreal to take on the Canadiens. Earlier this year the Flyers defeated the Canadiens in Montreal thanks to a two goal night from Nolan Patrick. Puck Drop is at 7:30 PM.
As always, Lets Go Flyers!
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports